Published March 11, 2009
Monday was pretty normal, my daughter had a little coughing from 5-7 a.m. but nothing that wasn't out of the ordinary when she has a sniffly nose. When I picked her up at daycare later in the day, she seemed tired and a little clingy but that is still normal at times. Her ensuing vomitting after a particularly bad coughing spasm was not. After cleaning her up, giving her some ibuprofen for a slight fever and cuddling her to soothe her, I detected wheezing and rattling in her lungs - not a good sign. This is when one needs to trust their instincts. I'm not one to freak out when a fever, runny nose or cough appears. But, these symptoms were not normal for our usual cold. I debated rushing to Akron Children's and called the pediatrician just to confirm that my instincts are right. After hearing me report that her wheezing was accompanied by rapid breathing, he advised me to take her to the ER.
Let me tell you, one just doesn't think straight when you hear the words "I would take her to the ER." Survival mode kicks in and you just react. I grabbed her coat (which she refused to wear), a sippy cup, my purse and ran out the door. She pleaded with me to "Hug me. Hold me." making me wish the car seat laws had leeway in moments like this. Fortunately, the hospital is about 5 minutes from us and I tried my best to cajole her on the short ride. I called my sister to meet us there as some back up support on the way. I filled out the necessary paperwork and the next 2 hours were spent in the waiting room. Fortunately, one is initially evaluated in a fairly short amount of time but I cringed when they said "If you see others go before you, it is because the easier cases which don't need much help go to another section and are released sooner." Great. That means my daughter was very sick? She was full of good spirits while she played with the magnet froggy table and mingled with the other little girls in the room. She even started "dancing" and running for everyone (she is a budding performer and, yes, one can see this tendency this early in life).
Eventually, we were led to a treatment room. All the staff was very pleasant and interactive with my daughter. They knew exactly what to say to get her talking and her mind off of their examination. I was proud of her "Thank you!" to everyone that helped her. Being in these treatment rooms after attending the open house is a whole different experience (at least for a tense parent). It felt like every muscle in my body was contracting as I internalized my nervousness and attempted to be all bright and smiley for my child. The books, crayons, toys and tv in these rooms are total lifesavers. We were in there 8:30'ish until 1 a.m. and needed every distraction available. Even the paper that pulls out over the table works for drawing and coloring (not that it is designed for that purpose)!
I came to the ER thinking "Oh, I'm just probably overreacting and they will give us an antibiotic and shoo us on our merry little way." Wrong. Everyone confirmed that her lungs were wheezing and that pneumonia and RSV had to be ruled out. She received her first nebulizer treatment with a darling dragon mask breezily. She kept saying "Smoking! I'm smoking!" from the mist she saw. Internally, I was thinking "Gosh, I hope they don't think I smoke!" knowing that she has seen more smoke from steaming food than anywhere else. She was a real trooper when it came time for her x-ray. The x-ray room was decorated with jungle animals giving me plenty of ideas to talk about and get her to relax. I wore a long lead lined apron and was allowed to hold her still during the x-raying which made the experience easier for both of us. The technician was wonderful and rewarded my daughter with a book (which I prefer to another sucker).
I was especially impressed with the care the nursing staff gave use during the ER hours. They were good at informing me of the status of her tests and prognosis. RSV and pneumonia had been ruled out but the low oxygen levels and wheezing had them worried. Another albuterol nebulizer treatment and oral steroids were given but her lungs still weren't at a state to make them comfortable sending her home. Not the words I wanted to hear "We think it would be best if she spent the night." However, I knew the rooms were nice and I would have somewhere to sleep. Since my sister, daughter and I hadn't had dinner, we were given pop, juice and snacks to make all our waiting more comfortable. My daughter was also allowed to sit in a wagon in the hallway and go for rides as we waited for her room to be made ready.
As 1 a.m. rolled around, we were led to her room. She was put in another wagon which is a brilliant way to get a child upstairs to the rooms. My daughter was very excited about this wagon ride and asked if she got another when she was released the next day. Needless to say, none of us had much sleep. Another round of questions had to be answered for her doctor (after doing the same round of questions 3 times before) and I was so exhausted that I forgot her weight at birth, how many weeks I was pregnant when I had her and could barely keep my eyes open (I'm usually asleep by 10 p.m.). I wish I had had the albuterol that made my darling daughter seem like she was on speed. We all finally crashed at 2 a.m. but does one really sleep when you are partially listening to your daughter's breathing? No. By 3:40 a.m., the nurse came by again to check her breathing. This led to coughing spasms until 4:30 a.m. Thankfully, my sister was with me to alternately hold and rock my daughter. Her presence and support was my lifesaver.
I have to take a moment to write about these rooms again - they are superb! I kept joking that we were at a hotel and when could we get to the pool (okay, so I crack jokes when under stress as a defense mechanism). The bathrooms are very nice with decorative tile. The flat screen tv had the required stations that one needs with a child: Nickelodeon & PBS Kids. One can control the room's temperature although we didn't learn this until the next day after freezing all night (who ever heard of being able to control room temp in a hospital?). Parents can order room service (no kidding) for food for their child and themselves ($5) and the food was good! Children under the age of 5 have to sleep in cribs which wasn't easy on my daughter who has slept in a full bed since age 20 months. I confess to sneaking her into my pull-out bed with me at 4:30 a.m. (not allowed by the hospital) and we both slept much better (plus, I could hear her breathing better). I wouldn't have done this if she was attached to monitors but she was monitor free at this point.
By noon on Tuesday, we were released after I was able to ask the attending doctor a plethora of questions and had been given great directions from a lung therapist on her at-home treatments. I was very happy with our treatment, the hospital's child-friendly details and, although it is a great place, I truly hope we don't have to go there again!
FYI: Her ailment was a viral lung infection which can only be treated with albuterol to open up her lungs to help her breathe. No antibiotics were given, she is staying home from daycare and gymnastics and lying low in general. We have a follow-up visit with her pediatrician on Friday. Can I just tell you that this came out of nowhere! The doctors said a virus can be picked up anywhere and this one settled in her lungs instead of her sinuses (where they usually settle). It is definitely good to know your child and how their body handles illness because in moments like these, you need to gauge what is normal and what is dangerously out of the ordinary for your child.