I didn’t leave the hospital for five days. I stayed in that tiny room, with monitors constantly beeping and IV drips being changed every 30-120 minutes, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. Sibby had a sling around her arm to keep her from bending it, which could have popped out the IV. The sling weighed her arm down and made it awkward to pick her up or cradle her comfortably. She had cords running out of this and also an oximeter cord attached to her toe. Both of these set off alarms if pinched or crimped. The first day I didn’t have any clothes she could wear that would work with these restrictions, so she just stayed wrapped up in a blanket. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the second day when a kind nurse took pity on me and held her while she sent me down to the cafeteria to get some lunch. While I was gone she pulled a sleeveless onesie out of the hospital stash and carefully dressed her
Sibby ran a fever the first 48 hours we were there. They kept her on round the clock Tylenol and it would immediately bring her fever down, but by the end of the second hour, it would start to creep up again. This fever, as well as the sling on her arm to keep her IV place, and her malaise, kept her irritable the entire time we were in there. After that initial nap in her hospital jail/crib, she did not sleep anywhere but in my arms. This meant that I only slept when N came to visit, in between taking care of things at home, and interruptions from the doctor and nurses. On top of that, I was very worried about her and had good reason to be.
The first information we received on our first morning there said that something had shown up in the spinal tap. Added to this, the nurses said they’d never seen something come back this quickly from the lab (normally it takes 24-48 hours for a culture to appear), so either the bacteria was growing very quickly or there was a lot of it. They tried to reassure me that Sibby was on harsh antibiotics that should take care of whatever was growing in her, but we wouldn’t know what it was or the extent of it for another day.
I hastily googled meningitis and sepsis and stopped when I read, “the number one cause of death in infants.”
My family and friends sent Bible verses and prayers and they literally gave me a thread to hang onto. When I looked in the mirror at the end of the first day, I was horrified at how puffy and bloodshot my eyes were, a combination of crying all day and sleeping so little.
By the end of the first day, they moved us to a corner room with its own shower and an actual hospital bed for me to sleep in, throwing in as an aside that we would probably be there a while.
As soon as the lab said they saw something, it was determined we would not be there for 48 hours as is standard protocol, but now our stay looked to be a 5-7 day minimum. My parents, who had literally just moved to Nashville, offered to make the drive up to keep the girls and relieve N’s parents who had weekend plans and company coming in.
I woke up, or more accurately, arrived at the second day of the stay and couldn’t believe I had gone an entire day without seeing or talking to my older girls. It made me sad to think about and scared at how quickly life can turn. I prayed we would receive good news from the pediatrician that day.
And good news we did. As it turned out, the bacteria the lab had initially reported was not bacteria, just a stain in the slide. The way they had communicated it had been faulty, however, so the mistake wasn’t detected until this point. More good news: nothing had shown up in any of the cultures at the 24 hour mark. This meant that we had a 75% chance of nothing growing in there, period, but would know more at the 48 hour mark.
Thankfully N was with me when we got this news and we were able to rejoice together. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my chest. Though Sibby was still noticeably sick and with fever, it didn’t seem as serious as what we were first told.
We were still under watch and care for another 24 hours and a no visitor order was placed as well as everyone who entered the room had to wear masks, save for N and I. We were also told this could just be a virus but the administrations of antibiotics would continue until we could get clear labs at 48 hours.
The next day, the doctor made his rounds and began with, “well we have some bad news. Something did show up today. ” As it turns out, it was actually three things that had shown up. Two strains of bacteria in the urine and one in the blood. The irony being that the spinal fluid, which had scared us initially, was perfectly clear.
Once again my heart plummeted with fear. We still didn’t know what we were fighting but he reassured us the antibiotics she was on should be nearly all-encompassing, (as it wouldn’t be until the following day when we would have the actual name of the strands and a recommendation from the lab on which specific AB we would need to treat them). He didn’t seem worried, just puzzled and sympathetic. But, by getting this info, we had just bought ourselves another 3-5 days in this 16’x’16’ room.
