Thursday, October 28 – Part 1: 16! Part 2: We got the fever

Part 1: Ella Brooks is 16!

Monday was Ella Brooks’ 16th birthday. And she’s driving! It was PJ day and no she did not go to the DMV in PJs 😉 and yes, it is a sweet ride. We had the chance to purchase a 2011 Acura with only 50k miles 6 months ago from a family friend. We had no idea how much we’d need that 3rd driver. And it gave me the chance to let go of the minivan. But the best part isn’t the driver or the car (even though they are awesome,) it is her daddy’s face. ❤️

We’re grateful that we were all home to honor our beautiful girl on her birthday, to celebrate her driving, to enjoy cake, and the excitement of gifts — Wilson is definitely a gift to us all. Most of the time.

Before the fever yesterday, I had a really nice post written in my head about gratitude and the week we’d had.  We still have the gratitude, but I will wait a little bit on that writing part.  Today, we just want you to know what’s happening.

Part 2 – We Got the Fever

We wish we could say that Heath just caught the Braves World Series fever from his dad and family members who are serious Braves fans.  We wish.  But alas, it appears to be a fever related to being neutropenic (at basically 0 white blood cells and neutrophils).  And I am writing this from our slightly bigger room on 5200 at Duke.  

Until mid-day Wednesday when labs came back, we actually thought Heath had managed to make it through this cycle of chemo without some of the expected issues–neutropenic, fevers, nausea, mouth sores.  It turns out the fever/neutropenic just came a little later–Wednesday afternoon.   I think all were a little surprised when the numbers came back that he had 1.7 wbc and 0 neutrophils because he really felt ok.  In fact, we’ve spent the last 5-ish days celebrating a 16-year-old sister, taking walks, ending both tennis and baseball seasons for the other siblings (well, Heath was at home during those things, but feeling good), getting some Brusters sorbet (Heath is not an ice cream guy) and watching lots of fun sports, of course. 

But when he woke up from his nap yesterday after his clinic visit, he was feeling a little sore, so I brought him some Tylenol.  As he was taking it, I remembered the rule that we were supposed to take his temp every time before Tylenol, so I ran and took his temp and it was 102.9!!  Yikes.  As we were rushing around getting things ready to head to the ED–sorry WPC staff for ending your meeting abruptly–Heath said, “What?  Seriously?  I feel fine…”  You still have to go immediately to the ED with a fever during chemo.  And he still feels pretty good, even though the temp continues.  He and Chris came on into the ED and it took about 5 hours to get a room.  We had a yummy dinner together in the ED, waiting.  Now he is getting IV antibiotics, a blood transfusion, some meds to raise his wbc, some fluids and we’re waiting to see if something grows in the blood cultures.  We had been told that this was a common thing to happen during the neutropenic period of chemo, but we were already in the hospital the last time it happened so we didn’t have to do the somewhat dramatic trip to the ED part.

When they arrived on 5200 last night, Chris remarked that he hated how comforting it was to be here–to have familiar faces of nurses and residents waiting for you when you arrived, to know where we unpack our stuff in the particular cupboards, what food we will order for each of Heath’s meals, how nice a warm blanket will feel for going to sleep.  It’s sad that we have it all so ingrained already, but it is also such a gift to have all of this familiarity and consistent care as we continue on this journey.  The resident we had a couple weeks ago was wanting an update on how Heath’s fantasy teams had been doing the last week or so and I knew that same resident was sad about State’s crushing loss last week (a little Pack action up here at Duke!), another nurse was reflecting on the college visits she was doing with her kids this weekend, another about the progress her puppy had made in the time we’d been gone, and the awesome woman at the Subway asked how my son (the kid whose mom comes for bread with lots of cheese only) is doing.  We’re grateful that we’re inpatient where they can do tests and IVs and all the things, but we wish we were home at the same time. It’s complicated.  Just like everything else in this roller coaster.

So hopefully this is a short stay, followed by a short time at home before we start another cycle of chemo next Tuesday, which is the schedule at this point.  We’ve learned that the only thing we can plan is that it probably won’t happen the way we plan it.  This certainly throws a shade on that saying about “life is what happens while you are planning for something else.”  

