On Friday, May 27, at approximately 2:30 PM, Matthew was playing on the floor in our oldest daughter’s room. Suddenly, Lauren called out, “Mom, Matthew just threw up a lot.” I ran in to clean up the mess, not too concerned about it. When I got to the room, I saw he was gagging over and over, as though he had something stuck in his throat. I tried to look, but got scared as his lips were blueish and he was still gagging. I called for my husband, who was home at the time, (thank the Lord) and we took Matthew into the hallway bathroom. Terry reached in his mouth to see if something was there. He touched something with the tip of his finger, but couldn’t extract it. Matthew was looking worse. Terry pulled his hand out and tried again. Still nothing and this time blood was coming out of Matthew’s mouth. I was holding Matthew, praying for help. Finally, Terry said, “Get in the van.” I ran to the van, barefooted and hopped in the front seat. Terry told the older children to stay inside and lock the doors. He had the wherewithal to remember my purse for me, which had our insurance information inside! We raced to our local hospital, which was about 10 minutes away, but felt like an hour! Terry flew – and even ran red lights – while I held Matthew upright in my lap checking his breathing and telling him that the Lord was with us. I think I mostly said that for me, though.
As soon as we arrived, I ran inside (yes, barefooted, like the true Arkansas hillbilly that I am), and told the registration lady that my son had something caught in his throat. She let us go straight back. The doctor looked in his mouth and said he saw nothing. Matthew looked watery-eyed, but not blue anymore. He was wanting to go to sleep, which scared me. How could he sleep right now? They wanted to do an x-ray to see if something was lodged lower down. Terry took him to the x-ray and I drove back home to get shoes on and a bit of make up and check on the other kids. When I arrived back at the hospital, Terry said the x-ray revealed the spring part of a wooden clothespin lodged in his trachea. As soon as I got there, the doctor came in and said because of what he had swallowed and how it was located, he could have nothing by mouth and would have to be driven by ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock to have it removed. The doctor said that if Matthew vomited, it could bring up the object and cause Matthew to be unable to breathe, so we needed the EMT’s to be there.
Allow me to pause here to say that we are very vigilant to keep choking hazards off the floor. While packing for our recent vacation, my daughter cleaned out and organized her closet. We use clothespins to hang up skirts. We believe one broke and fell to the floor while she was working in there and she missed it. Sadly, Matthew found it. The doctors couldn’t believe he actually got this down. It is huge in comparison to the size of his throat.
We don’t have any family in town and didn’t know of anyone who could watch our four other kids. Terry thought about staying in Hope with our kids and letting me go alone, but, I told him honestly that I wanted him to be with me. I wasn’t sure what lay in our future and I was scared. We made some phone calls, but everyone local was unavailable. Finally, Terry thought to drop the kids off with my Mom in Benton (it’s on the way) and then he would join me at ACH.
Matthew and I zipped through town in the ambulance, with siren blaring. I often pray for those in an ambulance when I pull over for one to pass or if one passes my house. I wondered how many strangers were praying for us as we raced by? We arrived in Little Rock in about an hour or so and got right in. They took another x-ray to see if the object had moved. It had moved a bit lower down since the first x-ray.
Because Matthew was breathing fine and comfortable, they had us wait for the surgery until they could work him in. Finally, at 11:00 PM, they took my sweet boy back to the operating room. We gave him kisses and left him in the arms of the anesthesiologist. I had a pang of fear, wondering if he would do okay; if this was the last time I’d see him, but the Lord assured me that He was there and all would be fine. No matter what happened, Matthew was in good hands.
He came out of surgery at midnight. The surgeon said he had great difficulty removing the spring, it was wedged very tightly. He even broke a pair of forceps trying to get it out. The doctor said he came within an inch of having to open up his neck and remove it from the side. He had scraped Matt’s esophagus with the tools and the spring during surgery, so he was concerned that he had lacerated it. If he had, this would mean another surgery to sew the tears closed. Matthew would need to undergo a contrast test, where he would swallow barium and a radiologist would watch it on x-ray to see if there were any holes in his esophagus. They would have to keep him overnight to watch him.
I am blessed to have a very thoughtful cousin who lives minutes from ACH. She came over and sat with us, bought us supper and lunch the next day, and gave Terry a spare bedroom to sleep in that night so one of us could get some rest. We also have some wonderful friends, Charles and Audri McNeal, who came up to the hospital from Benton at midnight to sit in the waiting room with us! They were a such a comfort. They were with us when we went back to see Matthew in recovery.
I was so happy to hear that I could go back and see my sweet boy! He looked pitiful and swollen to me, but he was resting, and he no longer had that spring in his throat! The nurse said he was pretty mad when he woke up, so they gave him morphine for pain. He slept well until about 6 AM, when he got a suppository for pain.
Here are some photos of Matthew after we got settled into a room. I took these with Terry’s phone.
I stayed all night by his side, feeling so grateful that he was okay. The doctors, nurses and staff at Arkansas Children’s Hospital were so helpful, friendly and efficient! I’m starting to agree with my cousin, that the best thing about Arkansas is the Children’s Hospital! 🙂 The Lord had met all of our needs, in ways that only HE could.
Then next day, Matthew had to drink the barium and take the contrast test. Praise the Lord, he passed the test – no lacerations – and was able to nurse immediately after. We were released from the hospital at 2:30 PM on Saturday, May 28th – exactly 24 hours after the entire ordeal began. I was exhausted, in dire need of a shower and clean clothes, but Matthew was alive! Praise the Lord!
These events reminded me of Proverbs 27:1. I couldn’t believe what had taken place in such a short amount of time! We have no guarantee that we will have today, or tomorrow, or any day! We all enjoy God’s grace, whether we appreciate or not, each and every day.