Friday, May 31, 2013

Floating along

While our family wades through this ordeal, we are trying our best to keep things as normal as possible for Bruce and Phoebe. Grandma Raymond is doing a great job with the kids: she takes Bruce to school every morning and shuttles Phoebe around to parks, the swimming pool, and playdates while I go to the hospital to be with Oliver. Yesterday Phoebe had a playdate that involved making volcanoes. Today she gets to hang out with her old Joy School buddies. She still talks about Oliver, calling him "my baby," and listing all the blankies and toys she wants to bring him. Bruce keeps busy and happy between school, afterschool activities, and building rockets on this cool program that he got for his birthday. He still knows something is amiss though: this morning he snuggled up next to me in bed and said, "I wish Oliver was here." Amen!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The cutest toes I've ever seen

They may be a little crusty looking, but check out those toenails! They are barely there. I'm a compulsive nail-trimmer and get the urge to trim these, but I have a feeling if I tried to trim them there would be nothing left.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The New Normal

We are finally settling into some sort of routine. After Bruce heads off to school with Grandma Raymond and Phoebe, I hitch a ride to the hospital and hang out with Oliver during school hours. Oliver was wide awake this morning (it was during his "feed" so he's getting grub via that tube in his nose), and completely calm. Mostly I sit by his bedside, pump milk every 2-3 hours, and just watch his every breath. It doesn't get old. Every three hours, I get to take his temperature and change his diaper. Sometimes I get to hold him too.

After my morning fix, I head home and attempt to do something with Bruce and Phoebe. Yesterday I wasn't very successful: I ended up taking a nap while the kids went to the park and then played. Thanks to Grandma Raymond, the kids get their wiggles out when my wiggles are long gone.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Just another Sunday

I was discharged from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. I waved off the usual wheelchair ride and opted to shuffle myself out the door instead. Scott and the nurse carried all the junk I'd accumulated to the car and I actually cried when she hugged me and wished me luck. 

The kids had decorated the house with a big "Welcome Home" sign. They gave me big hugs and showed me various projects they'd been working on. Bruce got a few new Lego sets for his birthday and was eager to show me his assembled creations. Phoebe showed me a few things but mostly followed me around and tried to "help" me.

I tried to be useful and put a few things away, but I got tired and laid down for what I thought would be a few minutes. Two hours later, I woke up in the middle of dinner.

I went to church on Sunday. I'm so sick of laying in bed that I just don't want to be there unless I'm actively going to sleep. It was wonderful to be a part of civilization again, not to mention give a little praise to the Man Upstairs for listening to all my prayers for Oliver. 

After church, we went to the hospital. The kids took turns holding Oliver, who is off the phototherapy lights (yea!) and wearing clothes (yea!) and even gained a little weight. He had lost a little weight at birth but is back up to 3.5 pounds. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

One Hour

 Oliver is under the biliruben lights for 23 hours of the day. We can reach in his isolette and rub his back or change his diaper, but he stays inside with his wires and little sunglasses. We get to hold Oliver for one hour a day.
 Tonight was the first time Scott got to hold him. We hold him skin-to-skin to keep him warm and keep him happy; perhaps it feels like being in the womb again being curled up and listening to a heartbeat.
 He was wide-eyed staring at his daddy for about 20 minutes, then closed his eyes for a peaceful nap.
 This fat frown just makes me laugh. It's a face Bruce made as a preemie too.
After Scott got a nice long turn, I grabbed a few minutes of Oliver Time. Scott says I transformed overnight from a grouchy depressed pregnant woman to a beaming happy lovesick momma. Maybe it's the hormones? This kid has that effect on me.


Business in front, party in the back

When I was pregnant with Phoebe, I wondered how I could possibly love her as much as Bruce. And then when she was born, I somehow did. I had the same misgivings about the third kid: how could I possibly love one more as much as Bruce and Phoebe? I'm still not sure how it is possible, but it is. I love Oliver. I sometimes like to compare Bruce and Phoebe, thinking of them as complete opposites on a spectrum - Bruce with his calculated and serious moves and Phoebe with her daredevilish and silly ways. I was wondering where Oliver would fit on this spectrum, or if he would redefine the spectrum altogether; I'm thinking it's going to be the latter. As Scott put it, "Oliver is his own man."

