Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Pour Your Heart Out: My scariest parenting moment thus far
Dylan has always been a “rough & tumble” kid. He’s an outdoorsy kid and always spent hours running through our backyard, digging in my parent’s garden, jumping off of things, etc. Our first trip for x-rays was when he was 6. One day, I was getting him out of the car at school and he said “My pinky finger hurts”. I looked at it – it was swollen and all shades of black, blue, green & yellow. I said, “What in the world happened to your finger?” Evidently, the day prior they had been playing in the gym and somehow his hand, specifically his finger, got slammed into the stage at the school. But the next morning at 7:45 on our way into school was the first he’d complained or said anything about it. Thankfully it was just badly bruised and not broken. We’ve had other fingers x-rayed, but he’s always come back fine…just a sprain or bruising…no broken bones. Knock on wood. Lots of wood, please! :)
Anyway, on January 3, 2007, Dylan woke up complaining of his neck hurting. I remember the exact date because it was my sister’s birthday. I brushed it off as him sleeping funny on his neck and we went on with our day. He acted fine, seemed to feel fine. We celebrated my sister’s birthday that evening and I do remember him complaining about his neck hurting. I continued to brush it off as a simple crick in his neck, knowing that it may take a few days to loosen up.
The next morning, Dylan woke up and began to complain that his ear was hurting, along with his neck. At this point, I assumed that he had an ear infection. Other than complaining of the pain, I figured he’d be OK to go to school and I’d take him to the doctor after school. No need in missing a day of school for a simple ear infection, right?
*Please note that since this all happened I have had a double ear infection – the first in my life – and I’m not sure why I thought ear infections were simple or something that a child could deal with while at school. We live & learn, huh?
So, I call his doctor in the morning and schedule an appointment. I planned to pick him up around 2:00 for a 2:30ish appointment. I went through my work day, a little concerned, because my kid was not feeling well, but I knew that he would be fine once he got an antibiotic in him. When I left work to go pick him up, I realized I had a voicemail on my phone, which was from the school stating that Dylan just did not seem to be feeling well and I probably needed to come pick him up. No worries – I was already on my way to get him. When I got to the school, he really didn’t look like he felt well. But, I attributed this to him not sleeping well because of the pain in his neck and the ear infection. Again, I assumed that once he got the antibiotics in him, he would begin to feel much better…even by that evening.
We got to the doctor and are seen. They take his temp and I get the first case of mother guilt from this whole episode – he’s running a fever of 102. Wow…and I sent him to school. Next they begin asking about symptoms. I explain the pain that he’s been complaining of in his neck and ear. The nurse asks if his throat hurts. Dylan replies – yes. What??? He had never complained about a sore throat. Second case of mother guilt – why didn’t *I* ask if his throat hurt? So, they test him for strep and we wait for the doctor.
The doctor comes in, examines him, checks his strep test (which comes back positive) and tells me that she thinks he does indeed have strep throat and an ear infection. But, she seems a little more concerned. She was concerned because the pain in Dylan’s neck is causing him to hold his head stiffly. She mentions that sometimes, very rarely, infection will settle into the tissues in your neck and she almost wonders if this is the case with Dylan. But she sends us home with an amoxicillin prescription and she wants to see us again the following day (which is a Friday). So, we make an appointment for 9am the next morning and go home.
Now, to my un-medical-educated self, less than 12 hours on antibiotic does not seem to be enough time to determine that something more is wrong – even though I have seen my child come from one side of strep throat to the other after only a couple of doses; so, I’m not even sure that anything is going to come from our next morning appointment. I do remember that Dylan felt horrible that night and I’m pretty sure he slept with me, as he often did when he was feeling sick. At 8:30, I literally rolled the child out of bed, helped him dress and we went back to the doctor. When we got there, they took his temp – still around 102 – and we waited for the doctor. She came in, asked him if he felt any better, to which he replied “No.”
