When my daughter called me at 5 p.m. Monday, I jumped. She never calls me at work. “Mom,” she said in a frail voice. “I’m in the hospital with pancreatitis.”
Sara, who lives in Indianapolis, had a tiny gallstone in her pancreas that had exploded into pancreatitis. She’d been pumped with painkillers and ordered not to eat or drink for 24 hours. No water. No ice chips. Nothing. If she didn’t improve in 24 hours, they’d take out her gall bladder.
As they say in motorsports lingo, she was on the verge of being black-flagged.
But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sara’s real story began Jan. 2, when Rolls Royce promoted her husband Peter to a handsome new job in Reston, Va. Peter moved into corporate housing in Reston. Sara and the kids — Brendan, 14, and 12-year-old twins Allison and Claire — would stay in Indianapolis until June 5 to finish the school year and sell the house.
In March, they put their Indianapolis house — I’ll call it House No. 1 — on the market. By early April, they had an offer. The only glitch was that the new owners wanted to move in May 1. Sara and Peter had hoped to stay put until June 5, but they snatched up the offer and figured they could live in a furnished apartment — House No. 2 — for six weeks until leaving for Reston.
But not so fast. Temporary housing is gobbled up quickly in Indianapolis in May because race car drivers, mechanics, sponsors, and their guests flock in ahead of the Indy 500, held Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Sara and Peter’s search came up empty.
Finally, they accepted an offer to spend the first three weeks of being homeless — April 23 to May 15 — in a friend’s mother-in-law’s furnished condo. She’d be back from her winter in Florida around May 15. After that? “We’ll find something,” Sara said.
They packed up Easter weekend, separating short-term needs (clothing, pillows) from dishes and couches. On April 23, movers put their furniture in storage. Sara’s family of five slithered down from a spacious four-bedroom colonial into a two-bedroom condo. Meanwhile, Sara and Peter began sniffing around for a place to stay from May 15 to June 5.
Peter popped in and out of Indianapolis. Sara and the kids went to Virginia over spring break to house-hunt. Back home, she kept up single-handedly with their soccer games and school activities and her own job teaching preschool.
Last weekend, with Peter home, Sara woke up with blistering heartburn, but she drove Allison to a soccer tournament in Cincinnati. Sara stopped twice to throw up. The pain crawled into her back. On Sunday, when Peter offered to take the family out to dinner for Mother’s Day, she just shook her head. By then, she was running a fever.
At 6 a.m. Monday, Peter flew back to Washington. Sara was hot with fever and pounding with pain, but she drove the kids to school. Then she called the doctor. He sent her to the emergency room. Pancreatitis, they said. Peter landed in Washington, turned around and flew back home.
On Wednesday, Sara got “home” from the hospital, meaning “home” in someone else’s condo, and began packing. On Friday, she and Peter will move out of House No. 2 and into House No. 3, a condo so snug that Brendan, 14, will sleep on the couch. Sunday afternoon, Peter will fly back to Washington.
Doctors wanted to remove Sara’s gall bladder this week to be on the safe side, but she said no. Next Friday, 23 of us will converge on Indianapolis for my family’s 95th year of attending the Indy 500. She’s feeling flimsy as a blade of grass, but she’s determined to see her 23rd Indy 500, and all of us, too.
Ten days after the race, Sara’s clan will move to Virginia, but since their new house in Aldie, Va., is still under construction, they will live in a wee condo until fall.
She suspects that stress contributed to the pancreatitis. Gosh. You think?