My son Zack was a healthy 14 year old boy. (Now 16) He rarely had to go to the doctor for anything. If he did get sick he was always over it in 1 to 2 days tops. That changed around Christmas 2016.
Zack wasn't feeling well for a couple of days but then Christmas evening he had bounced right back to normal, or so we thought. The next morning within a few hours of waking up Zack turned white, started coughing so hard he broke a vessel in his eye, had an upset stomach, and seemed to be having trouble breathing. I immediatly took him the E.R. and had him evaluated. I don't think anything could prepare us for what happened next.
Zack had pneumonia and a mild case of strep, and his oxygen level was in the 80's. The doctor said they would need to admit Zack and start antibiotics and they figured in a day or two he would be home and doing fine.
However, to everyone's surprise Zack quickly declined. By the next afternoon he needed to be transferred to a pediatric hospital in Grand Rapids. Zack's oxygen had dropped into the mid 70's at that point in spite high levels of oxygen support.
While discussing the safest way to transport Zack with the doctor and EMS my very brave and very intelligent 14 year old son understood the risks and decided he would like to be placed on a ventilator prior to transport. We knew once in Grand Rapids it was likely he would end up on one as well. While I was silently overwhelmed Zack just kept gasping and saying " mom, I know, but this is what I want, just do it." and telling the doctor the same. That really put it into perspective as to how bad he must have been feeling at that moment. I know I have never felt so helpless or scared in my life.
Zack was placed on the ventilator and transported to Grand Rapids. When I was finally met by one of the doctors in the PICU I was told that Zack had went into respiratory failure and they were basically hooking him up to machines and IV's and inserting tubes etc... The next time I saw Zack he looked just like he does in the picture I included here. I don't have words to describe how seeing him that way felt.
The next week was the longest week ever. Zack would struggle and gag and need a suction tube put down his throat, the ventilator was breathing so much for him and there was nothing I could do. I listened to the doctor reports several times a day and each one was always the same. They could not figure out what caused Zack to become so sick so fast and that the pneumonia and strep were just not enough to cause a child his size (5' 10" and over 200lbs) to end up in such a state. Infectious disease was even called in and they too could not find the cause. Basically we were left being told we will never know. That is still very unsettling.
In spite of being told it could be weeks to months before Zack was taken off the ventilator, he was off of it in 1 week . He was making a miraculous recovery. He was moved out of the PICU and onto a regular ward where he was weaned off meds needed during his time on the ventilator. Unfortunately, that meant Zack was in a lot of pain and being stuck in a hospital bed didn't help. Then as if he wasn't suffering enough, he developed a severe allgeric reaction to his last antibiotic.
However, after just 2 weeks Zack was cleared to go home to finish recovery rather than to a rehab facility that they initially thought he would need. He still couldn't eat or drink but at that point staying longer would hinder rather than help his recovery.
Zack lost close to 30 pounds and was very weak so he slept the majority of the time for the initial 1-2 weeks but then he began to make improvements. I wish I could tell you all is well and now you would never know anything had happened, but that is not the end of Zack's story.
Zack was an honor roll student that didn't need to study and was able to come up with his own solutions to solve problems rather than just following the norm. Now Zack suffers from memory loss issues and some anxiety type issues as a result of this prolonged situation. He only attends school 3 hours a day and will need to complete some online courses over the summer in order to progress to 10th grade in the fall.
Zack is also in physical therapy 3 times a week to continue to help him recover physically as he has balance and stamina issues since illness. He will begin some additional therapies in the near future as well.
Given Zack's hospital stay, his therapy appointments, school schedule and needing to be there for those I have hardly worked all year (10 days maybe). Zack's father is a disabled veteran and his income just doesn't cover it all on top of our regular household expenses. Although we have insurance, our portion of medical bills on top of transportation costs, and losing my income has left us needing help to cover those that are already due and as things continuously arrive.
Zack is a very private person (as am I) . It has taken this long to get a real grasp on the situation and realize just how much we need help and to put Zack's story out there in hopes of getting support from some wonderful people.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to read Zack's story and for any support you are able to give to help. Whether monitary, prayers or just sharing this with others. God Bless!
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