I don’t think Meg or I have ever had moments as terrifying as the ones we experienced last week. I don’t know how more bluntly I could put it other than, we thought our little man had left us.
For me, it was Friday night and I had left work. Meg was picking up the little guy that day so that I could head roughly 40 minutes out of town to a convention where I was set to spend most of the weekend promoting my comic book series. I got about halfway to my destination when I got a phone call from my mom.
“Get to the ER now,” she said.
My son had a seizure when Meg was picking him up.
I turned the car around and raced to the ER as fast as I could, behind every slow vehicle you could imagine, turning seconds into agonizing hours. When I arrived, I raced through the ER, the sense of fear eating away at me in those moments being absolutely inexplicable.
I was crippled the moment I walked into the ER and saw Meg holding our little man in her arms, unresponsive, his eyes rolled back, IVs and breathing tubes hooked up to him. Things seemed utterly bleak.
I looked into Meg’s red, crying eyes and knew we both were thinking the same thing – we thought we had lost him.
Before I had arrived but while in the hospital, he had a second seizure. The first time, he had a fever, they determined, the second time he had not, thus causing some questions and confusion amid the doctors. All sorts of tests were performed – bloodwork, urine, spinal tap (for meningitis) and a cat-scan.
Fortunately, all came back clear.
Then, at some point in the night, after test and test, tears and tears, and every terrible thought running through my head, it happened. When he came to and started responding, looking at us and for the first time he smiled again, well, you could’ve cut off all my limbs and I would have still been smiling to the heavens. He was awake.
The doctor decided to admit him and Meg and I spent the night alongside our little man in the hospital. Late into the night, he started showing signs of eye contact again, causing us to finally breathe once more. When he was spunky enough to start pulling the oxygen tube out of his nose because it obviously annoyed him, we were hopeful that our little monkey was coming back to us.
Throughout the night, the hospital staff checked in, even as he slept, monitoring his temperature, making sure he was getting what he needed in the IV, etc. The next morning, he was up and after a little bit of breakfast, was playing and giggling again, even if his fever was still bouncing up and down a bit and providing some concern.
What the doctors think happened is that he caught a virus. The virus caused the fever to hit quickly and to suddenly spike that afternoon, causing the first seizure.
I made a trip home in the night and returned with some familiar friends for our guy – Gerald the Elephant, and Pigeon, hoping that having a familiar face might help him feel more comfortable. In the morning, Gerald and Pigeon made a new friend – Grover, who joined us from the hospital gift shop on my trip down there for something of comfort, and to find Meg a magazine to read. My parents showed up at one point, bringing with them a talking Daniel Tiger doll that once he was awake, the little guy played with again and again in the cage-like crib set up in the hospital room. It’s set up so that they can’t get out in the night, but looks as though they’re an animal in the zoo.
We’ve always called him our little Superboy, and when he started feeling like himself again, that super-strength was in full force. They had that IV strapped into his arm but good, with an almost cast-like casing on his arm to keep it in. That didn’t stop him, though. When he was uncomfortable, he just reached and ripped that thing clear out of his arm the next day, causing a few nurses and attendants to come running to stop the bleeding he caused. Him? He was just so darn proud of himself. Me? I had to laugh. Our guy was on the mend, that much was clear.
When the hospital pediatrician came around the following morning, he said that we could go home. However, as I’m sure anyone who’s been in a hospital knows, discharge never happens right away. So in the hours between when the doctor said we could go home and when it came time to actually go, the fever had gone back up again. This then led to a myriad of paranoid thoughts about what to do. The doctor had already signed off on the discharge, so while we were told we could stay if we want, the insurance company may not cover it because he signed off on the discharge earlier in the day. The hospital said to call the insurance company, which, wouldn’t you know, was not open on weekends and said to leave a message for them to get back to us on the next business day.
After a lot of back and forth, we decided we would just go home. We felt that if he was acting normal again, we could at least be there with him 24/7, be able to administer his medicine without the need of waiting for a nurse or attendant or doctor to come in amid other rounds they need to make. And he just might feel more comfortable back at home.
