An Autism Halloween Adventure: Beggar’s Night
I LOVE Halloween… I always have… constructing the costumes, organ themed music, bats and black cats, haunted houses, pumpkin patches and beggar’s night… SCREETCH… BEGGAR’S NIGHT… THAT IS WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS (and hopefully ends)!
This year was just as ordinary, yet profound. Let me explain, about 2 weeks ago Sahara started asking, “Trick or Treat, Yes?” Which is easily translated into, “Can we go Trick or Treating Now?” Up until this moment in time she has shown little to no interest in this particular activity nor has she had the speech to ask for it in advance… all huge milestones. So we created a visual aid to help her count the past 15 days… the excitement was building as we approached Beggar’s Night.
All morning she repeated her daily schedule over and over until she got to the part where she said, “Trick or Treat, Yes?” and would look at me with anticipation to confirm that today was the day! “Yes,” I would excitedly repeat, “after school… pizza… then trick or treat!” And she would smile and say, “Okay!”
[Fast forward… to the main event]
As we were getting ready for the big event, Sahara eagerly helped with her costume assembly… which the girls had helped me for the past 2 months construct… Golden Skirts and Tops with Egyptian Hieroglyphics sewn along the hems, head bands with golden coins dangling across their beautiful foreheads, with white capes… at the last minute we had to add a long sleeve black shirt and hosiery to keep warm. They decorated their already beautiful eyes with thick Egyptian black lines which turned into fancy swirls and golden (yellow) eye shadow.
The girls danced around me and wrapped me with toilet paper and drew even darker circles around my already tired eyes. Daddy threw on all black clothes with a golden sash… okay, that one was lame, but we ran out of time with our “Egyptian Family Theme” and his costume took the brunt of it. (Honestly, I don’t think he minded at all.)
So, it was cold and windy… but we trailed along in awe over the moment of normalcy both children were partaking… I say “both” because although Sahara was fully participating joyfully, cognitively, and with cleverness (she was successfully focused on how many Hershey bars she could capture tonight) … Emily was also indulging in a children’s activity without worry, and domination (which is partly the result of having a special needs sibling… she is always the one to control a situation in a life full of events that she has no control over). Laughter filled our little family bubble!!
Emily exclaims, “Look Mum your family tree!” as she points to a tree that had been toilet papered. Even more laughter…
[Fast forward to the last house]
Emily is chatting and smiling about how Sahara got more candy because she didn’t understand the rules of taking one piece… and I am laughing not only because what she is telling me is true, but because we are having a carefree moment… Then suddenly I hear a faint “CLINK”… I snap my head up and she says, “Your wedding ring!! IT’S GONE!!”
“It was on my finger, and now it is gone!”
I stay calm… let’s face it… I am not one of those women who need a ring on herself or ‘her man’ to identify that our hearts belong to each other… we have been through way too much together to have a piece of jewelry define our love, passion and respect for one another. In fact, that is how Emily got the ring. I haven’t worn it in 7 years (he hasn’t worn his since, well, probably our honeymoon 15 years ago). She found it a few weeks ago and thought it looked nice with her Golden Egyptian costume. I told her time and time again not to wear it outside, but to no avail she snuck it on to complete her costume. I suspect that deep down somehow having both rings (his and mine) brought her peace within her never-ending chattering mind… she has a deep need for connection with us.
[Back to the story…]
We got a flashlight from the lady at the house we just went to… NO luck! So my wedding and engagement rings lay resting upon the earth somewhere in the neighborhood… an omen? I think not! Did we punish her? I am certain that there is NOTHING I could have said or done to make her feel any more remorseful and horrible than she already felt… sometimes we are our own worse enemies… I am also certain that she fell asleep crying last night… the ring really meant more to her than I. She new someday it would be handed down to her(being our oldest daughter) and that hurts deep. We will go back out today and retrace our steps, but I am sure it is gone…
As the children went through their loot, we cringed at the amount of hfcs and dyes lying on our floor. We knew the kids would ingest more tonight than they had all year combined, which is why I always let them take the day after Beggar’s Night off from school… up late + jacked up on candy + tired = pajama day!!
Emily was still pouting about the ring while sorting, organizing and lining up the piles of candy in front of her; Daddy was upstairs changing into comfortable clothes; and I was on the phone with my sister talking when I saw Sahara dart out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. I got up to follow her and saw she had tweezers by her ear… I asked, “What are you doing?” She replies, “Ear!” “NO Sahara, we don’t put tweezers in your ear,” I see a flash in my head of her lying in my lap as Jim successfully pulled a dried pinto bean from the sensory box from her ear months ago…
I listen to my gut and look in there… I think I see something. I quickly tell my sister I have to go and yell for Jim to come downstairs. I lay her on my lap and sure enough I can see something!! He brings me a flashlight and I see A PINK NERD in her ear… I look at Jim and say, “I don’t think you can get this one!” (Yes, that means we have done this before… why our children like to put stuff in their ears and noses is beyond me, but they do.)
We have this routine down… but not when jacked up on sugar. The kids are antsy, the waiting room semi-packed full of random kids with face masks (and not the ones for Halloween, the kind you get to prevent spreading your germs). I cringe!!
The triage nurse thinks she can get the Nerd out… we say go for it!! She brings in this plastic pick like tool, swoops and… Nothing!! She tells Sahara to sit up, tilts her head and taps the other side of her head and shakes her head a bit… Nothing!! (Yes, that freaked me just a bit!) Sahara puts her finger in her ear before anyone can stop her and it went back to its original position. As the nurse confides in us that she used to work with autistic kids, she says she will make us a priority on the list to get a room.
