Of Nor’Easters and Surgery and Temporary Homelessness

Of Nor’Easters and Surgery and Temporary Homelessness

[lead dropcap="yes"]When the weather forecasts last week started talking about a potential nor-easter by the end of the week, I wasn’t paying much attention. That’s because my focus was on Melanie’s impending surgery on Wednesday and everything that would be required of me. First, I wanted to support and help her. It was a day surgery that featured the laparascopic1 technique, which is routine, but it was also general anesthesia, which is not. At least for Melanie.[/lead]

On Wednesday, my mom came over to watch the kids and I took Melanie to the hospital where I waited all day. It took longer than we expected because she had a hard time coming out from the anesthesia, which is part of Melanie’s difficulty with it. We headed home and I had to go back out to find a pharmacy to her prescription for pain medications. Because of the opioid epidemic, they are no longer prescribed electronically, but must be filled with a paper scrip. And for some reason all the pharmacies were busy and so I had to find one that could fill the prescription that night so Melanie would not be in agony all night.

Then on Thursday, I worked from home because she was still woozy from the medicine and still in pain. That was when I started paying attention to the storm forecasts. This is New England. Nor’easters are expected in the winter and this one was going to be mostly rain, they said. Rain instead of snow? What’s to worry? It turns out there was plenty to worry about from the rain and the wind.

The Storm Hits

On Friday, I again worked from home, which was a good thing because by midday, the parking lot at my office was flooding from all the rain and many of the cars were half-submerged. At home, Isabella came running in mid-morning to report the patio gazebo lifting up and slamming down. We have a new brick patio from last summer with a metal gazebo on it. At the time we put it up, I secured it with 2-foot long ground anchors and wire loops around the four posts. If those had not been there, the whole structure would have flipped. As it was, the wind gusted enough to lift and slam it a few times. My grill got flipped over at one point and my neighbors fence was blown down.

We also had some damage to the aluminum fascia on our roof eaves. The wood underneath had rotted out and the aluminum tore out, leaving 6-feet of hanging siding. But we were lucky in that we had no trees or major branches come down. Our luck held out until 7pm. We’re finishing dinner when the power went out.

The kids were worried, but we got out candles and flashlights, got ready for bed as best we could, bundled everyone in blankets and went to bed, hoping the power would come back overnight.

No Power

When we got up the next morning, Saturday, the power was not back. Meanwhile, Melanie had just about run out of the pain meds prescribed for her and was still in a lot of pain. We decided to go out and find breakfast at some place with power, ending up at Panera Bread in the next town over. Then we went over to our public library, which had power and an internet connection. We could all get warm and I could start looking for a hotel room for us for the night, although I couldn’t find anything nearby that wasn’t (a) ridiculously expensive or (b) extremely sketchy and unsafe.

Melanie finally got through to the surgeon, who she’d been calling since the day before, he told her to go the closest emergency room to get checked out. So we all trooped over to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, the closest hospital to us, but not the one where her surgery had been done. I took the kids into the separate pediatric emergency waiting room where they proceeded to watch Toy Story 2, twice in a row while we waited. By the end of the second go-round, it was close to 4pm, the kids were getting hungry, and Melanie was being prepped for a CAT scan because the docs were afraid she had an infection. So we decided I should take the kids out for dinner while Melanie waited.

Sunday was Sophia’s 10th birthday and as is our tradition, she had picked where we would go for dinner on her day. But since everything was now up in the air, we decided to go a day early and without Melanie to Bertucci’s Italian restaurant. It was odd to be out with all five kids without Melanie, but we survived and had a good time.

By this time, I’d be able to follow the outage updates from our electrical utility, which had begun estimating that with so much damage, it could be as late as Tuesday night, four days from the start of the outage, before we got power back in our house. I didn’t want to try to keep everyone, including an ailing Melanie, warm in a cold, dark house. Since hotels didn’t work out, my sister, who lives an hour away in Peabody, offered to let us stay with her family. With her 8 kids, that would be four adults and 13 kids under one roof. So after dinner, we went back to the house to pack bags for 3 nights, including me packing a bag for Melanie, all in the dark, with tired, stressed out kids and trying to make sure we didn’t forget anything. As it was, after we left, I had to turn around once because Isabella wasn’t sure she’d put out all the candles.

