Day 43, Saturday, July 1st 2023
Gideon’s night went very well. Miltsu was with Gideon until around midnight, when I took over. Then I was with him for most of the remainder of the night.
The speech therapist came around 11:00 a.m. to do another trial with the speaking valve.
Trying to make conversation, she very calmly and quietly said, “I know you and Erin (another therapist) were talking about Harry Potter together [yesterday] . . . and some of your favorite characters. . .”
This didn’t seem to be spurring much conversation. So, in a rather abrupt and almost rude way Miltsu and I both interrupted, “Gideon what were you trying to tell us yesterday?”
“Yeah, tell us what you’re trying to say yesterday because now we can hear you!” Gideon had been trying to desperately tell us something yesterday, of which neither I nor Miltsu could comprehend. He didn’t have the speaking valve on.
“How-long-am-I-gonna-be-here?” The boy’s voice came in a flat, robotic tone.
“That’s a good question Gideon!” I responded with the cheeriest voice I could muster.
Great how do I answer this? I think to myself.
Miltsu steps in. “The doctors say you are going to be here 3 to 6 months.” She replies in her characteristically pragmatic way. “You have already been here 43 days.”
“Wow 43 days already! That’s almost a month and a half! Pretty cool, huh Gideon?” I strain to sound like being in the hospital for 43 days is about the coolest thing a 9 year old could think of doing on his summer vacation.
Gideon artfully cuts me off with his next burning request, “I-want-pop!”
Yes. Pop. Soda, to all you non-midwesterners. I mean, what 9 year old who has been in the hospital for 43 days would NOT want pop?
The speech therapist explains daintily,“That’s why we are doing this exercise, to strengthen your throat, so you can work towards. . .” Her voice trails off and is drowned out with Gideon’s next request.
“ I-want-water! Like-lots-of-water!!”
How can one argue with a 9 year old?
“I know,” the speech therapist agrees quietly. “You are tolerating that speech valve really well, and we are going to work up to that ok. . .?”
I can just hear Gideon thinking, “But I’m not tolerant! Just give me some water! My mouth and throat are DRY!”
We then ask Gideon if he has any questions.
“When-does-s-s-summer-services-s-start?” Inquires the boy, his voice coming out haltingly and with effort.
My heart truly aches.
Summer services! Oh what joy! The highlight of the summer! An oasis in the desert of everyday life! A place where one can enjoy God’s Word for several days in a row.
A place for catching up with friends and family.
A place for the children to be children, to play with their cousins and friends all day.
A place for a nine year old to be able to spend hard-earned chore money on skittles or ice cream or chips from the concession stand!
How can I break the news to Gideon that he won’t be able to attend summer services? He won’t be able to play and bike around with his good buddy and cousin Gavin - nor any of his other friends or cousins.
He will be stuck.
Lying on his back.
Staring at the ceiling. . .
Nonchalantly, I answer, “Services start next week Gideon! Next. . . is it Thursday or Friday?”
“Thursday.” my wife confirms. “So, in 6 days.”
“But they will have a YouTube feed going the whole time, so you will be able to watch them!” I try to cheerfully console.
Gideon’s face remains neutral. He is taking it in this news.
I change the subject, trying to keep him talking during this speech therapy.
“Gideon do you want Becu and Travis to come up?”
“Yeah!” He quickly responds.
“They are here! They came last night!”
“They came this morning.” Miltsu corrects.
“They actually drove through the night.” I add.
“Is there anything you would like to tell Rebecca and Travis?” I continue, trying to spurn more conversation.
“Yeah.” His voice comes out in almost a whisper.
“What do you want to tell them?”
A pause. Gideon thinks. His breathing is raspy from secretions from his lungs that rattle around his trache.
“Do you remember that their wedding is coming up? It’s in less than a month!”
“20 days.” Miltsu adds precisely.
“Do you want to say congratulations? Say, ‘congratulations Travis and Rebecca!’”
I try to think of other things for Gideon to talk about.
“Is there anything you would like to tell Grandma?” I decide on asking.
Gideon’s brow furrows. The corners of his mouth turn down. “I miss you Grandma!” His voice is plaintive and clear.
Is there anything you would like to tell your friends? Like Gavin?
“Umm. . .umm. . . I. . .wish-I-could-s-see-you!”
“Yeah that would be nice if he could come visit you, wouldn’t it? I agree.
I go on to ask about other friends. Gideon expresses how he wishes he could be with them and play with them.
Then we ask what he wants to do to celebrate his bygone birthday once he gets out of the hospital.
“Go to D-dominoes!”
“Domino’s pizza!” I affirm. “Is there anything else you want to do?” I ask.
“Go to the ARC!” He responds. The ARC is the recreation center in Williston that has a large indoor pool with water slides, a lazy river, and a surfing feature. We remind him that the ARC is in Williston, North Dakota and we are in Minnesota.
“There are lots of fun things to do in Minnesota!” My wife says.
“I-want-to-go-to-Todd-and-Ruthannes!” Gideon exclaims. He wants to be with one of his best buds and cousin, Gavin.
“Would you also like to go mountain biking Gideon?”
“Is there something you’d like for your birthday? What kind of present would you like?”
“I want. . .” Gideon’s lips purse together, once. . .twice. No sound comes out. We ask if it’s hard to talk. Gideon shakes his head. We ask if he’s getting tired. He nods. I ask him if there is anything he wants to tell his brother Aamos.
Gideons expression turns sorrowful.
“I really, really, really miss you!”
“What about Aabeli?”
“I miss giving you hugs!”
“And what about Aksa?”
“I miss sleeping with you!” Gideon is on the verge of crying.
“Aksa’s always asking about you!” I try to console, “and before you know it, you’ll be out of here!”
“When?” Gideon simply asks again.
“The doctors say it will be 3-6 months and you’ve been here over a month already.” Miltsu quietly and factually informs again.
“Yep! It’ll be FAST!” I try to be upbeat and encouraging.
“But now we just want to focus on healing and resting when you are supposed to rest. And focus on exercising when you are supposed to exercise; just like right now, talking is an exercise!”
I’m sure for Gideon this question must constantly rattle around his head. “HOW MUCH LONGER WILL I BE HERE!”
But now Gideon is tired and all this talking is tiring him out even more. It is near the timed goal for keeping the speak valve on anyway. The speech therapist takes the valve off. Gideon’s eyelids become heavy and he dozes off.
Later, after his dressing changes, Rebecca and Travis came to Gideon’s room. Gideon had asked to "sing Gods Word" with Rebecca and Travis. They sang “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus, and “Lord I am a Little One.”
Before they were going to leave he wanted a hug from Travis.
Then, with Miltsu, Gideon asked if he could see a picture of himself at the hospital. She showed him a picture where he was sitting up in a chair that the physical therapists set him in, next to his sister Martha.
A little later on when I came into the room, Gideon tells me he wants pizza. I promised that we would make a deal that the first meal he eats when he leaves the hospital would be pizza. I ask, “what kind pizza do you wanna eat Gideon?”
"Pepperoni!" Was his reply. Ah, yes! What 9 year old WOULDN’T want pepperoni pizza as the delicacy of his choice after months of not eating reeal food? 😄 And then as an afterthought he says "I want bread sticks too!"
“Ok we will eat pepperoni pizza with breadsticks! Fist bump?” Gideon clench’s his right hand into a fist the best he can, which is not much of a clench, but like a very loose hand-hold.