Within 45 minutes of arriving we are escorting to a room in the ER. I note it is room 28… Emily’s favorite number… perhaps a good sign!
[Or maybe not…]
The ER nurse come in and attempts the same procedure as the first without luck… Sahara is starting to get agitated and I switch positions with my husband so Sahara doesn’t see my concern on my face. (I openly admit I am not calm in emergencies…. especially when my child is screaming in pain!) This nurse goes to get the charge nurse. When the Charge Nurse comes in she starts talking in a normal manner questioning Sahara… whom I answer for. The CN doesn’t see the nerd and starts to question us, “How do you know something is in there? … Did she Tell you? … If you did see it, what color is it?” She pushes my buttons “… just bc YOU can’t see it doesn’t make us or the other 2 nurses wrong… it is in there! We saw it!”
Nurse #1 looks again… “Yes, it is there [tells her location]”. The CN claims she sees it now and tries to swoop it out with the plastic hook… and makes Sahara’s ear bleed… Sahara is screaming, I am cringing, and Emily is repeating, “What is wrong with you mom?” Over and over again! Jim takes a deep breath and is once again our rock!!
Nurse #1 and the CN leave after discussing our options: 1) try the plastic hook again 2) flush it out with warm water… we choose 2.
[Enter Nurse #3]
“Hi Honey, what were you for Halloween?”
I snap, “She can’t answer you… she has autism!”
She handles my response well… I like her! We discuss with her Sahara’s sensory issues and our concerns about the flush. Sahara hates to get splashed with water and it will cause an instant melt down; she is already in pain, agitated, and emotionally spent. We ask her to let Sahara play with her stethoscope (one of her obsessions) to keep her calm.
[Nurse #3 leaves… Reenter #1 and CN]
“So you don’t want to do the flush,” asks the CN.
Jim impresses me with his calm, “No, we didn’t say that!! We are trying to explain the sensory and emotional needs of Sahara and what she needs to support her during the flush.”
“So, what do you want us to do?”
I ask for a surgical brush so I can brush Sahara first and they look at me like I am nuts!!
“Do you want a wash rag?” asked the CN.
“No, I want a small white surgical brush.”
“We don’t have any.”
“You are a hospital that doesn’t have a surgical brush?”
“Do you want an emery board?”
“NO!! I want a surgical brush… forget it I will just do the deep compression with her.”
“The deep what?”
(I am obviously dealing with nurses who have NO clue about autism or sensory issues. I am stunned since this is the same hospital we get all of our Autism Therapy from!)
They come back with a brush… but not the OT brushing protocol surgical brush… I tell them that won’t do. They leave and I rub Sahara’s skin hard with my hands, and then do joint compression. She seems to be calm.
[Enter nurse #3 and a new nurse #4 with a syringe that is HUGE!]
The syringe looks like it has a needle on it (it is a soft attachment to aim the water) and they start to say what they are going to do. I interrupt them and start to explain it to Sahara in broken phrases. I let her touch the syringe and tip, and she yells, “No, I don’t want to!!” The new nurse explains to us that the CN has told them to accommodate whatever requests we have, so I ask for a weighted vest.
… they look at me with puzzled expressions. I tell them to go to the dental trauma area and bring back a lead vest. They comply. After a few seconds of resting under the weight of the garment, Sahara seems calm once again. They demonstrate on me what they are going to do and water goes everywhere… down my clothes (trigger), on my skin (trigger) to the floor (trigger)… She starts to scream and thrash!!
I pray out loud for the Nerd to just pop out.
I quietly send her Reiki to relax her.
The long and short of it is… After another half hour of pain, screaming, and thrashing the nerd has dissolved from the warm water and is apparently gone. Nurse # 3 & 4 say they will send the CN in to confirm it is gone… we request someone else since we the CN couldn’t see it in the obvious position earlier. They FINALLY send in the attending doctor. He confirms that nothing is in the ear canal anymore, that the drum is red and will be sore, but otherwise she is fine and we can go home.
[When you think nothing else could go wrong…]
I tell Jim to take the kids to the car and I will get the discharge papers… after 10 minutes they arrive.
As I am walking to the jeep, I see Emily and Sahara running and crying. (Still not sure what happened other than ‘Daddy yelled at us’.) Everyone is tired and stressed to the max!! But, we all are able to calm enough to get in the jeep and head home.
… are you ready for this?
The plastic encasement on my key busted in half and the remote fell out in the dark at midnight in the ER parking lot!!
After looking for awhile I say, “F#ck it!! Let’s go…”
“Are you sure… “
“Yep, let’s just go!!”
The jeep won’t start!
Apparently you need the chip in the key remote to start the engine!!
Sahara is whining, Emily and Jim are out retracing their steps and I am trying to decide who to call to pick us up because at this point I am exhausted, my children are exhausted and my husband is exhausted and I just want to go home. I open my door to tell him to call his best friend and the remote gleams under the night post.
…the engines starts, we get fast food on the way home and everyone is zonked by 1:00 am.
Did I mention that Sahara was diagnosed with Infantile Autism on October 31, 2008? I vowed I would not let that ruin my passion for Halloween… like I said at the start of this really long (sorry it is so long) post, “I Love Halloween.”
Here are a few concluding thoughts: Yes, parts of last night sucked, but Halloween still kicks a$$! I have confirmed that I love my husband more today than ever! I don’t need a Rock on my hand as my hubby IS my Rock! My kids are making huge progress and have taught me the power of true unconditional love and for that I am grateful! And I am almost certain that all of my other jewelry is back safely in my room and that nothing else will go into the ear that doesn’t belong there.
Well, kind of, maybe certain…