Panic. Heart pounding, mind racing panic. Something you have not felt before. Terror. Disbelief. No, this cannot be happening. You want to grab your baby and hold him tight. Protect him. What do you do? Help me, please help me. Help my baby.
You are desperate. The fear washes over you, surrounding you. You want to run, but you know you can’t. You have to stay. Please help my baby.
The most terrifying experience as a parent is having a sick child. Even worse is not knowing what is wrong. Calling your doctor, someone you trust and ending up in the ER. I felt fright for the first time. Mind-blowing, all-consuming fright.
I know, I have two sons and it happened to me, not once but twice.
Life was good. I had a toddler and I was pregnant with my second child. Everything was fine. I was healthy and the pregnancy was great. I actually loved being pregnant although I did look like a beached whale. My body was absolutely huge. Turned out the baby weighed in at 11 lbs. 4 oz. and he was perfect.
So how did I end up in the ER? We went home on schedule and everything was fine. The birth was intense but quick. We were both fine.
Everything changed so quickly. We had been home for just a few days and he was so fussy. He was stretching out his body and he was crying and nothing seemed to comfort him. I did not know what to do and so I decided to take his temperature. He had a temperature of over 100 degrees.
I called the pediatrician, told him how the baby was acting and he asked me some questions. He made some suggestions and it was not until I told him the baby had a temperature that everything changed. He told me that young babies do not have temperatures, something was wrong. The doctor now seemed panicked and told me to bring him in right away.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office he did a quick examination of the baby and ran his hand over the babies soft spot or fontanelle. He immediately told me to take him to the Emergency Room. He would call ahead, they would be waiting for us.
They were waiting and immediately took the baby from me. I was told they needed to do a spinal tap. When I started to follow them the doctor told me I could not be there. He rudely told me my baby was not old enough to recognize me yet anyway. That really upset me and I knew it was not true but they would not let me be there. I was terrified and panicked and angry. I wanted to be with my baby. I needed to be with my baby!
When they completed the spinal tap they bought me into the room. I spoke and my baby immediately moved his head toward my voice. The doctor said, “oh, I guess he does recognize you”. No kidding.
I was really angry with that particular doctor but I had to let the anger go. I just needed to be there with my baby.
The results from the spinal tap made my heart sink. I was told my baby had meningitis. I was sitting down when they told me but I felt as if the floor had fallen out from under me. My head was spinning, I felt like I was going to pass out. I thought my baby was going to die!
Meningitis meant death. That was the only knowledge I had of meningitis. I personally knew someone who had died.
My baby was admitted to the hospital in intensive care and in isolation. I was finally told that there is more than one type of meningitis. My baby was sick and he was contagious. The good news, my baby had viral meningitis and it was not life-threatening.
Viral meningitis is spread from colds and flu but my baby was straight out of the hospital. What was he exposed to? Had a nurse or doctor been sick?
I did have a sore throat in the hospital so it is possible that I was the cause. Once again I was horrified. Could I be the one who gave him the virus?
We stayed in the hospital for 5 days. My baby was treated with intravenous antiviral medications and did stay in isolation. I was breastfeeding so I was given a breast pump so I could leave breast milk for him and I could go home on occasion to see my toddler.
It was a gut-wrenching experience. I felt guilty every time I left the hospital and at the same time guilty that I was away from my toddler for such a long time.
I could not wait to be home and have everyone together.
Once we were home everything soon became normal again. We had been lucky. My baby was now healthy and life went on.
But wait, there was more to this story………….
Fast forward one year. Same ER, different child. This time it was my first son. How can this happen again? The same feeling of panic flooding over and consuming me. I had been through this before but the feeling of terror and panic came rushing back and stayed. It took up residence inside me.
It happened almost exactly to the day, one year later. What appeared to be a normal morning wasn’t. It was a Thursday just like the first time. We had gotten up just as usual and I was making breakfast. My toddler was watching Sesame Street. He called to me and said, “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom”.
That was odd. He was potty trained and he could go without my help. I told him to just get up and go. He said he couldn’t, he could not get up. I turned to look at him. I thought he was just kidding but there was something that alerted me. I picked him up and carried him to the bathroom.
When I pulled his pants down I saw he had blood red spots on his skin. They were scattered around his stomach and the top of his legs. When he was done going potty I carried him back, set him down. I let him watch Sesame Street while I called the doctor. I was trying not to panic.
When I called and explained what was happening they asked me to wait a moment. The next person I talked to was the doctor. He asked a few questions and then told me to bring him in immediately.
My heart started to beat faster and the panic was starting to set in. I immediately thought of my baby and what had happened last year.
When we arrived at the doctor’s office, the doctor was waiting and took my toddler to an examination room. He pulled down his pants, looked at the spots and immediately pulled his pants back up. He said my son had a blood infection.
He told me to take him to the Emergency Room. He would call ahead and they would be waiting.
Familiar words, I had heard them before just one year previously.
Once again I was numb. The panic flowing over me. I couldn’t think. I could not even remember how to get to the ER. I was shaking and simply overwhelmed. The doctor patted me on my back. He gave me directions and smiled reassuringly. “It will be okay,” he said.
Kind words and I so wanted to believe him.
When we arrived they were once again waiting just like last time. They had to find out what was causing the blood infection. They took blood samples and yes, of course, they did a spinal tap.
My son was admitted and put in isolation. They did not know what was wrong. My little boy was poked and prodded over and over. There were a lot more blood tests and cultures done.
He received intravenous antiviral medications. One morning when I walked in his room I was horrified to see his arm was all swollen. The needle had come out of his vein but remained under his skin and all the medication had seeped into the tissue. They had to switch the needle to the other arm in the middle of the night. He looked terrible.
It was just like watching an episode of House, the TV medical show starring Hugh Laurie.
After a few days, he developed a rash all over. Again, no one knew why. My son became a little rock star. There were so many doctors and specialists that visited him. Everyone wanted to see the sweet little boy with the unexplained illness.
First, the rash disappeared and then the blood red spots. His fever was gone. They stopped giving him the intravenous medication and he was taken out of isolation. He looked better and he was acting more like the toddler he was.
We came into the hospital on a Friday. He had been there exactly a week and a day. The doctor met us in the hallway with a smile on his face. He said my son was sitting in his hospital bed naked. He had taken off all his clothes and refused to put them back on. He said time to take him home!
He was ready, so were we and he was discharged that day. Happy day, we could all be together again.
They still did not know what had caused the blood infection. It was over a month later that one of the cultures determined he had a virus called Coxsackievirus.
Coxsackievirus is contagious and has a variety of symptoms and can cause serious illnesses. One of them is viral meningitis which is what my baby had the year before. Darn Scary Stuff!
We went back to the doctor the next week to check for any signs of further problems. Thankfully, there were none. My son screamed and cried when they had to draw blood. Can’t say I blame him after all he had been through.
I talked to the doctor about how frightened I was going forward. What would happen next year? I could not get that fear out of my head. He reassured me and said it was not likely to happen again.
The doctor explained that all those nasty viruses flourish in the warm weather of summer and when August rolls around each year there is an abundance of sick children.
It was just a roll of the dice that it happened to us two years in a row.
I always feared August.
The next summer came and went. No one was sick, not even a sniffle. We never had a problem again. All was well in our family.