He is his own man, starting with the name. Oliver isn't a family name; it's just a name we both liked and agreed on. It means "peacemaker," which I thought would be a good thing (although realistically I don't think he will be that go-with-the-flow third child). Ironically, his middle name could be translated as a Greek god of war, but "Mars" refers to the amazing family that I am from. I hope to channel that legacy into my own family and my hope is that Oliver will be "Mars Strong" - always genuinely caring for his siblings and serving those around him.

Oliver Mars is doing amazingly well in his first few days of life. He was on oxygen for the first day, but was weaned off of that quickly. He is currently under the biliruben lights to correct his "baby jaundice." Because his skin has to be exposed to the lights, he lays around in nothing but a diaper all day; he stays in an incubator to keep warm. Sadly, he has to wear those little sunglasses to protect his eyes, so it's hard to get a good picture of him. He is still young to try feeding, so he gets his nutrition from an IV and a feeding tube in his nose. Next week we may get to try feeding; about 33.5 weeks is when babies learn to suck and swallow. Until then, I'm feeding a plastic breastpump and dripping it down his tube.

Oliver is a good mix of me and Scott; he has Scott's forehead and my nose and mouth. He has lots of hair that is lighter than Bruce and Phoebe's ever was and looks strawberry blonde sometimes. It's hard to tell in the photos above because I took these under the bili lights and used the not-so-good white balance setting on my little camera to try and get them somewhat normal looking (under the lights, he looks like he has blue skin and blue hair). Anyway, I think he looks a little red-headed, but it might be my wishful thinking too. His hair is all neat and short in the front, and he has a little tufty mullet in the back. Scott and I both have long fingers and toes, but Oliver definitely takes after Scott in this way. Their nails are shaped just the same way and the way they move them is just the same too.

The doctors say Oliver will be in the NICU for a minimum of three weeks, but it could be more depending on how long it takes to learn to eat and what other complications may develop. We are still taking this day by day, but are feeling good about where he's at right now.


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Phoebe is very excited to have a baby brother. She enjoyed singing to him today.

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A few photos

 I finally got the cable for my camera so I can download a few non-camera-phone photos. I came across a few gems, including this one of me and Bruce...
 ...and this one of me in the final hours of labor. This was the night Oliver was born just after the last IV was placed and before the doctor declared we were heading into the OR. That face says it all.
And this face is much cuter, and makes the past few weeks/months of craziness worth it. Speaking of crazy, remember that nasty rash that magically appeared? It magically disappeared an hour or two after Oliver was born. Ahhhh, relief all around.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Presenting Mr. Oliver Mars Raymond

He is here! He arrived at 2:05 this morning after a combined 90 hours of labor, 4 IVs, almost two dozen blood draws, 22 days of hospital bed rest, 35 pounds gained, 5 moves between labor and postpartum floors, and at exactly 32 weeks gestational age. Oliver Mars Raymond weighed in at 3 lb. 7 oz. and measured 14 inches long. And this tiny guy is worth every bit of the trouble.

Yesterday morning I started bleeding a lot more than usual, which in the past few weeks has usually signaled the start of another bout of crazy - meaning fresh IV, hours of contractions, etc. Most of the day was peaceful: my nurse wheeled me outside for some fresh air, I finally toured the NICU, and I went through my inbox and deleted emails dated back to 2007.

Around 5 p.m., contractions started up again. I figured it was another false alarm, so I didn't bother Scott; he was at work until 10. I'd told him I'd call if and only if I was having a baby. My friend, Mithu, stopped by the hospital around 7 to visit and we chatted through contractions. They continued to get more intense and closer together. The doctor came in and declared that I was dilating and progressing, and was looking like I was going to have a baby. So I texted Scott around 9; I figured I'd call at 10. There's still time, right?

He texted back one word: "coming."

