Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lessons in Listening to my Gut

Remember when I said things were calming down a bit and I was settling into some sort of a routine?  Well, fate had another plan.  My 6 year old, Scarlett ended up in having to be admitted to the children's hospital for an overnight stay.  To say this was terrifying would be an understatement.  But we were lucky and blessed to be out after just one night with a child who WILL get better, unlike so many of the children we saw there. 

Here is just little background on how this may have happened.  Scarlett has had three pretty intense colds in the past month and half.  One when we had our family vacation to Disneyland, one two weeks after that which resulted in her missing four days of school and one the week before Christmas.  While it seemed she was recovered, looking back it is more than likely she never really was 100% better. 

So when my 4 year old caught a bad cold last week, I was not happy.  I know its the season, but it still has been rough for our family with all the colds flying around. After a few days, I was pleasantly surprised when it seemed Scarlett wasn't going to get it.  She went to school on Monday and seemed fine, even when she came home.  As the evening wore on, she started feeling worse and worse.  If I am honest, I was kind of annoyed.  I just wanted to her to be healthy and not have to miss anymore school.  She went to bed and we just assumed she was getting whatever her sister had. 

This is where it starts to get dicey and I keep kicking myself for not listening to my gut.  She woke up around midnight crying and saying her chest hurt and she didn't feel good.  So we gave her some Motrin, rubbed some essential oils on her and busted out the humidifier.  The thing that made me pause was when she said her "chest felt weird."  I looked at my husband and said she would take her in?  We both decided that since we had a virus going around the house, that is just what it was.  A few hours later she threw up her entire dinner.  The next morning she was in pretty bad shape and threw up again.  At this point, we figured she had caught a terrible bug.  We made her a comfy spot on the couch and kept an eye on her.  By early afternoon, she had a taken a turn for the worse.  She was crying and having a hard time catching her breath.  I called the doctor's office and told the operator her symptoms.  I knew it was serious when she told me to hold on and got the nurse right away instead of leaving a message and waiting for the nurse to call me back.  I told the nurse everything and the last two things she asked me were,  "are her lips blue?" and "are her nostrils flaring when she takes a breath?" My answers were NO and YES, respectively.  The nurse said to bring her to Urgent Care right away.  This marks my second "mom fail" of not listening to my gut, because a little voice in my head was saying just take her to the ER.  But, Urgent Care is closer, and again, my husband and I truly didn't know how serious this was and could get.

Since we have a seven month old baby that I am still nursing, Justin took Scarlett to Urgent Care.  When he got there, the admitting person told him it would be a 3-4 hour wait.  At this point, we were getting very concerned.  Scarlett was having a hard time talking and walking and generally seemed very ill.  He expressed all of this to the lady and she took them right into the triage unit and said depending on the nurse evaluation, she could be seen right away.  The nurse came in, immediately checked her oxygen levels and they were dangerously low.  The doctor came in right away and started her on breathing treatments.  The doctor said she needs to go to the ER, but depending on how she responds to the treatments, she may have to take an ambulance.  Well, she wasn't responding to the breathing treatments, and since it was the middle of rush hour traffic and we still didnt know what was happening, ambulance ride it was. 

My heart immediately sank to my stomach, my mouth went dry and the tears started to flow.  Obviously Justin was going to ride with her, and I had to figure out how I was going to get there.  Thank God for my amazing neighbor, who was there in a heartbeat to take my other two kids and my wonderful stepmom and sister who immediately left their jobs in LA to drive down to San Diego (2 hour minimum drive without traffic) to help us with whatever we needed.  I was able to arrive at the hospital a few minutes after the ambulance got there.  There was already a team of nurses and doctors in there.  No one could figure out what was wrong with her.  They assumed an asthma attack brought on by an allergy even though she has never had an asthma attack.  I just had the mom intuition going on and really wanted them to take a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia.  They didn't think that was necessary and gave her two more hour long breathing treatments.  These were doing nothing!  I was getting so pissed because they weren't doing anything and she wasn't feeling better.  In most asthma attacks, after a breathing treatment or two, the person is doing much better.  So after we were in the ER for several hours, they finally hooked her up to an IV to give her fluids and took her blood and did a chest x-ray.  What they found was she was SEVERELY dehydrated and had pneumonia so severe it brought on asthma like symptoms.  They started her on a heavy dose of antibiotics and constant oxygen along with breathing treatments every two hours.  Although, I was relieved to know what was going on, I was extremely frustrated it took so long to get there.  And again, kicking myself for not demanding a chest x-ray instead of just asking for one. 

