Anyone that lives in Dallas, TX will have heard of Dallas North Tollway. Any big city has a highway like this. It’s busy no matter what time of the day it is. In this case, it was about 1pm on this Wednesday.
I had woken up to my sassy Katie-Anne in the bed with me, after crawling in at some point in the night as she often does. This morning though, she wasn’t quite as sassy. I felt her back, as I often do, to see if she felt warm. The ever present danger of fever always in the back of my mind. She did feel a little warm, but not too much. Much like she does after being snuggled close to me in bed for awhile, so I didn’t think much of it. I got up and call my chiropractor to see if I could get fit in early that morning because my back has been absolutely killing me the last few days (#ThanksWork). They said they could fit me in in an hour so I got up and hopped in the shower. I hugged the babies as I left.
As I laid on the weird therapy table with a huge heat pack on my back (so amazing btw), I got a message from Celina. Katie-Anne had a fever of 99.5. My heart immediately sunk. Oh no. I got up, paid, and left rushing home. When I got there, I retook her temp and it was 99.7. She had an appointment for clinic later in the day at 2pm, but I called the oncology clinic because I wanted to see if I should go ahead and bring her in early, or the very least get her appointment moved from just labs to a doctor visit as well. The threshold for fever for an oncology kid is 100.4. When you hit that mark, you go in no matter what because if they are neutropenic (no white cells) the risk of an infection is too great and even a cold can kill a neutropenic child. They said to monitor her fever closely but to wait until her appointment and they would change it to a doctor visit just to make sure, but that if anything changed, to call back. AT 12:25pm I took her temp and it was steady at 99.5 as it pretty much had been all morning. We laid in my bed watching Octonauts and relaxing. She reached over to hug me at 12:45pm and was on fire. I took her temp and it was 101.7. I jumped out of bed, phone in hand calling the oncology clinic, and getting our shoes on all at once it seemed. Out the door we went.
As I get on the highway, I see Katie-Anne in the back seat. I can see her just wilting as I drive. She wanted to listen to Moana, so I put it on so she can sing, but she was not really singing. Meanwhile I’m trying to drive and keep an eye on her. I cannot express the fear that goes through you as I watch her face get redder and her look just kind of glaze over a bit.
Now I’m an aggressive but safe driver when I need to be. So as I’m going down the Tollway, I’m signaling lane changes. I’m watching my surroundings very carefully, because at this point, I know I need to get her to the hospital asap to start antibiotics. I did something I’ve never done before…I put on my emergency flashers. I’m trying to get through traffic, but I wasn’t driving crazy or weaving in and out of traffic crazily. However, I was trying to get to the hospital. I start flashing my lights because I’m in the left lane and I needed people to move over. I needed these people to get out of my way. I wasn’t cursing or yelling. I was calmly looking for opportunities to pass people. There were very few people that actually moved though. Seriously… a car pulls up behind you on a highway, with emergency flashers on, and flashing their headlights at you, and people still refused to get over. I couldn’t believe it. Either people weren’t paying attention, or they just didn’t care…but I looked at their faces as I passed, and what I saw, was indifference, boredom, anger, or just ignoring me. I couldn’t believe it.
Then an amazing thing happened. A big huge white truck, that I had been behind, moved over for me only for me to get caught behind another car going slow in the left lane. I did a helpless gesture with my hands as I passed by the truck and I think he must have seen it. He must have seen Pooters bald head in the back. He must have seen something because something amazing happened. I can’t explain it to you other than it was a dance of cars. He sped past me and I wondered what he was doing. Then I saw. He made a pathway for me. I can’t explain it any other way. He took his big jacked up white truck and made us a path. He’d pull up to a car and crossed in front of them and then slow just a bit so I could get in front of him. He’d flash his lights when I could clear his bumper to do so. Then we’d cruise for a bit and he’d speed up seeing a hole up ahead and do the same thing, by not letting someone change lanes. It was amazing to see. It was like we were two vehicles weaving through traffic with one goal in mind, and that was getting us there quickly and safely. There was not cutting off people, it was like a dance. It’s like we knew what each other would do and we did it for about 15 miles. As I took the Wycliff exit, he honked his big loud horn and passed by.
I got Pooters to the hospital. I jumped out of my car, that I had kind of parked,by the valets (who know me and never make me pay for valet service anymore) and grabbed Katie-Anne leaving my keys in the ignition and run towards the doors. I knew they’d take care of the car for me. I get her up to the sixth floor where they already have a clinic room and port access stuff ready with antibiotics on standby.
She’s fine now, admitted with Neutropenia. We’ll be admitted for about 5-7 days until her ANC (white blood cells) get back up to at least 500. They were 10 today. Probably zero tomorrow and then hopefully will rise. Nothing so far in cultures and after a platelet transfusing, is feeling better. Well, that and lots of Tylenol.
I wanted to share my story about super jacked up white truck guy with you though. I know he will never see this, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for seeing my desperation. Thank you for helping me get her there safely. Thank you for an amazing dance of two vehicles. Thank you for caring. Thank you for jacking up (ridiculously, I might add) that white truck. Thank you for a wild ride. Just another kind of ride when cancer happens.