The nurse decided I needed an IV and set about placing it. To her credit, the nurse did about everything she could to find a decent vein: she put warm packs on my arms, looked them over carefully, had me make fists and slapped my arms up and down, called in a second opinion. But it still took three pokes to get it in; Mithu got to see me freak out, sweat with fear, and claw at her arm with my free hand. Scott walked in around then and Mithu left, thoroughly traumatized by childbirth forevermore I'm sure.

Scott and I hunkered down for more contractions. We waited for them to stall out like every other time, but they just kept getting worse and worse. I remembered all those ridiculous childbirth books I'd read and actually employed some relaxation techniques, so I guess they weren't a complete waste?! As much as it all hurt, I was still thankful for the experience of it all; it's what trillions of women have gone through and I wanted to be a part of it. Now I can check it off my bucket list.

Just after midnight, the doctor gave up on labor stalling out and delivery was planned. The doctor on-call wasn't the doctor I'd seen throughout my pregnancy and didn't feel comfortable attempting a VBAC with my two prior C-sections, so preparations were made for another C-section.

I wasn't crying through contractions, but I started at the thought of another C-section. I had figured things would go that way, but I still held onto the dream of having a normal birth and bouncing back to motherhood and running and the fast lane of life. Not to be. I was rolled to the operating room and prepped.

I scraped together any shred of bravery left in me, but I still couldn't stop shaking when the anesthesiologist shoved the needle in my back. The first poke made my left leg flail. A second poke and I started going numb from the chest down. I was rolled onto the operating table and the sterile field set up atop me with the blue curtain in front of my face.

Scott had to sit in the hall while they poked me, but he came in and held my hand once I was flat on my back. The doctors got right to work. I didn't feel the cutting, but just lots of tugging - like a dozen people were putting their hands in my belly and yanking a dozen different directions. Scott supervised while giving me a decent hand massage.

When the doctor pulled Oliver out, I felt it. A few minutes earlier I'd felt his every kick and hiccup, and even though I was numb I felt an instant emptiness that even the anesthetic couldn't cover up. I was sad that the pregnancy was over, but relieved too. Like I said, this was one long marathon. I'm just glad he's here.

He let out a good cry, which made me cry; it's so comforting to hear a good cry because it means good lungs. Oliver was a little blue at first, but pinked up quickly while the doctor worked on him. Oliver got an oxygen mask and worked hard to breathe at first, but made quick progress. He looks absolutely perfect and in his first 24 hours is already weaned off the oxygen mask. He will be in the NICU for at least a few weeks; we will see what develops in the next few days. Thus far though, he is doing very well.

The doctor stitched me back together. She said the placenta looked "small and old," which sounds familiar and makes me think it might be to blame for all this drama. I need something to blame, yes?

Thanks for everyone's prayers. It is a miracle that he survived for so long in the deteriorating environment he was in, and it is a miracle that he is doing as well as he is right now. Thanks for the thoughts, silly emails, packages, and service.

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Settling In

First Light


Monday, May 20, 2013

Baby Shower - blast from the past

 I had a baby shower! It was left undocumented for a bit because it happened the day before my water broke - seriously just in time. There was plenty of amazing brunch food, cute nursery-rhyme-themed decor, and a crowd of my favorite people.
 My friend, Aimee, led everyone in a little nursery rhyme game. She is English and somehow knows all these obscure nursery rhymes, so she was the ringleader along with another friend, Kristen.
 We got lots of baby clothes, a car seat (as it turns out, the one I used with Bruce and Phoebe expired!), diapers, and lots of thoughtful cards. It was wonderful to feel the support of my friends and, looking back, almost feels like a farewell party since I went to the hospital about 18 hours later.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

It is someone's birthday today...

But it's not Oliver's (yet).

Today Bruce turns eight years old. A few days ago I asked him what he would think if the baby was born on his birthday. Bruce happily replied, "we'd be twins!"

Thankfully, after 2.5 days of contractions, they stalled out yesterday afternoon and have not returned. So it looks like Bruce won't have to share his birthday after all. 

Grandma Raymond is making Bruce his favorite foods, and baked a ginger chocolate cake that we all shared at the hospital this afternoon. I hear that the house is decorated with streamers and that Bruce had a fun sleepover with his best friend (who happens to be a twin and makes Bruce wish he had a twin). 