One might think, this would be the end of our time in ER, but nope!!  Now, the doctors were very concerned she wasn't showing signs of any improvement and in fact seemed to be getting worse.  They informed us that the PICU (pediatric ICU) would need to evaluate her to determine if she will go to that floor or the Respiratory unit.  Needless to say, we were terrified.  I've never seen my child so sick and after losing my dad two years ago to cancer, I know what the ICU can mean.  Not everyone who gets admitted to the ICU leaves it.  My mind was going to some dark and scary places and I just wanted answers. 

Thank God, they determined she wasn't to that level and we would be admitted to the Respiratory floor.  The ER doctors weren't sure for how long we would need to be there but said it could be a couple of days, at least.  So after SEVEN hours in the ER, we finally got our bed, at 2 AM.  It was a shared room with one pull out cot for a parent to stay overnight.  Luckily, I was able to curl up next to my sweet girl and sleep on the bed with her while Justin took the cot.  I didn't really sleep, of course and I'll never forget the sounds of the machines and the countless doctors and nurses coming in through out the night to check on her.  Around 8 AM, several doctors came in to evaluate her and talk to us.  I sat up and looked at Scarlett and immediately felt a huge sense relief.  She was talking and very confused as to why I was hogging her bed. 

The doctors and nurses were all in face masks and protective gowns to not spread any germs to their young patients.  I was both scared and oddly comforted by this.  They said she had improved and her airways were opening up.  They were going to see how she was after more more antibiotics and wean her off the breathing treatments and constant oxygen and see how she responds.  And thank God, she did well.  She was starving and her amazing personality was coming back.  We were discharged around 5:30 PM with two inhalers, an antibiotic and a steroid.  With that came an action plan of what to do and when to do it if things like wheezing and shortness of breath came back.  I was nervous, but knew we could handle it. 

It has been four full days since we have been home and it has been pretty smooth.  We have been home bound, so there has been quite a bit of iPads and TV and I think it is safe to say we are all going a bit stir crazy.  Scarlett is feeling much better but not even close to 100% yet.  I can tell just by looking at her, no matter what she says.  This time, I am listening to my gut. There is just something to be said for a mothers intuition and I wish I would have listened to it more.  Maybe had we taken her to the ER when I first thought we should, she would not have been admitted.  If we had taken her to the ER instead of Urgent Care first we could have saved the trauma and cost of the ambulance ride.  And maybe had I been more forceful with my x-ray request, Scarlett could have been made more comfortable earlier than she was.  Many lessons were learned over the past week and I promise to myself and my family to follow my gut, even when it is hard or scary.

Our time in the hospital was short and I am so thankful for that.  I feel an immense amount of love, respect and empathy for the parents out there who have chronically ill children.  There are things I saw and heard in that hospital that I will never forget and not just about my own child.  I cannot stop thinking about the toddler we shared a room with.  He has Leukemia and this is the worst bout of pneumonia he has ever had.  I'll never forgot the positive way his mom spoke about it and the image of seeing his dad sleeping on the bed with his diapered baby boy.  They were there before us and we were able to leave before them with our daughter, who will get better.  I will never, ever take that granted.   

 Feeling better and completed our Lego set which was given to her while we were in the ER by a nurse.  This made Scarlett so happy and I will be donating to the Rady's Childrens Hospital Toy Fund myself.  Here is link, if you are interested!   
 Always the foodie, layering her grilled cheese with the potato chips.  Pretty genius if you ask me.

 And of course, a fruit loop donut makes everything just a bit better.