Memorable Milestone: Baby’s First Trip to the ER

25 04 2008

Yesterday, the universe saw fit to remind me yet again of how things can change in the blink of an eye. One minute I’m sipping coffee, making birthday party invitations with Neener and Roo, and trying to decide which exercise dvd I’m going to torture myself with, and the next minute I’m en route to the ER with a frighteningly feverish baby and a doctor’s note containing words that would get us fast tracked in the triage line: Four month old baby, fever of 103, drowsy, irritable, stiff neck. Yeah, that’ll get you some quick attention, you would think.

But let’s take it from the beginning. Squiggles developed a fever on Wednesday. It hovered around 101, no cough, no runny nose, no Barfies, no pootastrophies. She was still pretty much acting like her happy-go-lucky self, save for the night time restlessness that was tamed by hourly boob feeds and Jingle-Bells-in-the-key-of-cat waltzes. Yesterday morning, she was warmer, and a bit crankier, but content enough to laugh hysterically at Neener’s reading of Green Eggs and Ham. ( Come to think of it, she may have been a bit delirious from the fever at that point. Green Eggs and Ham is just not that funny.) So, being the seasoned mother of three that I am, I gave her some baby Tylenol, put her to bed and did not panic. Until around 3 p.m when Squiggles woke from a very long nap, refused to eat, and oscillated between extreme irritability, and laying on my chest whimpering like a puppy. A sick, sleepy puppy. So I pulled out the trusty rectal thermometer (or bum-mometer as we call it) to get a quick read. 103. Yikes. A fever that high in a baby this young is not something I was willing to wait out. Time to see the doctor. Fortunately, our family doctor’s office is right next door. I got the Mister to come home from work to mind Neener and Roo, and I darted to the doctor. Having seen Squiggles with her previous fevers, he quickly recognized the same worrisome things that I had: High fever, irritable and lethargic, a reluctance to move her head around, and no obvious cause. He began a pre-amble about how all kids are different when they are sick, and the importance of playing it safe, but I cut to the chase. 

“Take her to the ER? Just to be sure it’s not something scary?” I asked.

“Yeah. I think that’s the best thing to do.” he replied gravely.

So, being the seasoned mother of three that I am, I panicked.  

What happened next a bit of a blur. I know I called our sweet Super Sitter to come to the rescue. I know Mr. Blister flagged down a cab, handed me a wad of cash and a cell phone, and kissed us goodbye with the promise that he’d meet us at the hospital as soon as he could. I know Squiggles didn’t make a peep in the cab. I know the taxi driver sensed my urgency and took the less busy side streets to get us there quicker. And I know I tipped him 10 bucks. But my ability to think, to take in my surroundings, to breathe, and to be the un-panicked rock I needed to be did not re-surface until we were safely in the doors of the ER. There, we were met by the security guy, who asked if I was here for me or my kid, then told me to take a seat. One entire wall of the ER was lined with old people on stretchers, each accompanied by 2 paramedics. In the triage system, they take anyone who arrived by ambulance first, so the paramedics can get back to work quicker. I watched as 85 year old Martha got registered and admitted for swallowing too many unidentified pills. I watched as 70-some year old Mr. Robins got taken in to pee in a cup. I watched as a hefty, odiferous woman sat down in a triage station and began describing the kink in her neck and asking about painkillers. I watched and waited for about 15 minutes, not sure of where I was in the crowded que. No one had really asked me anything, or even acknowledged that I was in there with a small baby among the junkies and geriatrics. So I figured it was time to draw some attention to myself. I went to the security guy and asked if I should be in any particular part of the line. He said that depended on what was wrong.

“Well, I’ve got a 4 month old baby and my doctor sent us here to make sure she doesn’t have meningitis.”

“Oh. Ok. Have a seat.” I watched as security guy got up and pointed me out to the nurse dealing with pain-in-the-neck woman. Then I watched as he went back and sat down behind his desk.

 I felt a tap on my shoulder. A middle aged gentleman with a sprain had overheard my conversation with security guy, and offered me his place at the available triage station. I choked out a ‘thank you’ as he helped me carry the car seat. Then I spotted the hospital’s head of pediatrics, who just so happens to be our pediatrician. We had a quick chat, and within minutes, we were in a room to see a doctor and get some tests started. Blood work, chest x-ray, urine culture, and if none of those tests gave us enough information, we’d start talking spinal tap. 