Bruce got binoculars, a space rocket launching computer program, lots of Legos, Pokemon cards, and some Calvin and Hobbes books. 

I'm trying to figure out how to play Pokemon and am not getting it; does anyone know how to play this or does everyone fake it?!

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Never-ending Story

I have heard that childbirth is like running a marathon. It can be long. You work hard enough to sweat. You reach a point where you want to give up. You feel amazing when you're all finished. You forget about the pain and do it all over again (maybe?!).

I never got to experience much of the typical childbirth. I was only in labor with Bruce for a few hours before he became distressed and I developed worrisome symptoms that led to a quick emergency C-section. With Phoebe, I didn't get to labor long at all; once it was determined that her umbilical cord and oxygen supply were cut off, we were whisked off for yet another emergency C-section. So I've always been a little envious of those women who labored long and hard and had a natural childbirth. Those women are tough. I want to be tough too.

Now I'm getting my chance! When I was first admitted a few weeks ago, I had some good solid contractions for about 10 hours. A few days ago, I got another 10 or so hours of labor before it stalled out. As I write, I am now going on my 40th straight hour of contractions. And now that I've experienced labor, I can say with surety that I would much rather run a marathon. Or 2 or 3 or 4. Labor is harder. Period.

In a marathon, you know where the finish line is and you can predict where the pain will come and how much longer you have to endure it. But in labor, there is no solid finish line and certainly in my case I don't know how much longer it is going to be.

Two nights ago, I started having contractions again after a few boring days. They started coming in the middle of the night and it took me two hours to decide they were legit enough to push the nurse call button (I know, I don't make good decisions or move fast between the hours of 10 p.m.-5 a.m.). I was monitored for a half-hour to determine that they were indeed legit contractions, then transferred up to the labor and delivery floor (again).

I had contractions every 5 minutes for awhile, then every 4, then every 3 minutes. But every few hours they would ease up to every 10 minutes or so. Some were painful, some not as much. Because I just had magnesium a few days ago, my doctor gave me a different medication for stopping contractions. They didn't stop, but they slowed down enough for me to fall asleep last night. I was so exhausted that I slept for four hours. When I woke up, I checked the graphs that the monitor puts out and they showed contractions every 4-5 minutes with a few big monster ones. And so they have continued today (except for two blissful hours midday).

The plan is to keep the baby in as long as possible - so as long as I don't develop an infection and his vitals look good, I will keep going. The doctor thinks I'm within days of delivering rather than weeks, but that finish line is still looking ambiguous. Especially after having the course changed on me several times.

I've held it together pretty well thus far, but I totally broke down this morning. The nurse wanted to put a new IV in because the one I had was too old. I hate needles, but I really hate getting IVs placed; I hate the stinging, the pinching, and that feeling of plastic tubing getting shoved under my skin. Ick. I informed the nurse that I hated it and told her to place it wherever on me, but to please please please get it on the first try. She went over my arms thoroughly. I usually have decent veins (runners generally do), but I've been poked so many times that I'm nearly out of non-blown-out veins straight enough for an IV. The rash on my skin makes it even harder to find veins.

She settled on one and went for it - and didn't get it. "Awwww," the nurse said. "You're so brave." And that was when I lost it.

I'm tired of being brave! I want to go home! I miss my family! I hate needles! I hate hospitals! I miss running! I hate daytime TV! I want to tear off my itchy skin! I hate being tethered by the monitors! I want to sleep in my bed! I can't move the fingers on my left hand because of this stupid IV! I want a shower! 

The nurse got the IV placed, I had a good solid cry, I texted Scott pictures of my bloodied hand, I called my mom and had another good cry, then some medical student came in and asked how I was doing so I cried some more. In a marathon, I think this is where I "hit the wall."

Thankfully, a few friends stopped by this afternoon and buoyed me up enough that I'm feeling ready to face another day of this. Sticking to the marathon analogy, they essentially passed me some Gatorade and paced me through another mile while giving me a pep talk.

