Sunday, September 28, 2014

In the ER with a Toddler

One week ago today we had quite a scare.

Saturday night/Sunday morning at 1:00 a.m. we were startled awake by Elijah gasping for air. [We have a video monitor, so hearing this was easy... and jarring.] We called his doctor's office, gave him a stream treatment in the bathroom, and gave him a breathing treatment with a nebulizer that we already had on hand from last year. The doctor on call told us that if the breathing treatment didn't work, that yes we should get him to the nearest ER.

At 3 a.m. he was back in bed. At 4:30 a.m. he was gasping for air so desperately that there was nothing we could do but rush him to the nearest ER and pray that he'd be okay [we emphasize nearest because it's not our preferred hospital or the one we're most familiar with, but it's 10 minutes closer than the hospital he was at in the NICU for 11 days]. There was a momentary debate over calling an ambulance but since he wasn't turning blue, we didn't feel that was needed. And while technically we were sure he'd get the help he needed and be okay, it was still very hard to watch.

Gratefully the ER people paid him pretty quick attention at first. He was pretty uncomfortable until the doc examined him and we were able to get him a breathing treatment with a more powerful medicine than what we have at home. Unfortunately because he was so uncomfortable and struggling for breath, he fought the breathing treatment hard. Tim had his legs and arms wrapped in a figure 4, I had his head, and the respiratory therapist had the mask over Elijah's nose and mouth. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes and near the end we felt Elijah starting to relax. After it was over, there was an immediate difference in Elijah's breathing and we all felt a little better.

Not too long later, the nurse brought in his oral steroid. And that also really helped. And he just melted in daddy's arms and finally went back to sleep.

The doc said because he was better after the breathing treatment, he was going to cancel the X-Rays. Whew.

There was a time after that were we didn't seem to see anyone at all for about an hour. Gratefully after the shift change, the day nurse was more attentive. Prior to this point we had to do everything ourselves - get blankets and pillows that I found in the closet, etc. There was nothing in the ER for Elijah, and nothing to help us be able to contain him or get him to relax. I realize that's not the typical environment for that... but come on ER's, kids have emergencies too! Even just a standard wooden rocking chair would have helped us a lot. Anyway, I digress.

Around 7:30 a.m. the doctor told us we could go home, he was doing better, and started to get paperwork ready to discharge us. When the nurse came back to walk us through that... I voiced another concern that Elijah's breathing suddenly didn't seem quite right again and I was a little worried. I knew I'd hate myself if we got home and had nothing to do but go right back to the ER, because they were sending us home without any medication. It just felt weird.

The ER doc [who was great, by the way] called in the pediatrician on-site, who came sometime that hour to see us. That whole time I was beating myself up that I said anything because Elijah was not bad, and we wanted to go home and rest. But Tim had to keep reminding me that it was wise to make sure he was okay, and just like back when Elijah was born... I was the one who insisted there was a problem and he finally got checked. For his breathing.

Oy vey. Breathing issues really have always scared me. It's my little thing. My fear. Is God using this in my son now to teach me lessons... to teach me about what it means to really trust him? I admit, I don't like it. But I am learning to trust him more.

The pediatrician is the specialist, which is why he was called in, and after listening to Elijah's heart & lungs he immediately looked up at us and asked if we'd ever been told he has a heart murmur. Tim & I said no at the same time while we both looked at each other wide-eyed and a bit unnerved. We hadn't heard anything like this at all! As the doc explained, he said it could just be because he's sick and a lot of murmurs turn out to be nothing. But still he said we might want to get an echo done, just to be sure.

That made my heart skip a beat!

The pediatrician wanted him to receive another breathing treatment and then to be in observation, which meant an extended stay and he needed to be admitted to the pediatric ward.

Ugh. This was hard news, and while we just wanted Elijah to be okay, we were disheartened to hear the pediatrician seemingly contradicting the ER doc [who was great by the way, I'm not saying this in any way to "diss" him, it was just different]. We were exhausted so it was just hard to swallow, but we knew it was best for him.

The doc ordered another breathing treatment and around 9 am Elijah had that. This time he was more receptive to it - and that treatment really helped him turn the corner! [There were no more problems after that and no more medicines, he was simply there for observation and monitoring.]

Then we waited 2 more long hours in the ER. Just waiting. The nurse did okay with communicating with us about what was going on, checking in on us occasionally and letting us spread out in the room so we could get some rest. She made us more comfortable and helped make it more private for us as well. We did get a little shut-eye here and there, but the key thing was that Elijah rested!

It was annoying to just be sitting around the ER, waiting for a peds bed to open up, waiting a half hour for a transfer technician to take us up to our new room, etc. Just for more waiting and observing. So it felt frustrating and annoying, but we knew when we left he was going to be okay. We were finally transferred a little before 11 - so we spent 6 long hours in the ER. 

Once up there and settled in, the patient care technician we had in our room was fantastic. She was really helpful and gave us more information than anyone to that point. She let us know that the medicine Elijah was given in his breathing treatments can have some side effects and some patients regress a little bit within hours. So they wanted to make sure we wouldn't have to come back, and that medicine usually required 6 hours of monitoring. He had his last dose at 9 a.m. Obviously we can't just stay in the ER that long [gratefully], so that's when we started to relax a little more. 

I will say that our experience in the NICU did help me to learn and understand how to be a better advocate for my son. That I don't have to just take what they're saying and that I'm free to make myself comfortable and ask a gazillion questions.