Just before all that got started, my husband arrived. I was so relieved to have his company and the extra pair of hands. Two nurses then showed up to take some blood from Squiggle’s chubby little arm, while I hovered over her face patting her head and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. One nurse commented that I was handling it pretty well, seeing my baby so upset by the whole procedure. I explained that I was a veteran at singing my kids through assorted tests, that my other daughter had been through much worse. I was in medical mommy mode, with no brain space left to dwell on what any of us were going through. My job was to stay calm, and keep Squiggles calm as best I could. For a moment, I felt a little callous for not getting really upset at the sight of my baby scared and in pain. Then I reminded myself that it would not help anyone to have me bawling in the corner, or running from the room when my child needed me most. So I helped the nurses hold her down and when it was over, I picked Squiggles up, rocked her a bit, and she promptly fell asleep.

But even medical mommy was not quite prepared for the chest x-ray. In order to get pictures of her lungs, my baby had to be stripped off and placed on a small bicycle seat on a post, attached to a table. Then, as I held her arms up over her head, the tech clamped a big see-through plastic cylinder around her entire body, her legs dangling out the bottom, her arms sticking straight up through the top, and her little face jutting out from a hole cut in the side. Remember, this is the baby who hated her sling with a mad apssion because she detests any manner of confinement. Then, a big black board was pushed in front of her face while the tech took the x-rays. Squiggles couldn’t look at me for comfort, so I just started meowing Jingle Bells over her heartbreaking cries. I did not know what else to do. It was certainly not what I had in mind when I’d imagined her first professional photographs being taken. But, it all went as well as could be expected, and soon we were off to have poor Squiggles prodded with a catheter. Twice, because the first nurse couldn’t seem to get it right. As we sat in he room waiting for word on the tests, I quietly prayed to any and all random deities who could possibly be eavesdropping. Please no spinal tap. Please no spinal tap.  

Finally, we got some information. Her bloodwork showed some infection, her lungs were clear, and we’d have to wait on the urine cultures. In the mean time, our pediatrician came to examine her before making the call on the spinal tap. It was then that Squiggles displayed her impeccable timing, and I saw again how everything can change in the blink of an eye. As soon as the doctor started checking her out, Squiggles perked up. She opened her eyes. She started moving and looking around. She started cooing at him. She started doing all the things she had not done for hours. And that put his mind at ease. He said he’d follow up on the test results, that we did the right thing coming in, but that we could breathe a sigh of relief that we didn’t need a spinal tap, and that we could go home. We thanked him profusely, packed up our still feverish but now smiling and alert baby, and headed home. 

So, there’s no neat and tidy conclusion here yet. Squiggles still has a fever, and we don’t know what’s causing it. But we have a pretty good idea of what is not causing it, and that’s important. She’s not 100% back to herself, but she does seem to be on the mend. And I can say that at the very least, she’s no longer deliriously feverish. I just read her Green Eggs and Ham, and she barely cracked a smile.

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5 responses

26 04 2008
Anika

I had to take Sunara to the ER when she was about two months old… Scary to say the least, even when they’re just doing tests and monitoring (literally from dawn until dusk in our case). When Wee babes are feverish and lethargic, interspersed with coughing till they vomit, it sucks for everyone! Get well soon, Macie!

26 04 2008
lastcrazyhorn

EEP! *panics for you* I swear, I didn’t breathe from the phrase “So, being the seasoned mother of three that I am, I panicked” until we got to “She started cooing at him.”

*breathes in and out slowly and repeatedly*

I’m glad you’re back and home and she’s feeling somewhat better!

26 04 2008
Lisa

Glad you’re home safe and calm 🙂
Nathan had his first visit at 3.5 weeks. Actually, we went to the pediatric walk-in clinic, and within 5 minutes, the doctor had us en route to the hospital, telling us he’d fax ahead, so go directly up to the pediatrics unit. Within half an hour of arriving, Nathan had had blood tests, cath for pee sample, and a spinal tap. (They gave him a pacifier with sugar water… and we weren’t allowed to be there). It ended with a week in hospital on IV antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. Quite anticlimactic. Extremely boring. Major diaper rash. Nursing every hour round the clock. Probably the most unpleasant week of my life.

26 04 2008
domesticblister

omg, Lisa, how scary…and anticlimactic indeed… a spinal tap on a 3.5 week old, and then to have it be uti after all that. but so much better safe than sorry!

28 04 2008
nana

tears came to my eyes.

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