Monday, April 09, 2007

Trauma

Time is slipping away... I've certainly done a lot more 'living' than 'writing about living' during the past two plus weeks. The biggest thing that has happened while I've been on blogger hiatus, is my little girl got sick.


She woke up on Friday, March 23rd, with a high fever. We gave her Motrin, fed her a little breakfast and put her back to bed. When she next got up, she was still a little low energy, but happy to greet my brother, who had flown in from L.A. that same day, and walked around and played. By lunch, she seemed out of it again, and the fever had returned. This time it was a very high 104.5 degrees. While I nursed and comforted her, Dan called the pediatrician. My baby was burning up, and suddenly pulled off my breast and stared off into space with unfocused eyes. She seemed completely out of it and wouldn't respond to me. Her lips started to turn blue, and her face was completely pale. Dan immediately recognized her appearance as cyanotic and rushed to grab her out of my arms. "Call 911 now!" My hands were shaking as I tried to act quick. We grabbed jackets and ran downstairs and out onto the stoop to wait for the ambulance. Stella's color was back, but she was still listless and unusually still and quiet. We were actually picked up by two officers in a police car who rushed us to the ER.
By the time we arrived, her fever was down to around 102.5, and the emergency tests began. Our little baby was subjected to several failed blood draws which took two attempts in both arms, before finding final success on the top of her tiny hand. She also had to endure a catheter insert in order to get a clean urine sample. Each test was a hysteria-inducing challenge that required the strength of four adults to hold Stella still. Her screams and tears were heartbreaking.
After several hours of waiting, and a gradual return to 'normal' of Stella's behavior, the blood results showed that she had a high whitel blood cell count - something that indicated a definite problem. The doctors were most concerned by our descriptions of Stella going blue in the face and almost going catatonic. For a split second, it had felt like we were losing her. She had experienced what they called an atypical febrile seizure (most febrile seizures involve tremors, shakes and eyes rolling back, but are known to have different manifestations). They felt that it was important that she be monitored for the next 24 hours in case she had another febrile seizure, and to await further lab results.

So began our stay in the pediatric ward...


Most of the next 24 hours were a complete jumble of constant temperature/body checks by the nurses, exams and discussions with the resident doctors, and painful, tearful IV needling for fluids and antibiotics. The initial blood cultures came back with moderate to aggressive growth, meaning that Stella had a bacteria infection in her blood. Deep red circles under her eyes were the only sign of sickness. The doctors wanted to rule out meningitis by doing a spinal tap, despite the fact that she did not display some of the common symptoms, had been previously vaccinated, and was playful and friendly to the staff. Dan and I had watched our daughter suffer so much with all the needles and discomfort that the last thing we wanted to do was put her through anymore unnecessary testing. We resisted putting Stella through this final painful exam for as long as we could, until we were faced with an ultimatum. Since the physicians could not rule out meningitis without the spinal fluid lab, they would have to treat her as if she had it, and keep her in the hospital for two weeks. At the very least, we were going to be at the hospital for a minimum of four days while waiting for more blood culture results. We finally caved to the pressure, as we realized we were saying 'no' based on our own fear of putting our baby through pain. I was unable to stay in the room as she went through multiple IV insertions, and knew that there was no way I could watch her strong-held in a fetal position as a needle was inserted into the soft space along her spine, and a slow draw was taken. She was too young to be sedated through this procedure, and I knew she would put up a fight... something that was too painful to picture. As she was taken to the room that she had already grown to dread, Dan and I had to be out of earshot, where we held each other tight, and released all of our stress from this ordeal through heaving sobs.

Within 24 hours of the spinal tap, the news was good, as she was cleared of meningitis. We also now knew that the infection she had was streptococcus pneumonia - something she could have caught ANYWHERE. It seemed that Stella was on the mend, and now the only thing that was needed was the final confirmation on the best oral antibiotics for at-home treatment. It looked like we were going to be released on Tuesday (Day 5), but high fevers struck again early that morning. This was bad, as it might mean that the infection was stronger than the current IV antibiotics could cure. Another blood culture (a 3 day test) had to be taken to study if this was the problem or if she had a completely new illness. After several more days, clear results, and the beginning of a cough, it was determined that she had caught a virus in the pediatric ward, which was separate of her infection. Friday afternoon, a full week later, we were allowed to remove Stella's final IV from her little foot, and return to our home, and the comfort of our beds. We had missed a week of work, and had canceled a planned departure that very night for a 12-day holiday in California. We decided that our time-off was much needed, and continued with our bittersweet vacation plans for the next week, albeit in our Brooklyn apartment. Thankfully, my Mom had flown out the day before to help us take care of Stella, run errands, spring clean, and provide us with support and the chance to rest. My thanks are huge.

It has been over a week since our hospital stay, and Stella had her last dose of antibiotics this evening. I question if she will remember this brief period in her life. For the most part, she was happy at the hospital, getting lots of attention from the adoring staff who introduced her to cookies, playing in the children's room while watching Elmo videos, and enthusiastically enjoying a visit with a 'hospital' dog.


However, I do wonder if future encounters with people in white coats will trigger trepidation, or if the pain associated with her memory will eventually fade away. Is she now destined to forever fear doctors and needles? Could all trust and innocence be lost?


Tomorrow marks a return to work and the realities of a coming monster bill (small change when it comes to our daughter's health). Hopefully, I will find the time and energy to reconnect with the blogosphere. Happy Spring (?).

3 Comments:

Anonymous Paloma said...

Sarah, I can only imagine what these past few weeks have been like for Stella, you and Dan. As soon as I found out that Stella had been rushed to the hospital I felt sick to my stomach with worry. I must of called mom a zillion times for updates to save you and Dan from my added anxiety. I am so happy that she is finally recovering well and life is returning to normal for the three of you.

Love,
Paloma

4:06 PM  
Blogger Reino said...

Aww, God speed. I am so happy all is well and perfectly normal again. HUGS.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Keoki said...

I feel for you guys. Parenting can really be nerve wrecking... Especially, when your baby's screams while someone is poking needles into her. And, you have to sit there and watch. I hated that! Still do! So, any new grey hairs?

2:24 PM  

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