I still don't know where the finish line is, and the course is likely to change a few more times, but I'm rounding the corner ready for the next stretch - however long it may be.


Monday, May 13, 2013

And just to keep things interesting...

...I developed a rash from head to toe on Saturday. The doctors asked me all those great questions about laundry soaps and lotions and whatnot, trying to figure out what changed and why my skin is freaking out. But I had this same rash when I was about 32 weeks along with Phoebe. Maybe this is my body's two-week notice?

My mom flies back to Ohio tomorrow. In preparation for her departure, she baked banana bread for Bruce's birthday snack at school, cleaned the house, did mountains of laundry, and even got a bed ready for Scott's mom, who flies in an hour after my mom leaves. Mom is amazing; thank you!

Bruce and Phoebe are doing well on the outside - they aren't misbehaving or acting out. But they keep asking when I'm going to come home and when the baby is going to come out. I wish I knew.

They are surprising me too. Phoebe has been napping for Grandma. And the other day, Bruce opted to spend six hours at the hospital with me rather than go to the Children's Museum with Aunt Nancy. I thought for sure by the end he would regret his decision to stay with me, but he didn't. Despite all the fun they've had with Grandma, I think the kids miss me a little bit.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers Day

The last few days have been more of the same: lay in bed, eat, drink like a life depends on it, read books, sleep. The doctors and nurses asked the same questions and were getting a little bored with me.

And then things changed. I started bleeding and contractions started coming on Saturday afternoon. Scott had his first day off (after working 12 straight!) and spent it with me at the hospital. 

We moved from the chill environ of the postpartum floor up to the labor and delivery floor. I got re-tethered to the bed with monitors and an IV. The doctor gave me magnesium sulfate, not necessarily to stop labor but for "neuro-protection" - studies have shown that a dose of it within 24 hours of being born significantly reduces the risk of cerebral palsy.

Unfortunately, it also stops labor. And it's an all-around nasty medicine that makes me feel hot and woozy. A few hours of that medicine and labor slowed and then stopped.

Which is good and bad. I'm 30 weeks and 4 days along, so another week or two in the womb would be beneficial for the baby. But the thought of having to lay low a bit longer (and miss out on Bruce's birthday next week and not get to tuck my kids in every night and so on...) and have to go through the same traumatic IV placement, nasty magnesium dose, and inevitable C-section in another week or two sounds awful to me.

And so I am trying to find a little ray of sunshine on this Mothers Day. I might have to resort to listing things I'm thankful for.

1) modern medicine: sure I don't really like it, but without it I'd be dead.
2) breakfast: after not being able to eat solid foods for almost 20 hours, I was happy to get something to eat this morning - even if it was hospital food.
3) lilacs: Scott got me a bouquet of lilacs for Mothers Day and they make the whole hospital room smell good. 
4) my mom: she birthed me, raised me well, and saved me a zillion times over. 

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

30 weeks

Yesterday I officially made it to 30 weeks pregnant. The nurses tell me the next big milestone is 32 weeks. I'm just taking this day by day.

There haven't been any new developments lately. The doctor stops by every morning and asks the same questions, to which I give the same answers. Any pain? Changes? Contractions? Movement? Yesterday the doctor added, "Do you have any hobbies?" to the Q&A. Yes, I do have hobbies, but hardly any of them involve sitting still for long periods of time.

The kids are doing well all things considered. Bruce has a couple field trips at school and a few after-school activities that he looks forward to. Phoebe has warmed up to grandma and even takes naps for her (what?!). When they come to visit, Phoebe inspects my feet and will often rub lotion on them. Aunt Nancy drove up from Philadelphia to join the fun; she finished the semester at physician's assistant school and was planning on a camping trip and fun with the kids. Now that I'm in the hospital, we scratched the camping trip and put her to work. Yesterday she made a bunch of crepes and brought them over to the hospital. The day before she brought paper and we attempted to make origami flowers and butterflies.

My mom is still here and will be for Mother's Day. I feel like she deserves a parade, pampering at a fancy hair salon, fine foods served to her, and way more than what she's going to get. Scott works a long 7 a.m.-10 p.m. shift on Sunday, so my mom will have to get the kids to church and around town solo.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

One week down.