One cool thing when we got to our room was that we were on the side with the geo-thermal lake, and that we had a view of our church! Right in the middle far back in the midst of the trees you can slightly see the tops of a large brown building. That's our church! :) It was very calming and a good reminder of God's sovereignty in the midst of the hard.

Once we were settled in and the nurses weren't coming in as much, we ordered lunch for all 3 of us [our little boy is eating solid foods pretty well now, so unreal!], and then relaxed. It was nice to finally be more comfortable and to have a place where Elijah could be contained. 


It was a freaky-looking contraption but he was contained and he slept for just over an hour in it! Whew!! And then he slept a little more in daddy's arms...


I did keep asking and checking as the nurse and PCT came in to find out when the doc might be around again. It was looking like we wouldn't see him until 3. So even though we understood that it might be 6 hours of observation, we were baffled that it meant no doctor sees him or observes him. This felt insane to me. But we kept waiting.

I finally made it a bigger deal once it was a little after 3 and I was fed up. I asked the PCT to please do whatever she could to get the doc to come in and see us. Elijah was fine and we were ready to go home, if he approved. She came back in a few minutes later with the doc right on her heels, hurray! 

He listened to Elijah and checked him over thoroughly. At this time he was apologetic that we had to stay, but was kind about reminding us why it was important, which I really appreciated. He told us to follow-up with Elijah's pediatrician in the next 1-2 days not just for the croup but also to have his heart murmur checked out. He did mention that the more powerful meds he was on could cause his heart to work faster, and as it turned out 2 days later at our ped's office, that's exactly what our ped thought too. There was nothing to worry about, no murmur, praise God!!

The doc finally gave us the approval to go home and within another half hour, we were outta there!!


Wow what a wild ride. Nearly 12 hours at the hospital. With a toddler.

He explored his room in pediatrics quite a bit and liked climbing on the bottom section of his "bed", and he was fascinated with the TV remote. It's hard to keep a toddler contained, especially when they just want to explore such an exciting new place!

We collapsed in a heap when we got home. Seriously, we all napped for an hour upon getting home. It was exhausting. I can't even fathom those who have to go through this for longer periods of time. I think especially of those I know who have or have previously gone through cancer with their kids. Mega respect.


The following days were so. very. hard. They were draining, still scary overnight, praying each day that we wouldn't have to go back to the hospital but also grateful that we have a hospital and good medical care so readily available, etc. Elijah was not himself and was super clingy, fussy, and just plain not himself.

He was too sick to be at daycare so I stayed home with him all week. To the point of near insanity. No real interaction with the outside world except the two doctor's visits, one quick trip to Target, and walks around the neighborhood or a park. No going to the playground or the mall play place. No direct interaction with kids so that he wouldn't get others sick. I really thought I might lose my mind. But was also grateful he was slowly seeming to get better. But on Thursday it seemed to regress a little.

And then as of yesterday we had to make another call to his doctor's office for more medicine he could have at home because the barking cough and slight gasping for air came back. Since then he's finally stabilizing again, but we kept him home from church today. How long must this go on? We are ready to get back to real life! We miss people!

We have a follow-up chiropractor/holistic doc appt tomorrow and his pediatrician on Wednesday. Then next Sunday we have a reunion with the NICU unit he was in - we are really looking forward to seeing hopefully some of his old doctors and nurses [anyone not working that day], so we are praying he's fully well by then and we can go!



My final thoughts:

I know emergencies happen all the time in parenting. Kids get hurt. Scary things happen. Worse things than this happen.

I get it, I know.

But for us, this was a really big deal. It was a hard crisis to work through. Fears brought back to the surface from when he was an infant with all of those wires and lines, beeps and machines.

Thankfully this time there were hardly any machines or wires to him. But anytime a machine beeped, a wire was attached, or anything went seemingly wrong... I jumped.

It's hard not to spend that time thinking back to those days. Wondering what we could have done differently. Thinking about how much I didn't trust God and how much I needed to now. Wondering who I could be kind to and how I could help those around me also going through hardship [which as it turned out, we didn't get to do because we were in isolation given Elijah's specific illness... they were super careful to make sure it didn't spread and when nurses & docs came into our room they were instructed to wear gloves and masks at all times].

I'm grateful for God's control of all this and of the final outcome. I know this enterovirus 68 has a lot of people on edge, and initially that is one thing we had wondered about except Eli never had a fever [and it was very obviously croup with that barking cough].

Do we wish we never had to face this? Sure. Will we have to face worse and scarier things as he grows? Most likely.

But we are grateful to God for his comfort and strength during all of this. For his people who reached out and helped calm us. For the wonderful care he provided, the PCT who turned out to be the daughter-in-law of good friends [wow!], and for the ways he reminded us throughout it all that he was with us.

Life is scary and so hard, friends. I want to be a good steward of what God has given to us. I admit that I'm a sinful, frightened human being who gets riddled with anxiety and fear at the idea of great loss or hardship. I'm weak. So weak.

I'm glad that God is so strong.


Christina T said...

I hope Elijah is feeling much better! Sounds like you guys had quite an ordeal but good for you for asking questions of the doctors and hospital staff and trusting your instincts.

Rochelle said...

Thank you friend!! Really appreciate that.

Carol said...

Oh goodness, how scary. My boys had croup. One outgrew it, the other had his last spell when in high school. We were told to get him outside in the cold air and it would help and it did. So horribly scary. Can still remember 50 some years later sitting in the bathroom running hot water and steaming up the room to help ease it. Hope he grows out of it quickly like my younger one did.