I’m sitting on the couch watching the Indians game with Mateo. He’s been home from the hospital for a week, healing at a breakneck pace thanks to the shape he’s in after running all these years. We’re all still feeling like we were run over by a semi since his sudden illness, two surgeries and eight days in the hospital. The relief we’re feeling is tangible. Now that I can finally breathe again, I want to share some of the things we learned during this period.
Mateo is an AWESOME communicator
Even when he was drenched with sweat due to excruciating pain and could barely move, he was able to tell his doctors about what he was experiencing. He asked questions about his surgery and hospital stay. He let us know he felt scared. This ability to communicate helped ensure he received the right treatment. And, throughout it all, he thanked his doctors and nurses for his care.
He’s still processing what he experienced and we’re grateful he can talk it over with us. I shiver when I think about what his life would be like if he couldn’t discuss his worries with us like he does. Here are some of the comments he’s made:
- “Could I have died?”
- “Could it happen again?”
- “What would have happened if I didn’t get treatment right away?”
- “I was really scared.”
- “Were you worried about losing me?”
- “I’m sorry I scared you.”
- “Thank you for never leaving me alone in the hospital.”
- “Did I bleed when they cut me open?”
For four days, we were “above average”
He was intubated for four days. This was due to the fact that his first surgery did not go as expected and the team knew he’d need a second surgery a few days later. For four days, he was like anyone else who is voiceless due to a breathing tube. But during this time, his ability to communicate far exceeded that of most patients under the same circumstances. While he was very weak and sedated much of the time, he was able to sign and tap on his Dynavox with enough accuracy that we could understand him. He asked when the tube would be removed and how many days of school he’d missed. He begged for something to eat and drink and rated his pain. His team took the time to listen and spoke directly to him regarding his treatment. More than one nurse told us that Mateo is an easy patient because he had the means to communicate despite his intubation.
Mateo is a valued member of our community
Throughout this experience, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement and support he received. We are so grateful for all those offers to help and for the hundreds of cards Mateo received from students, family, friends, teachers and neighbors. He received invitations to run with teammates when he’s ready to begin training again and notes from classmates that emphasized how much he is loved at his high school. Reading through all those messages boosted his spirits and made him feel special. It also reminded us that Mateo belongs here and we all have so much to learn from him.