Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wherein Annie gives us a scare

I should be starting to prepare to leave this house, and this state, for two months this weekend, but here I sit wasting time.  I've done nothing but make a list of things to pack and things to do, but a list is a good start.  It just doesn't seem real that we are going to be loading up the car and leaving in just a few short days to stay in Massachusetts with Tim's family for the holidays.  At some point it's going to hit me and I'm going to start panicking, but for now I'm enjoying the little down time I have.

It's been a crazy couple days.  Our Annie, who all her life up to this point had only had well visits at the doctor, was hospitalized for a respiratory infection.  On Thursday she had a cough and runny nose that seemed very ordinary for this time of year, and I didn't think much of it.  But on Friday morning, when she came out of her room whimpering, wouldn't eat or drink, wouldn't say even a yes or a no to me, I knew something was wrong.  By late morning/early afternoon, I noticed she was working hard to breathe, and I could see her belly and chest moving a lot more than normal.  I put her down for a nap, and then checked on her a couple times.  She wasn't sleeping, just lying there, shifting around, and wheezing.  I called the nurse hotline, and when the nurse heard her breathing over the phone, she advised me to take her to the ER.  I didn't hesitate, especially since at this point she still had not had anything to eat or drink and it was 2 in the afternoon.

Annie didn't even react when I told her we were going to the hospital.  She just sat there and let me get her dressed.  Delaney, who had been bored all day long, was happy to know she was being dropped off at my friend Amy's house, and she'd be playing with all the kids there.  I dropped her off with nothing, thinking I'd be back to get her in a few hours.  I brought Timmy with us.  

Annie handled the ER trip mostly well, just sitting and allowing the nurses and doctors to do whatever they needed to do.  
Here is Annie getting the first of several nebulizer treatments she would get at the ER.   She didn't like that mask.  I didn't either, because it kept slipping, and the tube kept coming loose.  You would think they could make these things a little better!
The impossibly young and pretty ER doctor was sure Annie had RSV, and that was a little alarming.  I had only heard of preemie babies getting that, and I know it's dangerous and contagious.  She was given a chest x-ray, which showed she did not have pneumonia.  

Annie was the sweetest and most compliant little patient.  A man came in to put in an IV, and he knelt beside the bed and asked me, "What's her word for hurt?  'Hurt', 'owie'?"  I told him, "Owie."  He said, "Hi Annie, my name is Brian, and I'm going to put an owie in your arm right here."  Annie just stared at him.  "I'm going to give you an owie, and it's going to hurt."  Annie didn't react at all, just kept on staring, but I was starting to feel anxious.  "I need you to hold real still because I'm going to put a needle in your arm and make an owie, OK?"  In my head, I said, Well, stop talking about it already and do it!  This is torture!  I felt terrible for Annie, but tried not to show it.  I've had an IV before and it's not all that bad, but listening to that man go on was scaring the crap out of me.  I might have jumped out of that chair if he'd talked to me like that!

Then I commenced praying he found the vein the first time.

As soon as he put the needle in, Annie snapped out of her trance and started crying and writhing.  Two people had to hold her while he worked, and I couldn't do anything but stroke her head and tell her, "Mama's here, Annie." 
Annie watches a show while getting her IV meds
After that, Annie wanted nothing to do with anything in the hospital, or anybody in it.  Even the nebulizer treatments that she had accepted before, became a fight.  But eventually she relaxed.  The treatments seemed to be working too.  She coughed and coughed until we thought she might throw up, and the nurses and doctor were happy that all that junk was moving up out of her lungs.  When she collapsed, exhausted, on her belly, they found that to be reassuring, because it meant she must be having an easier time breathing.
The doctor thought she should be observed overnight, but didn't want to admit her there (in New Bern) because there was no in-house pediatrician.  So she wanted to transfer her to the one in Greenville.  I worried about how Annie would handle riding in the ambulance alone, but she was OK.  The EMT guys came in and introduced themselves, and were really sweet.  She didn't cry when I explained she'd ride in the ambulance by herself and I'd follow.  She said, "Then I can wave at you, Mama."  Sweet girl.

At the huge hospital in Greenville, we were given a room the size of a supply closet, with barely enough room for the hospital bed, the crib for Timmy, and my chair (that couldn't be pulled out because of the crib).  Poor Annie kept wanting to go to sleep, but different people kept coming in wanting this or that -- blood pressure, listening to her lungs, all that.  By now it was 10 at night, and she usually goes to bed at 7.  Two also impossibly young (or am I just getting to be that old?) residents talked with me for a long time, asking me all kinds of questions about Annie.  Mostly, they were probing for any kind of family history or risk factors that would lead to Annie's problems.  The only thing I could tell them was that Tim and his sister Karen had been hospitalized several times each as babies, for breathing problems.  They each asked at least once or twice if Annie had had an episode like this ever before.  They couldn't believe she'd always been so healthy, but it's the truth.  She's been sick before, but never like this.  Last year right after Christmas, she was sick, but we would have noticed wheezing or trouble breathing.

They were also having trouble making sense of how well she seemed to be doing by that time, after the report they'd gotten from the ER.  They kept examining her, and examining again, looking at her stats, and talking.  They'd given her the RSV test right away, and it was "pending negative", whatever that means.  She sounded just a little wheezy, but that was it.  They determined that she would probably go home in the morning if she continued to look improved and she was eating and drinking.

