In the very scary, early morning hours of June 16, 2016, I found myself in the hospital with a very sick baby, begging God to spare her life.

He did.

 

This is how it started.

June 15, 2016 began as an unusually nice day.  N had taken the girls down to Nashville for two days (interviews) and I was home alone with the baby. This meant I was able to get extra sleep and stay on her schedule rather than trying to fit her into mine & the older girls’.  While the rest of our family was driving home that day, Sibby and I went for a walk, took a nap, and worked a bit.  It was laid back and nice.

They arrived home around 5pm.  I had just gotten Sibs up from her nap and was feeding her when the girls came bursting upstairs to find us.  They showed me all of the new trinkets they had accumulated at Grampy and Granny’s house and were full of stories.  MG paused a moment to comment that Sibby seemed fussy.  While I didn’t want to admit it aloud, I had noticed it too; the only time she seemed happy was when she was nursing.  The rest of the time she seemed agitated and uncomfortable. I retraced my steps that day and thought maybe since I’d had some cabbage and raw vegetables for lunch, it was upsetting her stomach.  I also noticed she seemed a bit warm, but chalked it up to her just waking up from a nap.  I rocked her and shushed her, hoping it would pass and kissed her forehead every once in a while to see if the heat remained.

We moved about the rest of our evening, me tending to the baby, somewhat puzzled by her new constant neediness and also trying to help the girls reintegrate into the house.  After getting the older two down to bed, N and i stayed up to watch a show. I had gotten Sibby to sleep during it but she woke up to eat again before (what I hoped would be)  a long stretch of sleep at night.

As I sat in the green rocker upstairs, the same one I have nursed and rocked down all of my babies in, I heard the clock chime 11pm. N gave me a sheepish look.  “Wake me up when you need me.”, he said. I was already sleepy and beginning to become discouraged as Sibby was now fighting sleep and I hoped she wouldn’t keep me up too late as I was starting to hit a wall.

As the hour stretched on and the sleep did not, I decided to move downstairs to watch tv. I was nodding off in the rocker and needed something new to distract me and help me keep my eyes open.  It seemed that all of my normal tricks to soothe her and get her to sleep weren’t working.  She also seemed really uncomfortable too; her back was arched and legs drawn up and her belly felt really tight.  I’ve never experienced colic before, but suddenly I found myself wondering if this is what I was dealing with.

When she reached the point of crying that had turned into a painful cry (really high pitched and almost screaming), I pulled out my phone and began looking up symptoms of colic.  Everything seemed to be lining up; she was three weeks old (perfect timing for the beginning of it), I had eaten a lot of dairy and raw vegetables that day (cursing myself for it), and the way she was acting, it seemed like she had trapped gas or her stomach was bothering her.  Plus, she could not be soothed.  She also still felt warm, but once again that was written off as a symptom of so much crying and it being a humid summer evening.

I spent time rearranging her in my arms, trying to get her to fall asleep, and also trying to keep myself engaged and awake.  I watched the clock, and looked at literally every five minutes.  I told myself I would give N until 5am, which seemed like a somewhat decent request, before asking him to step in for a bit to relieve me.

As 2am, 3am, and 4am rounded, I grew more and more tired and also more worried.  If this is what colic was, how would I function for the next weeks and months until it resolved?  I also thought it was strange that whenever I would “bicycle her legs”, or massage her tummy to try and help relieve the pain, it seemed to throw her into even more pain. I watched the clock tick slowly by, in 5 minute increments, trying not to sink into delirium.

Finally at 4:30am, desperation won out. She had only slept maybe half an hour and had even refused the last time I tried to feed her. I woke up N, who heard us coming from a ways off.  He leapt out of bed and grabbed her from my arms, shooing me away. But I stopped him, “I’m starting to get worried about her.” I confessed, “She’s been like this all night.  I can’t soothe her….And she’s stopped nursing.”

“Just let me take a try.” he said, “you go get some rest”, sensing the exhaustion in my face, I’m sure.

Instead I pressed, “Will you go get the thermometer?  I think she may have a fever but I’m not sure.”

We both watched as he tried the thermometer, several different ways.  Sometimes it would pick up a fever, other times it wouldn’t. Still unsure what to do, but starting to grow ever more panicky, I said, “I think I’m just going to call the doctor.”

At 4:30am, if you want to reach the pediatrician, first you have to call the hospital and have them page the doctor on call.  Then you have to leave your name and number and wait for them to call you back.  They warned me it could be up to an hour at this time of night and to not miss the call because they likely won’t call you back if you do.

N encouraged me to go to bed while I waited and he would babysit my phone and the baby for me.  Reluctantly, but also very eagerly, I climbed into bed.  Not a minute later, N came in my room with the phone, the doctor waiting to speak to me.