Following this new diagnosis, they had to repeat the blood draw and catheter. They would send these new tests to the lab and watch them for bacterial growth. If they came back clear then that would mean the antibiotics did their job and we would also be in the clear. However, once again, it would be another 24 hours before the first reading and 48 before we would be given an adequate reading to make a good judgement call.
I tried to stay on top of my emotions but the fear crept back in. I also began to back peddle and piece things together. Like when her belly seemed to bother her and I had been massaging it, trying to release the gas, when in reality, she probably had a UTI. No wonder my touch made her scream even harder. However, a UTI seemed fairly benign and simple enough to treat. Although, with her having one this young, did that mean she was going to be prone to them the rest of her life?
The blood infection seemed even more scary. They said two of the bacteria were the same so whatever had been in her urine had quickly spread to her blood. Had we not brought her in when we did…well I couldn’t bring myself to finish the thought.
And the thought of being imprisoned with no sleep, little food, and a fussy baby, well that was the stuff torture chambers are made of.
I was also aching to see the older girls. It had now been 48+ hours since I had seen them and I’d only been able to have a short conversation with them since being in there. Even though I knew they were in good hands, I worried about their peace of mind with all of this transition.
So we pressed on, begging for healing and as quickly as possible. At this point, our Florida trip also came into jeopardy as we were supposed to leave Wednesday and if we were going to be in here as long as they said, we would definitely not be able to do that. Selfishly, it felt really unfair to think after all of this, we may not get our time to rest and recuperate on vacation.
I encountered a lot of different nursing personalities during this stay, and there was one who took mercy in the early morning hours of this day. She propped me up in bed, padded me with pillows, and put Sibby on my chest, suggesting we could sleep together like this. Although I had done this at home, I was nervous to try this in the hospital for fear they would shame me and put even more fears in my head. I was able to relax that night and actually get a few hours of sleep in between the changing of IV bags and regular fever checks.
It was also on this day that we began to see her fever drop. We were able to go much longer in between Tylenol doses and her fever stayed at a reasonable level. That was a comfort that things were turning around.
On the morning of day four, the doctor came in for his daily rounds. He told us the new labs came back clear at 24 hours and we had names for the bacteria present in the old ones. None of them seemed super scary and possibly could have even been contaminants (to which he said it was fairly unlucky that we would have that happen to two different samples.) Things were starting to become more clear and our path to exiting this place was starting to open up.
On day 5, we also got word that they came back clear at 48 hours. This was fantastic news and now we just had to finish her round of antibiotics to be released. We didn’t know if the doctor would release us Monday or the following day, but we both prayed for Monday as it would give us one day to get ready for our trip. Also, while in the hospital, we found out N was offered the job in Nashville. So while we needed to pack up for our trip, we also needed to get our house ready for the market.
I could not have been more excited when, as I geared myself up for another lonely, delirious night in the hospital with no sleep, the on duty nurse came into the room and said we’d gotten the all clear to go home. I could not get my phone out fast enough to call N.
“Come pick me up, we’re going home!”
It took about another hour of finishing the IV, packing up, taking out the IV (immediate relief from S), and wheeling everything out to the car, but we were finally free and on the road to recovery (and home).
I still don’t have many answers for this small, but very scary window of Sibby’s life. I still don’t know what made her so sick, how it actually started (UTI? blood? or just a virus?), I don’t know how close to death she came, or what would have happened if we hadn’t gone in. This isn’t a story I like to think about too often as it still leaves me with lingering negative emotions, both in remembering the long hours spent in the hospital, and also the fear that came over me while I was in there. As I said at the beginning of the story, I and our friends and family, literally begged God to spare her life. He did. I don’t know why or how, but He did.
And now, because of this great story at the very beginning of her life, she will always bear witness to His mercy.