The same transport guy that had brought her into the ICU on Friday afternoon now got to take her out. Stephanie and Brett both couldn’t stop smiling. She was still tired and they were still monitoring her breathing, concerned about the swelling in her throat, but this had to be a good sign.
Downstairs they headed back to the same room she’d been in when Stephanie had come to visit the very first time. Holly was waiting outside the door as she came around the corner. “Look who’s back in the land of the living.” Emmy smiled and Holly pretended to pinch her cheek when she rolled by.
The transporter pushed the bed in and he and Holly helped swap her onto the bed in the room. She was so light it wasn’t hard. The transporter started to go but stopped “Emmy Taylor, I love talkin’ ball with you girl, but I don’t want to see you again. Got it?”
She still wasn’t supposed to talk so she just gave him a thumbs up. He stuck his hand out for a fist bump before he left.
Holly reattached all of Emmy’s tubes and monitors. The oxygen remained below her nose, all the heart-monitoring leads were there. The NG tube still came out through her nose and ran over her cheek, where it was attached with a clear piece of tape and over her ear where it disappeared in her hair, before it ran down her back. On her chest the central line now protruded just below her collarbone. Holly attached it to a fresh IV bag.
They had removed all the less pleasant tubes, like the catheter before she’d been transported and now Emmy had some freedom she hadn’t in days. “Now without the catheter you’re going to have to actually go to the bathroom. I can bring a bedpan.”
Emmy gave her thumbs down. She hated the bedpan and had refused to use one after her kidney surgery.
“Want to try sitting up and test your legs?” That idea got thumbs up.
“Good” Holly was glad she was still fighting. “Then lets get you sitting up and see how that goes.” Holly walked over and laid a barf bag on the bed beside her. Emmy gave her a look. “Changing positions may make you nauseous. It’s just in case.” She pushed the button on the bed and made it rise as high as it would go. “How are you?”
Emmy gave thumbs up, but Holly could tell she was fighting it so she gave her a minute before she went any further. Stephanie saw it too she stepped up and pulled Emmy’s hair back just as she began to vomit. Brett just sat down. He’d really hoped they were past that.
It took her forever to stop. “Do you want to keep going?” Her head was spinning but Emmy wasn’t one to ever give up on anything, so she gave her another thumbs up. Holly threw away the used bag and grabbed a clean one. She had Emmy cross her legs and then she and Stephanie both took an arm and helped her up into a sitting position.
Her head still swam, but it was good to be sitting on her own. Stephanie stayed and supported her back. After ten minutes Holly had her lay back down. “That was a great first step.” Once she was laying back Holly checked her chest again. She was listening for any sign of respiratory distress. Her chest still sounded clear. She put a blood pressure cuff on her arm and a pulse ox clip over her finger. These were the last two tests to see how well she’d tolerated the movement.
“Doing good sweetie. Lungs sound clear. How does everything feel?”
Emmy gave the thumbs up again. “Ready to give standing a try?” A little light in her eyes accompanied the thumbs up. Brett and Stephanie were nervous.
Holly got her sitting again and gave her a second. Emmy breathed deep and then reached for the barf bag again. Stephanie reached for her hair again. This time there was nothing to vomit but that didn’t stop her little body from trying. Brett was worried about the tube but Holly seemed to know exactly what she was doing. She had predicted each step of the way how Emmy would react and feel.
After several minutes Emmy relaxed. “Take a minute.” Holly didn’t want her to jump up. After just a few seconds Emmy gave her the thumbs up. Holly slid her legs over the side of the bed and had her take a minute again. Emmy gripped the side of the bed. The world was spinning and the nausea was building again but she was determined to at least stand on her own. She began to slide off the bed. Holly had Brett grab her left arm to help steady her. Holly took the right. Emmy smiled as her feet stood on the ground. Bolstered by the feeling of success she wanted to go all the way to the bathroom.
She began to take a step in that direction. “Hang on there hot shot. You’re still hooked up.” Holly reached up and took the oxygen off her face and pulled the IV along behind her. “OK let’s go.”
Emmy’s eyes came up and met Stephanie’s. She was smiling ear to ear, but looked nervous. Emmy smiled and then took a step. Her legs were weak and wobbly but she fought. About four steps from the bathroom they gave out. Brett and Holly caught her. “Hey that was great.” Brett slid his hand behind her legs and lifted her up. “How about a lift the rest of the way?”
“Thanks,” she mouthed. He stood her in the bathroom and let Holly take care of the rest.
Sitting on the little couch in the room Stephanie had her face in her hands. Brett sat down beside her. “Hey, she’s doing great.”
She hadn’t heard him come back. Looking up she wiped the tears from her eyes. “I know I can’t believe how far she’s come just since last night. When I laid down beside her I was so afraid that we were going to lose her. She wasn’t getting any better and her blood pressure was so sporadic last night I was afraid her heart was going to just stop.”
“But it didn’t and she just walked by herself.”
“She’s such a fighter. We really are going to get her home for Christmas.”
“Yes we are. She is going to have a real Christmas this year.”
They heard the door open and Brett rushed back. “Ready for a ride back.” Emmy nodded not really happy that she didn’t have the strength to walk across the room and back.
Brett placed her gently on the bed. Holly helped her get situated and then hooked everything back up. The oxygen went back on the O2 sensor on her finger, blood pressure, heart monitors, and she rolled the IV back into position. After all that she said she’d be right back.
Holly had noticed that Emmy was shivering while she was in the bathroom so she headed out to grab one of the warm blankets. When she came back in Emmy was already almost asleep. Just that little bit of activity had wiped her out. Through sleepy eyes she smiled and signed thank you. Holly was impressed, but guessed that thank you was pretty common sign language.
Amazed at the progress she had made Holly sat with Brett and Stephanie for a moment and watched as Emmy fell asleep. This wasn’t the forced unnatural sleep that came with sedation, Emmy tried to keep her eyes open and stay awake, but with each blink her eyes stayed closed longer, until she just stopped trying. The adults just watched the rise and fall of her chest.
Holly was the first one to speak. “That is one amazing child.”