Confession: I hate these moments.  I feel embarrassed and silly and vulnerable all at the same time.  I want them to say there is nothing wrong but I don’t want to put them to work for absolutely nothing.  I’ve never called and they’ve said, “oh don’t worry about that, it’s nothing.”  There’s always a seed of doubt planted, even if it’s minor.

I attempted to describe the symptoms, being careful to add pertinent details like her age and irritability.  He did seem worried but said there was no way we could get an accurate temperature at her age without doing it rectally.  “What if I don’t have a rectal thermometer?” I said.  “Well if you suspect she has a fever, you should bring her in.  With any baby younger than 4 weeks, we admit them to the hospital if they have a fever.  It’s pretty serious.”

I got off the phone and relayed the information to N.  All along, during the worst of the morning hours, I had already considered this scenario.  I knew what I had to do, despite it being the last thing I wanted to do.  I had to take her in.  N couldn’t do it because I was exclusively breastfeeding her.  And he couldn’t come with me because that would involve waking up the other two.  We could call a friend, but who would be available at this hour?  And the closest family was over an hour away.

So despite not sleeping all night, and only getting broken chunks the day before that, I strapped her in her car seat and prayed she wouldn’t scream the whole way.  I got in our car in the cloak of darkness and prayed for our lives that I would be able to make it without any serious consequences due to my extreme fatigue….

Considering how our night had gone, I was pleasantly surprised when Sibby seemed to calm a bit in her car seat and we rode in silence to the hospital. As I drove through the country roads, I fretted over jumping deer, and my reaction time, and her state.

As I neared the hospital, I worried about being by myself with a babe in a scary part of town at such a dark hour.  I was shaken up, scared, and off.

N had given me good directions on how to park and get in quickly and safely.  Once again, I was unsure of what we would encounter in the waiting room and hoped they wouldn’t keep us waiting hours, as some of my friends had done at this hospital before, me trying to keep her from screaming the entire time, trying not to let the lack of sleep overcome me.  But as soon as I wheeled up, they took one look at us, questioned me on her age and symptoms, and we found ourselves in triage.

Within minutes, the ER doctor on call was introducing himself and explaining that because they had gotten a temperature of 100.7, they were going to be doing four tests: a blood draw, a urine culture via catheter, a chest x-ray, and a spinal tap.  Plus, he said, there was no way around it, they would be admitting her due to the fever and her age (less than 4 weeks old).

My head began spinning and my eyes welled up.  Their immediacy made me worry even more and my heart squeezed at the thought of what these tests would put her through.

Or at least, I thought I knew.  I didn’t think about how tiny her veins were and how they would have to put a tourniquet on her arm for many minutes before they would even be able to find a vein.  They would miss this vein and have to call in a pediatric specialist to do it, as well as insert her IV.  The catheter also took several tries and more agonizing minutes of screams where I could only lean down and whisper in her ear for comfort.

Next I carried her down the hall as another nurse wheeled her IV bag and I placed her on a cold table for a chest x-ray.  It felt like abandonment to leave her on that table, all alone, as she cried pitifully, me behind the protective concrete wall.

The nurses tried to comfort me and asked a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to talk.  I was too frazzled and worried and frightened and was constantly on the verge of tears.  They kept reassuring me that I did the right thing by bringing her in, but all that made me think of was how I almost didn’t.

The spinal tap was last and performed by the doctor.  He asked me if I wanted to be in the room, reassuring me it was okay if I didn’t.  I didn’t see any reason it would be worse than what she’d already gone through and opted to definitely stay.

We all had to wear masks as he turned her on her side and, once again, stuck a needle in her baby soft skin.

Finally, it was all over and I could pick her up and hold her close again.  She ate (an encouraging sign since she had refused the last one) and then passed into a deep sleep in my arms.  I carried her, as gently as I could with the IV poking out of her arm, up to the third floor and laid her in a little crib. The kind nurse on duty encouraged me to sleep in the pull out bed beside her.  It was about 7:30am and things back at home were just now starting to stir to life.

 

N was making breakfast for the girls, while making a last minute game plan for the rest of the day.  He called his parents, who dropped everything and drove an hour north to relieve him.

He, in turn, was able to come to the hospital and be with me.

{to be continued…}

-smk

{part 2}

2 Comments on Hospital Stay, Part 1

  1. Amy
    August 17, 2016 at 10:26 pm (1 year ago)

    Oh my goodness, Kate! I didn’t know she went through all of those tests! I’ve had a spinal tap, and it is no joke! Well, they couldn’t get needle in because of my 2 epidurals, so they had to lay me on a table and I’m actually not even sure how they did it. Anyway, I was on my back for at least 7 days. If I was upright for too long I got bad headaches. Please tell me she didn’t go through all of that! I’m so interested to hear the rest of her sad story. ?

    Reply
  2. Nate
    August 18, 2016 at 12:15 am (1 year ago)

    I hate this story and all the memories it brings back. It was terrifying and a terrible experience. Awful… I hate you had to be there for all the needles…

    Reply

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