There and Back Again ... and There

By the time we got back to the hospital, it was almost 8pm. We got word at that point that South Shore Hospital was going to transfer Melanie to Good Samaritan Hospital because they found fluid on the CAT scan. We figured it meant she would be admitted to the hospital so we decided I would bring the kids up to my sister’s house and drive back the next day. Leaving the hospital, Lucia remembered she’d forgotten to pack her pajamas so with a detour back to the house to get them, we were on our way, finally arriving about 10pm, at which point I got the kids settled and sat down to watch some TV with my sister and her husband before going to bed.

Around 12:45am, I got a call from Melanie telling me that the Good Samaritan ER was discharging her and I needed to come back to get her. It turns out that the fluid was expected after surgery and the doctors there were puzzled as to why the doctors at South Shore didn’t just prescribe more pain medication. So I got back in the van, drove an hour south to get Melanie, we ran by the house once more time to grab a bunch of the perishable food in our refrigerator to store in my sister’s spare fridge, and then drove an hour back to our temporary refuge.

By this point, it was 3:30am Sunday, I’d been wearing the same clothes since Friday morning and had about 5 hours of sleep total and driven a couple hundred miles back and forth. I was exhausted and slept until about 10am, at which point I woke up to see my sister had taken all the kids to Mass, except for Lucy who was feeling sick and was throwing up. Of course.2

We spent the day at my sister’s house where we were treated like honored guests. At one point, my sister and her husband took the kids to the park and then to the toy store to buy LEGOs. Oh yeah, we’d had Sophia open her birthday presents (I’d managed to remember to grab them from the house the night before) and my sister got her some too. It turns out one of them was a duplicate so she took her back to the store to pick out something new and then took all the kids to pick out something for themselves. She also got a birthday cake for Sophia. As it turned out, it was probably a better birthday for Sophia than we could have managed with Melanie being so sick anyway.

Meanwhile, I’d run out to the local CVS to get Melanie’s new prescription filled and then my mom and my other sister stopped by on their way up to Maine for the week.3 All day, I kept obsessively refreshing the electric utility’s outage map to see if there was updated progress on restoring power while also keeping track of my town’s Facebook group to keep up with what people there were seeing. I would also check to see if I could access my Ring security cameras, figuring that when power came back, my router would come up too and the cameras would have internet access. Finally, late Sunday night, I saw that power was back on. So we spent one more night at my sister’s, now with greater peace of mind, and came home on Monday.

Home Again

Once we were home, of course, we had to clean out anything that went bad in the freezer and refrigerator. Luckily, our chest freezer was almost full so only the top layer had started to defrost. Sadly, that meant I had to chuck out a bunch of pork chops and sausages and bacon we’d just bought. And we’d saved most of the fridge perishables by taking them with us, so all we had to toss from there was a bunch of leftovers, which was probably a good thing anyway.4 The very cold winter temperatures helped with slowing down the defrosting of the appliances.

In the end, I recognize that our situation was not as bad as that of people who lost their homes in the winds and flooding of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year or even those who were flooded out or who had home damage in this nor’easter. But between Melanie’s surgery and complications and the extended power outage, it was a lot of stress and worry and crisis all at once. I don’t care to repeat that experience again any time soon. I did tell Sophia that her 10th birthday was one she was unlikely to ever forget.

Meanwhile, another nor’easter is forecast tomorrow. And this one is bringing snow.

  1. Three small incisions rather than one large incision, which makes for quicker healing theoretically.
  2. We figured out later that it must have been the orange juice my sister gave her. Lucia has so many allergies, it can be hard to know what will set her off. This was new.
  3. My sister lives in Maine and my mom was going to visit with her.
  4. I don’t keep a lot of meat in our fridge usually so it’s mostly leftovers, condiments/jarred things, and vegetables.

Image Credit

  • IMG_0308: Own photo
  • Sounds like quite an adventure. I’m glad winter rarely visits us here in southern Texas but not all are so fortunate. However, it is disturbing that Good Samaritan would essentially throw out of their ER at one in the morning into a snowstorm a woman only two days post-operative and in serious pain. This is not an adequate standard of care and you should file a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health which regulates hospitals in the Commonwealth.

    • Hi Jim,

      Thank you for the comment and advice, but I think you misunderstand. Melanie was discharged from Good Samaritan because they had prescribed her the painkillers she needed. There was nothing else for them to do and it was what the other hospital should have done in the first place. (Also, to be clear, it wasn’t a snowstorm; this was a wind and rain nor’easter only. Today we’re getting the real snow nor’easter.)