Sitting in his seventh hour, sophomore Murphy Leinbach got a text from his mother.
Taking Mick to the hospital. His throat’s gotten worse.
Murphy was shocked. His third grade little brother, Mick, hadn’t been feeling great for the past two days, but he didn’t seem like he had been that sick.
“I knew he was really sick, but it’s one thing from being really sick and missing a week or so of school and then going to a hospital, like Children’s Mercy,” Murphy said, “The hospital’s the end of the line.”
Just days before, Mick was stuck in bed with what looked like a normal case of strep throat. The sore throat and a fever, the usual symptoms. But there were a few major differences. He couldn’t move his neck without sharp pain and he couldn’t stop drooling, something that puzzled his family.
“The first day, I thought he was just totally overreacting,” Murphy said. “But then I saw him the second day.”
That next day, Murphy saw what looked like a ghost of his brother.
“His eyes were so red, he was so pale,” said Murphy, “He was just so flushed, he was empty.”
That second day Murphy’s mother, Tara Leinbach, took Mick to the doctor’s office. The doctor asked him to open his mouth for a swab; he couldn’t. He asked him to look up; he couldn’t. That’s when the doctor knew something was really wrong. He took a few tests and found that is was more serious than just strep throat.
Tara had Mick admitted Mick to Children’s Mercy South shortly after. Doctors immediately started running tests. Blood tests, white blood cell counts, MRI’s. It didn’t take them long to figure out what it was.
Mick had grown an abscess, an inflamed area stretching from his throat all the way down into his chest. A growth that’s common in younger kids and if it isn’t treated it can kill. The doctors hooked him up to IV antibiotics, hoping that they would be able to stop the abscess from growing, shrink it and then get rid of it.
Over the next few days, when Murphy came home from school his mother and Mick were gone. No Mick to play Gears of War with or to watch some Cartoon Network show with. He couldn’t walk down to the basement to see if Mick wanted to hang out anymore. He just had to hope that his little brother was okay and that he’d be able to go to the hospital to see him soon.
He was finally able to go and visit his brother. Mick was miserable. His veins couldn’t handle the IV, and would pop, collapsing in on themselves, making them unusable and causing him more pain.
“He looked awful, kind of like someone who was shot in a movie and you know they’ve lost a lot of blood and they just look really gone,” Murphy said, “Their eyes are basically the only color they have left; just gone.”
But when Murphy came in, something changed in him. Mick was a happy little eight-year-old again, instead of pale, thin ghost of a child. He’d be just Mick. He’d laugh at Adventure Time quotes with Murphy and they both got in trouble for accidentally messing with Mick’s IV when they hit it with a bouncy ball. His mood was improving, and briefly, he was happy again.
But while his mood was improving, his condition was getting worse. His fever was still high, his neck was still stiff and there was a red rash growing over where the abscess was. The antibiotics hadn’t worked and they had to move to their last resort: surgery. Mick was moved across town, to Children’s Mercy North, for surgery.
Murphy was sitting in the hall waiting to get out of weights when the anesthesiologist put the mask over Mick’s face to put him under for surgery.
“This is real,” Murphy thought. “This is serious. He isn’t just sick.”
While Murphy sat worrying about how the surgery would go, Mick’s surgery ended. Murphy wasn’t even out of his seventh hour yet.
The surgery was a success. The abscess was gone and it wasn’t going to come back. Immediately, Mick could swallow again and he was even able to start moving his neck. By the next morning Mick had a full range of movement in his again.
Mick was in the hospital for another week after the surgery with a fever. His brother was there with him almost everyday. Together they’d sit around and watch “Hot Rod”, talk to Mick’s favorite nurse, Kevin, or even joke about Mick’s other nurse with her annoying, high-pitched voice.
“My mom always told me that Mick really looks up to [me] so much and I never really believed it,” Murphy said. “I never really thought he listened to what I said. He was sick, he was crying, he just felt awful. I’d come up there to visit him and instantly he’d just sit up and he’d just start laughing and trying to show that he was tough and that he was pushing through the pain that was going on.”
Almost every day the Mick was in the hospital after his surgery, Murphy watched his brother start to get better. He saw his fever go down, watched him start to move his neck again and he was there when Mick finally came home.
Not long ago Murphy came home and found his brother sitting down, looking pale and winded. Immediately, the worst sprang to his mind. Murphy walked over to him and asked him what was wrong. Mick panted proudly that he had just done 50 sit ups. Murphy just laughed and high fived him. He realized just how proud he is of his little brother.
Murphy is back to being just Mick’s older brother. He doesn’t have to come and cheer Mick up at the hospital anymore. He doesn’t have to worry about trying to make it up to Children’s Mercy to see him. He doesn’t have to worry about any more blown veins, surgeries or IV’s. He just has to ask him if he wants to hang out.