Environment may very well play a role in how our minds work when it comes to health, because it seemed as though he perked right up when he got around his familiar environment, his kitties, and his toys again. The fever was still there, but they prescribed medicine for that. Ah, there was the rub, though. A quick trip by me to get the medications led to me going to three pharmacies, all closed by 7:30 on a Saturday night. Hannaford, closed. Rite Aid, closed. Even Wal-Mart (despite my not liking Wal-Mart…I was desperate at that point), all closed. I was at my wits’ end. I called Walgreens. There was one 20-25 minutes away, but I’d make the drive. Closed. I told them we had just gotten out of the hospital and I needed this medicine for my child, asking if they could please recommend SOMEPLACE to get it.
Fortunately, there was a local pharmacy that was open, and open until 10 p.m. I put my foot to the pedal and drove 25 minutes to that pharmacy and got it filled, along with some other items needed – including A+D Cream for the poor little guy’s heiney. All that temperature taking left him very, very sore. I also bought an ear thermometer so we could hopefully give his little bum a rest.
Luckily for us, Meg’s sister came by and lent a hand while I was out on this hour and a half long journey for medicine.
In the end, it turned out I ran myself ragged for nothing. That prescription the hospital pediatrician gave us? Turned out if was for child’s ibuprofen to treat the fever. All that time, I could have just picked it up over the counter.
My mind was in an utter fog, so I’m not surprised that these little things alluded me in the midst of panic.
That night, we slept in the little guy’s room, alongside his crib. We broke out a sleeping bag and laid it out, threw a few blankets down and set the alarm so we would make sure to get up at the right times and give him his medicine for the fever and monitor his temperature (something made a lot easier in the middle of the night with that ear thermometer). We did this two nights in a row, and saw his pediatrician the following Monday, who said it all appeared to be viral.
After the first few days home from work to monitor the little guy, my wife has now caught the virus and is fighting it off herself. We’re pounding the vitamin C (orange juice as well as powdered C inside water), and some Elderberry (great for the immune system) on top of the usual soup and tea.
It’s hard to be a week out and not think back to the horrors of seven days ago. I could sit here and worry about a million and one things. Yes, I know that I’ve always been slightly paranoid and a worry-wart before this. I know that I’m going to be very much airing on the side of caution even more than normal because of this. And yes, my mind keeps bouncing back to the words of the doctor telling us that now that this has happened once, he’s at high-risk for it happening again until he’s about five years old.
But I’ll try very hard not to. I know we all will. His fever has since subsided, and with the exception of a croupy-like bark that we’re working on, similar to what he had last February, he is playing and laughing and smiling and just being our little guy again.
And it’s absolutely wonderful.
I don’t care what superstitions anyone has about Friday the 13th. It was the day he was born and as of last week, it was the day he came back to us. It’s the luckiest day in the world to us.
The non-intrusive answer is “spent time with the family,” but the real answer is – I got sick. And so did Meg. And so was the baby.
It’s oddly becoming a bit of a yearly tradition for the household to get sick when my birthday rolls around. If it hasn’t been me one year, it’s been Meg. If not her, me. It goes back and forth. Only this time, we had an entire household hacking and wheezing and blowing our nose. For the record, the baby hates it when you wipe boogies from his nose and face.
We made the best of it, even though the baby was pretty cranky. I can’t say I blame him. When I get sick, I get miserable. I hate feeling that way, so for someone so small and new to the world, I can’t imagine what it must be like to deal with a sore throat, a cough, mucus, etc, ESPECIALLY when you can’t tell people how awful you feel other than with a cry or scream.
I got some nice shirts and a tie for work from Meg and the little guy, as well as two graphic novels I’m really looking to delve into (Madame Xanadu by Matt Wagner, and a volume of the Starman Omnibus by James Robinson).