It's official: I've been in the hospital for a whole week. I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. - between the nurse's station, alarms, getting my vitals taken every few hours, and crying babies, I wake up a lot during the night - and fumbled for my phone to figure out what time it was. I accidentally texted Scott the letter "X," to which he responded within a minute, "Everything okay?" Oops, I woke him up. I assured him I was fine and just clumsy with my phone in the middle of the night, then laid in the dark remembering what happened exactly one week ago on Sunday morning at 4 a.m. Ugh, I can't believe this.

Yesterday and today I've sworn off TV. Maybe it's a slow news week, but the newscast has been the same every day with Boston Marathon bomber news developments and the same sunny weather; it almost feels like Groundhog Day. The TLC Network has done a number on me too. For a few days, I watched a few sappy semi-reality shows - "like a moth to the flame," as Scott said after I told him about this. It's true. I watched "A Baby Story," a show that follows expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy and birth. After a few episodes, I grew tired of all the normal pregnancies on the show and the glamorously quick births. I also watched a show called "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" that profiled women who just magically popped out healthy babies out of nowhere. What?! That was the last straw: I'm getting too bitter watching TLC, so I'm turning off the tube.

Instead, I wrote about a million thank you notes, finished writing an article for the July issue of New England Runner Magazine, wrote pages and pages into my journal, and am currently working on a post for this blog.

As far as a medical update goes, there isn't much of one. Nothing is happening, but the doctor assures me that's a good thing. Hanging in here.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Glamour Shots by Ellen

Ellen came to visit last night and brought her camera along (of course!), as well as chips and guacamole and tales of her many adventures (some of which make it to her fantastic blog). On her blog, she says I'm "one of [her] favorite people," which I think is a distinction way better than being named to this (which, being bored in a hospital, I've read about now).

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On the inside looking out.

I'm still here without much to report. I've gotten to know some of the nurses and staff; my day nurse is leaving tomorrow for her timeshare in Aruba. She said she'll be gone for two weeks and added, "I hope you're still here when I get back." I have mixed feelings about that.

I don't really want to be here. Let's face it: I'd rather be carting Bruce off to school, playing with Phoebe at the park, starting the day off with a run, ending with laundry and chores. It's super-boring in the hospital; there are about 30 TV channels, one of which features a round-faced clock where you can watch the second hand sweep around the circle minute by minute. It's maddening. I also don't enjoy having random people pop in the door wanting to poke me at all hours (have I ever mentioned how much I hate needles?!).

But I do want to lay here, knowing what the alternative is. The nurses like to say that one day in the womb is equivalent to three in the NICU. With that in mind, I can start to wrap my mind around a few weeks of this confinement. I would much rather lay in bed with this little guy contentedly kicking around inside me than be separated from him, worrying constantly about his health and prognosis, leaving him at the hospital and always feeling torn between baby and kids while trying to recover from birth, pump milk, and maintain some normalcy for Bruce and Phoebe. If you think I'm going crazy from hospital bedrest, just check out the October/November 2009 blog archives from when Phoebe was in the NICU. That drove me crazy.

And so I'm trying to make the best of this. I lay around, I have food prepared and brought right to me in bed, I have a drawer of chocolate-covered goodies next to me, I have books I've never had time to read, and I'm getting to relax more than ever before. I'm also uplifted by the many, many people who have offered prayers, babysitting, meals, rides, visits, and anything to make this experience a little less harrowing. Thank you, I love you all.


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Still waiting for the little Mister

"My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" - Forrest Gump


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Day four

I am now untethered from the IV and constant monitoring, which means I can now shower and use a legit potty (seriously so happy about this). I'm still in bed 99.99999% of the day, but it feels good to roll over in bed without getting tangled and to stand up and walk the five feet to the bathroom.

Today's photos include my sweeto toe socks, my arm that was mangled after the nurse had trouble getting the IV in, the IV in my hand that might come out today, and my smiling face just where you're likely to find it at any moment throughout the day - on my pillow.

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