Monday, April 18, 2016

Why I Hate St. Louis (Nothing Personal, St Louis Citizens)

The list of things I hate is fairly short.

I hate birds that are within five feet of me, onions, dogs that insist I pet them, snakes, crowds, and St. Louis.

St. Louis, I actually love your impressive arch, your baseball team, your delicious Imo's pizza, and your malls.

But, I hate what St. Louis represents to me---health problems.

When my daughter was born in 2006, she was taken by a helicopter to a hospital in St. Louis. She was born with Down syndrome and an AV canal heart defect. She spent 10 days in the NICU there in St. Louis, 120 miles from my home. My husband and I stayed in St. Louis until Jaycee came home.

After she was released from the hospital, I made a few trips a month to St. Louis. In my exhaustive state of caring for a medically fragile newborn, these two hour trips to St. Louis to see a doctor for 30 minutes or so and then driving two hours home became miserable. I hated the traffic which doesn't exist in the small town I live in. I hated people honking at me when I didn't react with lightning speed at a green light. I hated being lost in this town where I couldn't just pull over and ask a friendly person for directions. The drive and the unfamiliar city just added to an already stressful situation.

In the past 10 years of raising Jaycee, I have made countless trips to St. Louis. The more trips I made to St. Louis the more familiar I became with traffic patterns and the areas around the hospital. As my comfort level of driving to and around St. Louis improved, the dread of going to St. Louis grew.

There were drives to St. Louis for my baby to undergo two separate heart surgeries. These drives were filled with trepidation as our lives were about to change for a time.

Then, there were the plain scary drives to St. Louis. In 2009, Jaycee had a hemorrhage after her tonsillectomy. Our local ER examined Jaycee and sent her home. But, the ENT that I spoke to at the St. Louis hospital requested we come in for observation overnight since Jaycee was at risk for more bleeding. My husband drove while I sat staring at Jaycee for the two hour drive watching for another bleed that thankfully never happened. But the stress of the original bleed on my 9 month pregnant body sent me into contractions. That was a drive that none of us enjoyed!

Then there was the frantic drive at 2 or 3 in the morning in 2009. Jaycee was being transferred from a local ER to the St. Louis hospital in an ambulance for respiratory issues. After Jaycee left in the ambulance, my mom and I started the drive over too. I remember eating a sausage biscuit on the way in an attempt to stay awake after an exhaustive day with Jaycee's breathing. I am not sure if it was exhaustion or stress but that was the best tasting sausage biscuit I ever ate.

One of the worst drives over to St. Louis happened in 2011. After Jaycee was put on a helicopter for a tachycardia caused by Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome, my husband and I drove over as fast as we could. We were warned by the doctors who loaded Jaycee on the stretcher that she might have more problems during the transport but they were prepared for them. Those words echoed in my head as I wondered what state we would find Jaycee in when we finally arrived at the hospital.

There were more trips to St. Louis transporting Jaycee for respiratory problems with our oxygen tank and oxygen saturation monitor in the van. These trips were stressful to say the least. If I told about every trip over to St. Louis that was frantic, this entry would be way too long.

At some point over the last 10 years, I started to hate driving to St. Louis. St. Louis became associated with stress, anxiety, bad news, scary times, unpredictable events, and doctors. I found myself griping the steering wheel so tightly as I drove to St. Louis that my hands hurt by the time I arrived at the hospital. The emergency drives had somehow caused my body to start reacting with stress even when the drive was just for an ordinary doctor's appointment.

I dreaded going there for any reason at all. Well, I still do. The Down syndrome organization that we are members of is based in St. Louis. Naturally, their events are also held in St. Louis. Each time, an event is announced I debate on whether or not I want to go because that would require me to drive to St. Louis. Sometimes, I sign up for an event and then can't get motivated to go to a town that has left me scarred as a parent. If someone suggests doing a fun activity in St. Louis, I usually decline for that same reason.

I tell this story not because I am proud of my bizarre dislike with St. Louis. I tell this story to show how medical issues and health emergencies can affect your thinking. It is almost like a post traumatic stress response that I have developed from years of being in a place that has given me scares and ugly emotions. Even when physical health issues improve or become stable, there are emotional and mental scars that remain.

For any of my fellow moms who have a place that they hate due to a negative memory, I feel for you. I pray that one day these places will just become another place on our map with no bad feelings attached to it.

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