23 replies
  1. james wright says:

    Wow what a roller coaster. Happy Birthday Ella Brooks. Love the new car. You deserve the best. What a courageous family. Chemo is cruel and always unpredictable. Just when you think you are going to catch a break it rains on your parade. Please remember the love and concern that is constantly coming from the Wrights, Hills, and Schechters. Nancy and I are in a schedule to be at Duke for infusions every two weeks. Our next visit is November 9th . My prayer is that you will be at home and away from the hospital. If not I would love to share a virtual hug or fist bump. YOU ARE THE BEST. Much love Gordon

  2. Greg and Wendy Lunsford says:

    What a full life you have! Experiencing the joys and concerns of this ride so extremely this week…
    Happy birthday to your beautiful daughter and safe travels out there on the road. Continued healing prayers for your precious Heath as his body fights on this journey to wellness.
    As parents, our hearts get turned upside down so often…may your hearts feel full today, full of the love, hope, and assurance that passes all understanding.

  3. Kitty Kelly says:

    Happy, Happy 16 Ella Brooks. What a sweet car. What a gift. 🎂

    Grateful for all the support you are surrounded by. Please know we hold that support over here in Black Mtn too. Much love to each of you.

    Go Braves. Go Pack. Go Blue Devils.

  4. Bonnie Maready says:

    Happy Birthday Ella Brooks!!
    Sixteen years-WOW-
    Cake, Nails, License, Car- pretty cool…
    I sure do remember at Faith Pres. when Chris announced you were expecting Ella Brooks. We had a lot of fun watching her grow a couple of years and then Heath came along. I remember Chris sharing how you’d come up with his name. Interesting story on some family history- (TeeHee).
    And then bright light Wilson rounded out the family…
    I hope Heath’s numbers get where they need to be, fever comes down and all can get back to the Braves, Football and kicking it from your cozy home. Prayers continue for you all…
    Hugs and Love

  5. Karen Vandersea says:

    So sorry for this millionth unexpected bump in the road. Let’s hope those important counts come back up and that the fever goes down, so y’all can go home soon!
    And: HAPPY SWEET 16 to Ella Brooks!! What an exciting milestone. So glad to hear y’all were home to celebrate together. ❤️

  6. Patricia Hill says:

    God bless you all how strong I are I guess We never know how we will handle difficult stressful situations until we have to, but as a family you all have shown strength beyond anything I’ve ever seen …I know your faith has been your backbone and I can only send you words that I hope helps u know you are in my prayer

  7. Lynne Dubay says:

    So glad people know you in the hospital area in a way that is like family, too. We all are blessed to know your loving and amazing family. Heath, you can do this! We think of you often!
    Remember, we are right across the street and can assist with any sudden or last minute (or planned) needs any of you might encounter, there.
    Love you guys¡

  8. laura mendenhall says:

    I am grateful for a medical team that knows you well and whose presence brings comfort.
    I am grateful for time to celebrate a 16 year old who has a car and can drive!!
    I am grateful for cake and for a Subway with only cheese.
    I am grateful that you are surrounded by those whose mere presence reminds you that you are not alone, that God is with you and will not leave you.
    I am wishing, of course, you didn’t need all this. But, since you DO, so grateful you’ve got it!

  9. Barbara says:

    Happy birthday Ella Brooks.. The car is gorgeous. Hang on Heath.. We are praying and holding you close.. Your entire family. So loving and wonderful God is surely with you. AND Yes!! Thank you so much for.. More cowbells.. Christopher Walken etc.. Thank you!

  10. Christie Masinick says:

    Happy Birthday to EB. So glad you were able to all be together for this special time. Sending prayers for Heath’s fever to abate so you can all be reunited again.

  11. David Vaughan says:

    Praying for so many things: our resilient Heath and family, EB’s new wheels and for safety, for healing, peace for all. God is bringing us through this.

  12. Diane Hill says:

    You all are offering the gifts of community and friendship wherever your journey takes you. Bless you! Prayers for continued strength, patience and healing.


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