A storm and a coin cause big scares – and an ambulance ride to Little Rock
Last week’s Friday the 13th ended with an evening of challenges that Noble residents Ashley and Markus Thomas are unlikely to forget.
Friday night, they were at Baxter Cinema in Mountain Home, Arkansas, watching the movie “A Quiet Place” when “everyone’s cell phones started going off with the emergency alert warning,” said Ashley, who’s 27 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child. “It was a tornado warning that said, ‘Seek shelter immediately.’ Then the sirens went off. We’re sitting there, like, ‘What do we do?’”
Other Ozark County residents were in the theater, as well. Heather and David Bushner, with their children, Maverick and Savannah, were watching the same movie when the film was stopped and theater employees “advised that we could either stay and come into the hallway or leave – and I don’t know why anyone would want to leave in weather like that,” Heather said.
Ashley and Markus went into the theater lobby. The Bushners stood in a nearby hallway. “At first people were kind of annoyed,” Heather said. “But then, at some point, you could hear it, and you could tell it was serious. Ceiling tiles were lifting up, and it felt like the roof was going to come down.”
The raging storm suddenly “sucked open the front glass doors,” Heather said. “When the building started to shake, everyone hit the floor.”
Ashley and Markus were herded into a janitor’s closet behind the concession stand with about a dozen other people.
“For two or three minutes it really felt like that roof was going to come off,” Heather said.
But the worst of the storm quickly passed, the roof stayed on, and the startled patrons left the building. As they headed home, the Bushners noticed that two big trees in the lot across the street from the theater had blown down. They returned the next day to watch the complete movie on complimentary movie tickets.
Ashley and Markus might have considered returning the next day too, but any such thoughts evaporated when they called Markus’ mother, Ann Thomas, to let her know they were heading home. Ann was babysitting their 1-year-old daughter, Amanda, known as Deedle to her family, and she told the couple, “Something’s wrong with Deedle.”
The longest night
Ann told them Deedle seemed to feel OK, and she was able to drink liquids just fine. But anytime she ate something, Ann said, “she gets a funny look on her face and throws up.”
It was the same pattern Deedle had shown all day when Markus’ grandmother, Reva Thomas, had babysat the toddler while the parents worked. All day long, Deedle seemed to feel OK but vomited anything she ate, although she could easily drink liquids.
Ashley and Markus felt sure Deedle had swallowed something – most likely a coin – that had gotten stuck in her throat.
“That morning when Markus was taking Deedle to his grandma’s, he was putting her in his truck and he dropped the truck keys. He sat her on the seat a second while he was picking up his keys, and when he stood up, she was gagging,” Ashley said. “She threw up, and Marcus thought that surely if she had swallowed something, it was thrown up.”
Ashley, who is 27 weeks pregnant, said Deedle has been drooling a lot and is cutting several molars; she thought maybe the throwing up was somehow linked to that. But hearing Deedle’s great-grandmother describe the vomiting that had continued all day, Ashley was convinced something was stuck in the little girl’s throat.
Driving home from Mountain Home, the couple asked Ann to bring Deedle and meet them at Bryant Plastic on Highway 5 north of Gainesville. Then they strapped the toddler into her car seat and turned around. Ashley, who works at Baxter Lab, was making her third trip that day to Mountain Home.
An ambulance ride to Little Rock
They arrived at Baxter Regional Medical Center’s emergency room to find that the hospital was running on generator power after the strong storm, which had caused major damage at nearby Hiram Shaddox Geriatric and Rehabilitation Center, ripping off part of the facility’s roof.
Using a portable X-ray machine, the medical staff soon discovered the cause of the problem. The X-ray revealed a coin stuck “right at the bottom of her throat,” Ashley said, adding that, from the size of the coin, “I thought it was a nickel or a quarter.”
A surgeon at BRMC said removing the coin should be a simple procedure, but the hospital wasn’t equipped to handle a pediatric situation if something went wrong during the surgery. Instead, Deedle and her mother were sent by ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Markus and Ann followed in the Thomas vehicle.
“We got down there about 4:30 a.m.,” Ashley said. “They took more X-rays and said the coin was lodged in her esophagus, so liquids could go around it but not food. They wanted to get it out as soon as possible so it wouldn’t come up and then lodge in her trachea so she couldn’t breathe.”
The little girl was taken back to surgery and given anesthesia, “and in about three minutes they were done. They said once they opened up her mouth they could just reach in with some medical instrument and grab it.”
Later the medical staff brought the Thomases a cup with the coin inside. It was, as Ashley described it in a Facebook post, “the most expensive penny we’ve ever owned.”
On the X-ray, “it looked so big,” she said, “but I think it was just because she’s so little.”
The little family was discharged soon after Deedle returned from the operating room. They got back to their home in Noble about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, totally exhausted.
Riding out a storm in a shaking, quaking movie theater was one thing, Ashley said. But seeing their 1-year-old daughter endure a medical ordeal was even worse.
“This is for sure the scariest thing that has happened to us as parents this far,” she said in a Facebook post. “And it just goes to show how fast those little hands move.”