Clearly blogging every day didn’t work out in the end. At first I just couldn’t get it done because I had too much Christmas wrapping and prepping to do. And then, well, I missed part of Christmas.
Lee had been sick all week. Fevers, congestion, coughing and not eating. He seemed better on Wednesday but then took a turn for the worse on Thursday. On Friday morning I was in a tizzy trying to decide if I should take him in to the doctors. He’d been in on Monday and was on antibiotics so I wasn’t sure what else the doctors could do for him but I thought it might be a good move to get him checked out before they closed for the holiday weekend because he wasn’t getting better. I decided to put him down for his morning nap and then see how he felt. When he woke up he seemed groggy and didn’t want to nurse so I called the doctors, left a message and jumped into the shower. I got out of the shower dripping wet to answer their return call. They told me to bring him in immediately as they were closing the office for the holiday in the next hour. So I got dressed, got him dressed and headed out the door and to the subway in a whirlwind.
While in the waiting room I noticed for the first time how chapped his lips were. I knew this wasn’t a good sign. And as soon as they weighed him I knew it wasn’t good news. He’d lost over a pound since we’d been in on Monday. The doctor came in and said he was clearly getting dehydrated and advised I take him right over to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to get him fluids, unless I felt I could get a lot of fluids into him in the next few hours. I tried to nurse him and as soon as I started to get him into position he started gagging at the mere thought of it. And then he swatted my breast away. They called us a cab to CHOP.
At this point I really thought they’d hook him up to an IV, get some fluids into him and then we’d get home in time to go about our Christmas Eve business. On Christmas Eve my Mom and her husband, and my Father in law and his wife come to our house for dinner and then a gift exchange. Last year I was pregnant and put off by cooking, and particularly eating anything I had cooked, so we decided to have dinner at The Plough and the Stars. It was a huge success. The meal was great and the place was so beautifully decorated, my Mom said she wanted to go there again this year. We had a 5pm reservation.
At CHOP things did not go smoothly. Lee was admitted to the ER for dehydration and for fluids but they couldn’t get an IV in. He was so dehydrated that when they finally found a vein it would flatten out and be unusable. I took four tries, three people and about four hours to get his IV in. He’d be writing, crying and screaming as they poked at him, with me holding him down and after the attempt failed they’d give him 45 minutes to calm down. Also one of the first things they did was suction snot from his nose by shoving a really long thin tube down it. He really hated this and was inconsolable afterwards. The doctor who saw him for the first time then was so worried about him that she wanted to give a spinal tap to see if he had spiral meningitis. Luckily she came back later when I had got him calmed down listening to Pandora radio on my phone and reading a book. She said “I am SO thankful I got to see him like this. I was really worried with how upset he was before. That he wouldn’t even comfort with you.”
The nurse told me there was actually an argument going on between staff about whether to let us go home. I had explained that I had a 3 year old and 6 year old at home and I didn’t want to miss Christmas with them, and that if Lee wasn’t getting better after the fluids that I could bring him back. But Lee continued to not to want to nurse, not even to comfort himself and that was alarming to me. And once it took that long to get the IV in there wasn’t any way I wanted to have them unhook him and have to go through it again later. It was clear we were in for the night.
So I told Mom and Mark to just go about Christmas Eve as if everything was normal. They went out to dinner and did the gift exchange, sending me pictures on the phone while I sat on an ER bed holding sweet Lee, trying to nurse every half hour with no success. He was so listless that he didn’t even try to move around, just hung out in my arms, fretting and dozing. We watched White Christmas and talked to a million doctors and nurses. I'm told Noah was quite sad that I wasn't with them while Ray seemed unphased until bed time when he capped the night off with a 20 minute screaming fit for "Mama!"
At 11 I talked the doctor into taking him off the fluids after he said that being juiced up might prevent him from getting thirsty and wanting to nurse. He said I had 3 hours to get him to nurse and then he was going back on. Just before 2 I was successful! Of course he vomited up a bit of it and had some diarrhea but at least he was eating! They let us go home around 11. I missed putting the presents under the tree and watching the boys come down Christmas morning and react to all their gifts, but Lee was getting better and at least I was still home in the morning.
On Christmas day we go to my Dad’s place around noon and then to my Mom’s at 5 – where we sleep over. Mark suggested we stay home and take it easy. But I freaked. “I WANT TO HAVE A CHRISTMAS! I didn’t get to have a Christmas yet,” I cried. And so we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off, squawking and pecking at each other to pack up and get ready to drive out to Quakertown and spend the night. And then we got in the car after 1:30 and heard that a BLIZZARD was coming the next morning. I just about broke down. But after all the crying and craziness it was a fine Christmas afternoon and it was probably for the best to wake up in our own bed the next day. It certainly beat the bench in the ER.
The CHOP ER is someplace I hope to never to visit again. Especially on Christmas. Walking through the hall and wondering what all the other families were going through was heart wrenching. Sure it was horrible to put Lee through that and to not be home on Christmas but at least Lee was a well baby who had gotten badly sick. I wasn’t in fear of his life while we were there. Twice I have volunteered at St. Christopher’s hospital’s Ronald McDonald House to serve breakfast on Valentine’s Day to the families of long term patients. And the last two years I have donated Christmas gifts to medically fragile children at the Dooley House. But I think next Christmas I’d like to do more. Try to find some way to reach out. You can't take away that pain, that sadness but it's nice to try.
The worse part of the experience for me was the change in Lee. He has always been very friendly with strangers, almost too friendly. Smiling at check out ladies, at people over my shoulder in stores, restaurants, on the subway. Flirting with the doctors during his checkup. And during that night in the ER – with all the new people coming in and hurting him – he didn’t have any more smiles. When a new doctor would come in and just put his stethoscope on him to hear his breathe he would start to scream in horror. I hope that experience doesn’t stick with him. We have a follow up appt at our doctor’s office tomorrow morning. I am eager and scared to see his reaction to the checkup. My poor little guy. I’ll never forget looking in his sad eyes as I held him while they tried repeatedly to find a vein and feeling him say “Why are you letting them hurt me?”