So, while birthday dinner consisted of some beef vegetable soup and tea, with birthday cake Meg made for dessert (although she made some delicious steak the following night), we spent it together. We watched some TV, we did some laundry, we relaxed with the baby (when he’d allow it of course), but the important thing is, we did it all as a family.
I guess The family that’s sick together stays together.
The next day I was committed to a meet and a greet at a Home Show in casino event center about 45 minutes or so away. So, with cups of tea firmly in my hand, I plowed through, said hello to some folks, took a good ribbing from others who wondered why the heck I was there promoting myself and the news station I work for, but generally had a nice time.
After that, I caught up with some good friends I hadn’t seen in a while for a lunch (mine consisting of soup and water, of course, with the current state of things). This is the same crew who I occasionally hit up a comic show with. These days, schedules as a parent have just not been conducive to really catching up with folks the way I used to, so it was nice to see them for a little bit, and geek out over what comic titles we were reading that had been cancelled, who was working on what projects, and just what they were each up to in their lives. They’re good people, and I’m glad that we still find time, even if it’s only occasionally, to catch up.
Today, I was off from work and took advantage of the time to go to a nearby Urgent Care Center where they determined I have Bronchitis.
I’m not the type to really take medicine if I don’t have to, but this thing has been knocking me on my butt for days now. In fact, last night, I found myself unable to even take full breaths, and felt like I had a weight sitting on my chest. So I submitted to the prescription and will be heading back to work in the morning, hopefully on somewhat of a road to recovery.
You couldn’t have written it to unfold any scarier.
The weekend had been great. We went to sleep with every intention that we’d wake up with just another Monday, despite an ice/snow storm raining down through the overnight hours.
But as the clock switched over to midnight, the baby suddenly awoke in his crib, making a gurgling sound as he coughed, sounding like he was gasping for air. We tried to comfort him but the more he coughed, the more panicked he became, which just compounded his fear and anxiety.
I am sure that as time goes on there will be situations where I feel even worse, but I’ve never felt more helpless than having your baby look at you, not understanding what’s going on and why they can’t stop this feeling, this coughing, why they don’t feel right, and looking to you for help and you can’t do anything to help him.
Meg’s mom even showed up around one in the morning to lend a hand, but there wasn’t a lot that could be done for him at that time other than wrapping him in Meg’s arms, rocking back and forth with a cold mist humidifier spewing, and he eventually fell back asleep, his cough lessening as he dozed.
First thing in the morning, we called our pediatrician, only now we had added a fever of over 100 and vomiting to the mix since the nighttime. We were able to get an appointment 45 minutes from when we called and rushed out of the house and to the office to get him looked at.
The doctor says none other than “the croup.”
It’s a respiratory condition that comes from a viral infection in the upper airway. In fact, our pediatrician drew a very nice picture on the paper sheet in the examination room of the respiratory system and how the virus effects the system. I’m kicking myself for being lost in the worried-parent moment and not taking a photo to use on this blog because it was such a good sketch, but what can I say? I was more focused on the little guy and what was wrong than I was thinking of turning that experience into a blog post.
Anyway, the virus effects the upper airway and causes swelling in the throat, interfering with normal breathing and creating that barking cough. The symptoms also are known to be more persistent at night.
I’m no stranger to the croup. It was something I was all too familiar with in my own childhood, even tackling it in years when I was much older than our little guy. I remember many a night of being carried outside into the cold by my parents on a chilly winter night to break up whatever was building inside me, or the numerous times when I was mobile on my own and had to sit with my head above a pan of hot, steaming water with a towel over my head as I inhaled.
It wasn’t pretty, but then, as we sat there with our seven month old baby intermittently smiling and barking like a baby seal, I realized, it never is pretty.
This week we’re alternating taking sick days to stay home with the little guy, as the doctor prescribed 2-3 doses of a non-albuterol version of a nebulizer. It’s awful watching the uncomfortable, sometimes scared look on the little man’s face as we put this mask on him for the breathing treatments.
We’re just hoping that in the days ahead, he will begin to feel better and breathe easier.