Annie finally went to sleep that night, and I dozed now and then, but between Timmy waking up every so often, and trying to sleep on the most uncomfortable chair I've ever been on, it was not a very restful night for me.  Annie was disturbed twice by the respiratory therapist coming in to give her albuterol treatments.
The next morning, Annie woke up thirsty and with an appetite, chatty as could be.  I was very happy to see that.  One of the residents I'd talked to the night before popped in for a minute, but didn't say much of anything, then left.  And then we were mostly left alone, except for the nurse who came in from time to time, and the respiratory therapist, who was now teaching us to use an inhaler.  I waited and waited for news of when we could leave, but none came.  

Then the attending doctor came in after Annie had gone back to sleep around 9:30 or 10, and he was obnoxious.  He kept nudging Annie with the stethoscope and talking to her even though he could see she was exhausted.  He wanted to hear her lungs, but couldn't he turn her over gently and do it while she was asleep?  Nooo.  It was, "Hi Annie.  Whatcha got there?  Is it a mouse?  No, a bear, dummy!  I'm going to listen to you now.  Oh hey, you woke up!  How're you doing?"  I think some people must go into pediatrics to torment kids.  He must be pretty good at what he does, though, because the family lounge is named after him. Or maybe he's just really rich.  Or both.

He wanted to keep her a while longer, based on what had happened last night at the ER.  Even though she was doing well now, she was doing pretty badly not long ago.  He said, "I find it odd that there was never any history of this happening before.."  I didn't really follow, because there's a first time for everything, right?  He seemed to be waiting for me to go, "Oh yeah, I remember this one time," but nope.  He said he would re-evaluate her at 6 that evening, and he thought it would be 50/50 whether she could leave that day or stay another night.  He said he was ordering another chest x-ray since the one from last night had not made the transfer, and he'd let me know the result.

The next several hours passed so slowly.  Annie and I both felt caged.  And Timmy was miserable.  Trying to take care of both of their needs in that tiny, unfamiliar place, was fraying my nerves.  Timmy would need to be held constantly, and then he would finally crash for maybe 20 minutes to a half hour.  He didn't want to nurse.  Annie was by turns playful and happy, and very moody and sad, saying, "I want to go home, Mama!"  I tried taking her on little walks around the pediatric floor, but the whole area was tiny, and we kept walking in little circles.  There were crying kids all around, things beeping loudly, and the walls kept closing in.  I talked to Tim a couple times on the phone, and I missed him so badly.

The attending doctor, who was at first inclined to keep Annie another night just as a precaution, eventually decided to discharge her when he couldn't find sufficient need to keep her, and I was making a nuisance of myself trying to get us out of there.  I didn't think he'd let her go that night.  After I had nearly come unglued, and Karen had talked some sense into me on the phone, I was calmed down enough to accept that we would be here another night.  Then at 4:30 he came in with his little entourage of residents, and started looking at her and talking.  They said, "Annie, you've got to let us look at you if you want to come home."  I bristled at that, thinking, please don't entice her with the possibility of going home unless you know you're sending her home!  They listened and started talking all sorts of stuff like "I to E ratios, and blah blah," and how "I wouldn't let her go if this, but that.."  And then they checked her pulse ox, and it was 99, and they liked that. We were going home!  I had to contain my relief, but it probably showed because I don't have a poker face.  

I'm not good at dealing with being in the hospital.  My plan for dealing with hospitals and doctors is to just not get sick, and not have any of my kids get sick.  That plan seemed to be working for a long time, but of course it can't always.

I expected the discharge process to take hours, because I remember it did after I had Delaney and Annalise.  But they got us out of there so fast I had to remind the nurse to take out her hep lock!

The respiratory therapist taught me how to administer the albuterol inhaler, and I have to give her that four times a day.  She also has prescriptions for an antibiotic and prednisolone.  I was instructed to bring her to her pediatrician tomorrow, and I'll be calling to make the appointment first thing, so hopefully I can get her there right from dropping Delaney off at preschool.  I checked on her a couple times throughout the night, and she sounded good, just a little junky.  

At CVS today, the pharmacist looked at my kids, from one happy face to another, and said, "Which one of these kids is sick?" 
All better!
Annie kept a few souvenirs from the hospital.  She insists I leave all her "stickers" on her back, and you can see the one on her chest, poking out of the top of her nightgown.  The band-aid is somehow still hanging on from when the hep lock was removed, although it's migrated up a little.  And her ankle bracelet is still on too.  I'm not allowed to touch any of these things, but I did warn her at bathtime that the skin under the stickers will become moldy and stinky eventually.

I am praying now we can all hang in there and stay healthy for just another few days, so we can get through the things that need to be done this week, and the long trip to Massachusetts.  After we get there, I know someone's going to get sick again, and I'm prepared with a whole pharmacopoeia of cold and flu prevention and remedies that I picked up today at CVS.  Please, can we wait until we get there..


  1. Oh, wow - this sounds like such a terrifying experience. Especially when trying to juggle a baby and also having to quickly drop off another kid and having your husband be so far away. I admire how well you (and Annie!) handled the stress of it all - not being able to ride in the ambulance together would have really pushed me to my limits.

    Really glad to hear that everything is okay now. Enjoy your time with your in-laws!