At this point, she orders at CT scan of his neck. She tells me to go have it done and come back to the office. So, we head over to the radiology office and wait for the CT scan. I’m getting a little nervous about all this and trying to understand what could possibly be wrong that she wants a CT scan. Dylan goes through the scan fine – I think he felt so horrible that he didn’t even care. And we headed back to the doctor’s office. When we get back, we wait for a bit and finally she comes in. The CT scan showed an area in his neck that was abscessed. Meaning, he didn’t have an ear infection and he most likely didn’t have strep throat. Basically, the infection had settled into the tissue in Dylan’s neck muscle and sealed itself off. The doctor she recommends us seeing is at Baptist (one of the BEST pediatric hospitals in the state of NC – which is thankfully IN Winston-Salem), but we will have to see him through the ED because this doctor is not in clinic today and can only be seen through the ED. (I’ve yet to figure out why every other hospital in America uses the term ER, but Baptist calls it the ED – Emergency Dept. I guess it is a little more accurate than “room”, but still.)
So, we head back to the radiology office to get the CT films and then head over to the hospital. I have to call my mom on the way to let her know…I do remember this phone call very vividly, because I had to tell her all the details BEFORE I mentioned the ED. We got to the ED and all I really remember is that they already were waiting for us…we waited a long time…they began an IV antibiotic and didn’t decide to admit him until well after lunch. Our pediatrician had already mentioned that they may treat it with high dose antibiotics, but there was a possibility that they’d have to do surgery. Dylan felt so bad…I remember him just laying there – he’d sleep some and when he wasn’t sleeping, he was just there. People would come in, he’d cooperate and then just lay back down. I remember med students coming in, wanting to look at Dylan’s throat, but what they didn’t realize is that on the surface everything was fine. There was no knot…no swelling…his tonsils weren’t enlarged – quite honestly, no one could believe that his pediatrician had figured out what was wrong with him.
After a while of waiting, I came to grips with the fact that most likely, my child would have to have surgery to fix this problem. Finally a doctor came in (not THE doctor that the pediatrician wanted him to see, but one that worked with him) and confirmed that the area needed to be surgically drained. So, Dylan was admitted with strict instructions that he should have no food or drink. And around 8pm, they finally came to get him for surgery. We went through all the warnings, consents, etc. And at 9pm, the began his surgery.
Quite honestly, that was one of the hardest things – walking away from the prep room. Knowing that I couldn’t be with him from there. Putting my trust into a strangers hands…one that I hadn’t even laid eyes on.
But, in the midst of all of this, I had the greatest sense of peace and calm. I know it was sent directly down to me from God. And God gave me “signs”, if you will. The first came when we entered the ED. Dylan’s middle name is Alexander, which is the last name of a good friend of mine from college. We had fallen out of touch…I knew she was in the area and I even knew she worked at Baptist. But I never expected to see her when I got to the ED. She wasn’t in the pediatric ED, but she came over to check on us when she got a break. I hadn’t seen her in years. As nervous and anxious as I was, it was so calming to see a familiar face.
The next came when Dylan was actually taken to his room. The nurse came in and I swear she was the spitting image of his step-mom. This is a good thing because, even when I’m aggravated at his dad, I think a lot of his step-mom. She even had the same demeanor.
The third came shortly after this when our Associate Pastor’s wife came to check on us. She worked for the doctor who was actually going to do Dylan’s surgery. I’ve known her for years, but Baptist is a big place with lots of doctors. I had no idea even what department she worked in. But she had come down because she had seen Dylan’s information come through their office…and she reassured me that he was the best.
Roughly 15 minutes after Dylan’s surgery began, I was called in the waiting area and told that everything was good. That they had been able to effectively drain the abscess and that Dylan had done great through everything. Shortly after that, I was able to go back with him while in recovery. We spent three more days in the hospital – they wouldn’t send him home until his fever had come down to low grade or normal…which it finally did on the following Monday.
The best news came when we went back for our follow up and I heard the doctor say “I’ve never seen this happen twice to one person.” He went on to say he didn’t know why, but that he’d never had to treat a repeat event of this phenomenon.
And true to his word, three years later, we’ve never had a repeat occurrence. For which I’m truly thankful.
And while this was one of the scariest events in my life as a mother, it was also one of great peace. I can never explain how I got through that without breaking down – not even once – other than that God had his hand on us the whole time.