Saturday, September 15, 2007

the anniversary, part two



The only room available for us was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The doctor stressed that Sasquatch wasn't in this area because he needed it, but because it was the only private room they had open. Until they did the spinal tap they couldn't absolutely know it wasn't bacterial meningitis, so they had to keep him isolated. Things began to happen very fast.

My family was swinging into gear as well. Sasquatch's beloved Auntie Leigh arrived at the hospital to stay with me. My mom and mother in law worked out child care for the other kids so my mom could come to the hospital too. Other than that, no one knew. I didn't call anyone to let them know. I had other things to do. I did call my husband. I think I called the school, or asked someone else to do it for me, but I'm not absolutely sure I even did that. An unexcused absence wasn't really high on my worry list at that point.

As soon as we got to our room in PICU they prepared him for the tap. He didn't even flinch when the IV was started. I understand the whole resident system a lot better now, but it was still unnerving to hear the resident who was doing the tap being walked through the procedure by the Infectious Diseases attending. I kept thinking "you're putting a needle in my kid's spine and you've never done it before??". What's wrong with this picture? They didn't want to give him a sedative, saying that since he was so out of it anyway it would just slow them down. I put on my best Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment voice and said GIVE HIM THE DRUGS, I don't want him to remember any of this. They did. (And he doesn't). They asked me to wait outside while they did the procedure. I refused to leave the room. They shook their heads and said if I felt faint I should sit down. If they'd had any idea of how faint I already felt I'm sure they would've forced me to leave long before the needles even came out. Leigh stayed in with us, which was good, because Sasquatch did wake up during the procedure and I needed all the moral support I could get. She told him jokes to distract him while I held his hand and cried silently into my own shoulder.

The test results came back pretty quickly. Viral meningitis. The only treatment really is IV fluids, rest and time. We settled in for the wait. There was a child dying in the room next to us and you could hear family members coming and going over the course of the evening. I came face to face with one of them on my way back from the bathroom and can still see their face. I have no idea of what I looked like at that point, but I don't think I looked like that. I get a sick feeling in my stomach just remembering it.

My mom and Leigh swapped out places. I stayed put. The fluids slowly dripped in. The Film Geek called for updates and tried to figure out the fastest way home. A room on a regular peds unit opened up and they moved us out of PICU. The child next to us died as they were transporting us out. My mom went home to take the other kids to her house for the night. I sat in the most uncomfortable easy chair I've ever had the misfortune to know and watched over my sleeping child. At about three in the morning the attending came in to check on him. His fever was down, he was slightly more alert, and the doctor said that it looked like he was responding well to the treatment. He told me to try to get some sleep, agreed that some sadist had designed the chairs and went wearily about his rounds.

I did manage to doze off and on, until about seven when the day nurse came in to get his beginning of the shift vital signs. It was the first moment of levity in the whole experience. I hadn't noticed that on the outside of our door was a sign warning that you had to have a mask and protective gear on to come in the room, because they were still treating it like it was bacterial. Now that I thought about it everyone except the doctor who had come in the room since we'd been in there looked like they were suited up for the plague. Well, this nurse was evidently too many shifts into a long work streak because she ripped the sign off the door and said "Does anybody in this god forsaken place know what they're doing? Can they not read V-I-R-A-L??" Terribly unprofessional, yes. But I think at that point I realized that if my kid was going down the tubes she probably wouldn't be talking like that, and I finally started to unclench. Just a little. (For all I know she talked to everyone like that. Who knows? Not my first choice in a pediatric nurse, but to each his own. In a strange way she comforted me, and I'll take it).

I've experienced the amazing effects of IV fluids many times in the last few years, but never more profoundly than that night. Around eight in the morning he told me he was thirsty. At ten he felt a little hungry. He ate some crackers and they even stayed down. By eleven his neck wasn't hurting every time he moved it. By mid-afternoon they were talking about sending him home. And by late-afternoon, in a dry run to see how well he could get around, they had me take him to the little playroom on the unit. He sat in a chair while all around him the longer term residents did an art class. The clown came up and started talking to him and one of the assistants asked if he wanted a picture with the clown. Sasquatch allowed as to how that would be fine by him, but was adamant that his arm be positioned so you couldn't see the IV. My high maintenance kid was back. Thank god.

The next year at our local elementary school a child died from viral meningitis. And several others were hospitalized. That same year a good friend lost her two year old daughter to the flu. Someone please tell me again. Why is it that we want children? Does the fear ever go away?

