"Please Don't Projectile Vomit in Louis Vuitton", and other Humorous Tales of the Medically Complex Life
Occasionally, we are visited by a most confusing trifecta of chronic constipation, virus and/or infection, and a not yet verbal child. Silent onsets of viruses and infections creep up on mommy and daddy, who keep stuffing our child’s belly full of food like a thanksgiving turkey, blissfully unaware of what’s to come. Said nonverbal child makes illness / constipation known by projectile vomiting without warning.
Last time we were greeted with such a trifecta, my sister was in town visiting. After a couple days of quarantine in the apartment, we needed some fresh air. Oskie seemed to be feeling a lot better, and able to hold on to his food. It was a warm, sunny day, so we chose to eat outside at a restaurant called Cowfish in the beautiful outdoor shopping center in town called, The Summit. I got overzealous with Oscar’s feed at lunch, thinking he could handle more food at a faster rate. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until we were paying the bill that things started to go south. He awoke from his peaceful slumber — fussy AF. I figured, he just wants us to push him around. We were next door to Saks 5th Ave., so naturally we’d figured we could mosey on down to Louis Vuitton, just to look, you know, for fun. We were engulfed in luxurious leather handbags, giddy like kids in a candy store when I look down to see Oskie rolling his eyes around like he’s gonna be sick. “Please don’t projectile vomit in Louis Vuitton!” I quietly exclaim. Spoiler alert: he did. But not enough to require a change of clothes and a good old mopping of the floor. That happened as soon as I made it into the cosmetics area on the way out. Sorry Esteé Lauder. And then again on the way to change him in the car. My sister thought it was kind of hilarious, and the only reason I laughed along with her is cause she had to help me clean it up.
It made me think of all the humor that can be found in the realm of medically driven lives. And it’s not just me, I’ve met many people in life who deal with medical crises with humor — or at least can still find the strength to laugh. For example, a few years back I was performing at an Air Show where there was an event for Wounded Warriors. (My work as an entertainer for the National WWII Museum connected me with lots of veterans, old and young, with various disabilities.) We performed a number where we would drag members of the audience on to the stage and fight over them while singing a medley of love songs. We usually went for the older men, considering our shows were held at the WWII Museum where we saw a lot of WWII Veterans, but on this night, I pulled up a handsome, young man to dance with us. He was a HAM! Everyone loved it, and unbeknownst to me — he was a double amputee, and the guest speaker for the evening. His speech brought me to tears, opening up to us about his time as a newlywed going off to war, only to be sent back home with a terrible leg injury. Long story short, he not only lost both of his legs, but his marriage crumbled. He tackled a severe depression, and somehow pulled himself out of it. Now, this man does everything from scuba diving, sky diving, skiing, and everything else in between. He was inspirational. But one thing that stuck out to me the most was the private conversation I got to have with him after the event, where he boasted about the different sets of prosthetics he keeps so he can be taller than his dates on any given night. Ha! I loved that he not only embraced his disability, but had fun with it. This encounter has very heavily shaped my perspective in raising my own son, and I am forever grateful for meeting this man whose name I can not currently remember. (If you somehow stumble upon this article, please connect with me!)
Another double amputee that I follow on Instagram, after having seen her on an episode of Say Yes to the Dress, is Amy Purdy. She is smart, gorgeous, and an athletic force to be reckoned with. She is a Paralympian with quite the resumé in Winter Sports, but she also posts pictures and videos of herself doing all kinds of sports - with the prosthetic legs to match. She recently posted a hilarious story of how dogs tend to go after her prosthetic feet like they’re treats — and not, like, her dogs — ALL dogs, in public, wherever she goes. She just takes pictures and laughs about it on social media. I love that attitude!
Recently, a friend of mine, Melanie, opened up about her battle with POTS and Chron’s disease. She’s at the point of considering an ostomy surgery. We were chatting over text, mostly about makeup — because people with medical complexities also have other interests, remember — when she was telling me how she had a terrible flare up of ulcerative colitis. It was so bad that the doctors told her they’d never seen a colon so sick, while on steroids, and so soon after diagnosis. All I could think to say was, “Your colon sounds like a nasty bitch.” And we both virtually laughed — cause it’s true. Then I reassured her that if she needed someone to do her hair and makeup before and after surgery while she was out of it and recovering (because she and I both like to look “done” at all times, so I get it), that she could count on me. Oh, and that I know a girl that could make her ostomy bag covers in whatever fabric she wants.
Look, I’m not an expert on what to say to people with chronic, debilitating medical diagnoses, but I do know what it’s like to feel pitied because you or your child has extra tubes and accessories to improve their quality of life - and I do not like it. My life is still full and happy, and I don’t want anyone’s pity. I just want their home cooked meals when we’re stuck at the hospital, or someone to help me fold my clothes or do dishes when Oscar is being super clingy or needs more attention. And most importantly, I just want people to laugh along with me when things get ridiculous — like when tube feedings go wrong in high end department stores.