I've had some interesting experiences with my kids. There was the time a brand new resident, who seriously should have known better, told me that she was pretty sure that Gumby had leukemia, based on nothing but a rash. (He didn't). Can you say unglued? The kid in The Exorcist had nothing on me. There was the time Surfer Dude got away from me and ran across a busy street at full speed. Untouched. There was the drinking of paint thinner, the positive TB exposure test (back to the same infectious diseases guy), the time after his tonsillectomy that Sasquatch pulled out his IV in front of newly pregnant me and shot blood all over the place, the enlarged lymph node in Surfer Dude's neck that just wouldn't go away, the time Sasquatch patted a diamondback rattlesnake and so on and so on and so on.

But for sheer in-your-face helpless terror, this one takes the cake. I don't ever want to be in a position like that again. It's strange though. I now have the perspective of helping with procedures on kids from the "objectivity" of a medical "professional" standpoint. And here's what I've found. I'm not objective, I'll never be objective and I frickin' HATE peds. I can feel the panic emanating from the parents, I see my own children's faces on every kid in pain. I hear their cries. And I hate every minute of it.

It's too close to home.

So I keep the picture as a talisman, a reminder that things can turn out okay, after all. A little nudge to always be grateful for what I have, to always appreciate the amazing things I've been given in my life. A reminder to cherish my children on a daily basis.

Because underneath it all...I'm still always scared.

23 comments:

ped crossing said...

Oh, my goodness. You have struck fear into me. I can only hope that my two boys don't run me through the ringer like that. My husband will go off the deep end and I wouldn't be too far behind.

I'm glad you have survived and based on your other blog entries have kept a good humor. It give me hope that I can survive this parenting thing with all its ups and downs and remain mostly sane.

ciara said...

sasquatch is one tough kid! i have some fear from this post, but i can't imagine the kind you went through. i'm glad that everything turned out fine.

i just wish my sis-in-law was the kind of mother you are...my nephew still has some troubles (though he recovered to a point most don't)and she 'can't handle him'. i don't even talk to my brother anymore because of her.

Dumdad said...

"Does the fear ever go away?"

No, it never does. One tries to push it into the background but it's there lurking in the shadows forever.

Flowerpot said...

I bet you're always scared. I would be. You're a wonderful mum.

Akelamalu said...

Yes tell me again why we have kids! In answer to your questions - NO the fear never goes away and my boys are now 36 and 31 with kids of their own, that's another 5 to worry about!

Diana said...

Yes. This is why I don't do peds, either. (That and the fact I never could see their little ear drums.) That story had my heart in my throat. We've been blessed with only one Big Scare, when Colin (aged 6) had what I had thought was just a viral stomach thing but turned out to be appendicitis.

auntie barbie said...

Oh RC, I cannot begin to tell you how this post affected me. It has brought back a flood of old memories of my kids that I have chose to supress. Your poignant story explains what being a parent is all about, and makes me thankful for what I have.

As dumdad & akelamalu said, the fear never goes away. No matter how old they are. But, for all the fear & worry they are worth it. Our lives wouldn't be the same without them.

Amy said...

You need that fear--otherwise, when they're crying because you won't let them wear Batman pajamas to their uncle's wedding or spread cheese on your toothbrush, you'd be tempted to kill them.

I'm glad Sasquatch recovered. What a horrific experience for you and your family.

laurie said...

well. that's a hell of a story. you had me with every single word.

i have no kids, but i was a kid at one time. and i did that running-out-into-traffic thing, too. i was chasing my little brother, that shit.

and my dad saw me from the window, heard the squeal of brakes as a car managed to stop just inches from me.

he called me back into the house, marched me upstairs, made me sit in a back bedroom for hours. why a back bedroom? "i don't want you so much as looking at that street," he said.

i wept prodigiously, felt abused and mistreated, coudln't understand why he was so upset--the car didn't hit me, did it? so what's the big deal?

you have shown so clearly exactly what was the big deal.

Sweet Irene said...

Good for you, that your child pulled through! I lost my son to cancer and there is nothing worse than losing your child to any disease, no matter how old they are. Love him and enjoy him and hug him every day. They are our most precious possessions, but you already knew that, didn't you?

Mya said...

After reading your post, I've just given Sprog a big hug - he's wondering why.

Mya x

PS. Sasquatch! What a cutie!

Jen said...

I think all parents have a little fear. A little fear keeps us alert and makes us good parents. Just a little. I pity the child whose parents don't fear for them a little bit.

And, damnit, RC, you made me cry at work. Shame on you while I hunt down a tissue.

PixelPi said...

My nephew was at summer camp a few years ago where another camper caught both viral meningitis *and* West Nile. And subsequently died. My sister was terrified beyond words. She wanted to drive right up there and snatch Surfer Dood (yes, I have a nephew named Surfer Dood). She was frantic, on the phone at least 4 times a day. I'm sure the entire net slowed down due to the sheer volume of emails. I've never seen her so worked up.

I agree with your readers....the fear is what keeps them safe, as safe as they can be in this world. And yes, it's the kids whose parents don't have any fear who are in the gravest danger.

Lastly, if I have been in your shoes I would have been on a Xanax drip. Believe me.

Iota said...

Fear lurks, but we mustn't let it dominate. As you say, it is much better to cherish and appreciate life, than to let fear spoil it. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

Kimberly said...

I don't even know you and I'm in tears.

ciara said...

p.s. sasquatch is adorable...but the clown is scary lol

and to sweet irene...(((hugs)))i can't even imagine.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I can barely breathe...a child at my daughter's elementary school died this summer after a long stay at Children's Hospital from a virus that attacked all his organs...it appeared he was going to be fine and then he didnt make it...the whole town was together holding vigils and blood drives, it was devastating...I am so glad yours recovered. Yes, I have fear all the time with my children, about these things.

laurie said...

i meemed ya. i couldn't resist.

laurie said...

that's just spooky. i'm going to start calling you the stalking correspondent.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

ped crossing - Something about boys ensures that you keep your good humor. And I think "mostly sane" is the best we can hope for!

ciara - he is a tough kid, but he was lucky enough to recover with no residual effects. Thank god.

dumdad - It's the days that it refuses to stay in the background that really get to me.

flowerpot - Well, my kids don't think so. They think I'm a pain in the ass.

akelamalu - oh my god, that's what I was afraid of. This explains why my mother still wants me to call when I've gotten home safely.

diana - that's scary. Did he need surgery? What kind of medicine do you do exactly? I was thinking family practice, but wouldn't that be peds out the wazoo?? I'm always glad to meet other anti-peds people. Sometimes I feel like a freak because I hate it so much.

auntie barbie - you're right. It's all worth it because they are the best gifts we'll ever get. But still. I would love a little bit of a worry free zone sometimes.

amy - Bingo. Some of the times I make myself remember this are when I want to take him out of this world myself. It's also why they're so cute as babies.

laurie - thanks for the nice words. I think the thing that always shocks me is the understanding twenty or thirty years later of something my mom did that I never understood. And then all of sudden the light goes on and not only do I get it, but I feel guilty as hell at the same time. Those moments are coming more and more frequently, believe me.

sweet irene - yes, they are our most precious possessions. Without question.
I am so very sorry about your son.

mya - tell Sprog moms don't need reasons to hug and that he just needs to get used to it. I thought it was a cute picture of Sasquatch. Of course that was quite a little grimace on his face, but I believe he had good reason.

jen- I am more afraid of parents who aren't afraid than I am of overprotective neurotics like me. They can really scare me. I'm sorry I made you cry at work. Didn't you have any Rick Astley to play to make you feel better?

pixel pi - If I'd been your sister I'd have been climbing walls. How funny that you have a Surfer Dude too. Or Dood. I wouldn't have turned down a Xanex drip, but they never offered me one - damned HMO. To tell the truth, I wouldn't turn one down now, either.

iota - Absolutely. Know the fear is there. Recognize it. Respect it. And then live your life in spite of it. I try. But I have a fearful nature to start with and sometimes it's really hard for me.

kimberly - I'm sorry I made you cry. Usually people have to know me better before I make them cry! Come back anytime.

stepping over the junk - oh, how sad for your town and the child's family. On the one hand it's so nice when people pull together so well, but then of course you want a happy outcome.

laurie jo - heh. and heh again. I guess it's better than the Rotten Stalker. (Oh, I am cracking myself up here!!)

Eileen said...

What a story and an awful, awful thing to go through. However, what a beautiful life lesson you learned. One I think we could all benefit from remembering every day, cherish our children. Life stresses often make us forget how lucky we really are.

Jo Beaufoix said...

RC my heart was in my mouth even though I knew it would be fine.

There's no fear like the fear we have for our kids is there.

I agree with all the comments here.
It's good to have a bit of fear but not too much.

I will hug the gerbil as my kids are asleep-for now, and I'm sending a big hug for you and Sasquatch.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Any one of those incidents you mentioned would have put me in a coma, I'm sure. I've been lucky so far with my two. But how lucky for you to have a great family that rallies round.