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Category Archives: Hospitals

Health Update after ER Visit

Helping Mama with the laundry is one of the Bean's favourite chores.

Healthy and helping with the laundry.

Well, the Bean seems totally back to normal today. I kept her home just to be on the safe side, but she’s her usual talkative, active, hungry self. After our follow-up visit with her pediatrician yesterday we went for another round of blood tests, which really knocked her out for the rest of the afternoon.

Her tests all came back normal this time. No more high white blood cell count; no more low platelet count; hydration is fine. We’re still waiting for the blood and urine cultures to come back, to see if there is a deeper reason why she would have passed out the way she did. We also have a brain scan scheduled for July 9 to make sure she didn’t have an unusual type of seizure.

However, her doctor theorizes that what happened was pretty common among young children: she tried to throw up but the vomit hit her vocal chords and shut them tight, causing her to stop breathing. Apparently vocal cords are wired to do that, but it doesn’t last long enough to cause damage – hence the recovery after about 20 seconds. It doesn’t really explain why she passed out at the same time, though. He was surprised that there was no gasping for breath – just gagging and then passed out and no breathing.

Snacking in the sun

Snacking in the sun

Since that happened, every time I go into our bathroom, my mind goes back to the Bean lying limp in my arms, and then me leaning over her on the floor trying to bring her back.  In the moment, I was all calm business, but thinking back on it makes me want to sob.  I’m so grateful that we didn’t lose our little girl.  She is so precious to us, and this experience has really put into perspective all the times when I get frustrated or overwhelmed by her Bean-ness.  She is such a happy, friendly, spirited, smart kid, and I can’t imagine life without her.

While it’s possible that we were never actually in danger of losing our Bean on Monday night, the effects of that trauma and the gratitude I have over a happy ending will be with me for a very long time. Today I am making sure to enjoy all the kisses, cuteness, songs, snuggles, humourous moments, and even the challenges.

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Long night in the ER with the Bean

The Bean and her pediatrician (not a photo from the hospital last night)

The Bean and her pediatrician (not a photo from the hospital last night)

The Bean was restless last night, waking up several times in a row. Sometime around 1:30am, she coughed and cried out, and wouldn’t settle back down. I picked her up to bring her to our bed thinking she just needed to be snuggled, and she was struggling with me a little. Suddenly, she started to throw up, but then just gagged. I sat down with her on the toilet seat to give her space to throw up if she needed to, and she just gagged again and then passed out. She was totally limp and it seemed like she wasn’t breathing. So scary!

I put her on the bathmat to give her a breath and check for stuff in her throat while my Sweetie called 911. By the time he was giving them our info, about 20 seconds later, she was breathing again and crying. Within 5 minutes, the house was full of rescue people (4 firemen, 2 paramedics and a sheriff). Since she was breathing again, they just asked questions while I comforted the Bean, and then to be on the safe side we went in the ambulance to the hospital. The Bean proceeded to vomit up her dinner all over me and herself (lovely), over the course of a couple of hours. They did an EKG first, which was a challenge because the machine decided to play games with us. They then had to catheterize my poor Bean to get a urine sample. That was awful. She fought tooth and nail and they had to get two nurses plus me to hold her down so the third nurse could get the catheter in.

It took a while for the lab tech to come to draw blood, and in the meantime, Bean had fallen asleep.  She was woken up by a crowd of nurses hovering, ready to help hold her down, and hold her down was what they had to do.  We had a break then while the lab processed the tests and she snoozed again.  The nurse came back with the news that the Bean was very dehydrated and that her white blood cell count was high.  They were going to have to put an IV in her arm to take more blood and give her some fluids. Poor Bean – she was already terrified every time a nurse popped in for any reason because she associates them with pain.  It was quite a job getting the IV in.  I didn’t watch, but there was a fair amount of blood spilled in the process, and she wailed and struggled the whole time.

An hour later, enough of the tests had come back to show that she wasn’t in any immediate danger.  She doesn’t have an infection like they originally suspected.  They theorized that she had eaten something that disagreed with her, choked on her vomit and passed out in the process.  She did ingest some of her diaper contents earlier in the evening, but they didn’t think that had anything to do with it.  We have a follow-up appointment with her pediatrician later today to go over the rest of the test results.  One odd thing is that her platelets have been decreasing over the past few months, affecting her blood’s ability to clot.  We don’t know why right now, but hopefully the doctor will have some info for us this afternoon.

So, we’ve collected another hospital bracelet.

One thing I have to say, though, despite my exhaustion from not having slept at all last night, is that every person we encountered last night was wonderful.  The paramedic has a 4-year-old daughter, and he was so great with the Bean.  He presented her with a cute stuffed bunny, and at the hospital obtained a second id bracelet and attached it around the bunny’s leg.  She was so much more interested in the bunny after that.

The main nurse in charge of the Bean’s case also has a 3-year-old son who has medical special needs.  He was just as wonderful, despite the many challenges in dealing with the Bean’s tests.  We chatted about our kids while he filled out paperwork.  All the assisting nurses were so sweet and helpful.  The doctor was a gentle giant: tall, muscular and extremely kind and soft-spoken.

I certainly didn’t like having to be in the ER overnight, but we had such kindness and support surrounding us that it made the whole experience manageable.  Here’s hoping we all get some sleep today.

NICU: The First 24 Hours

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Getting cleaned up, weighed and measured.

When the Bean was born, we knew she was going to be spending some time in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They had made sure that there was a spot available for her there before they offered me the C-section. The pediatrician on duty in the NICU came to my room during the week before the Bean was born to let us know what to expect after the birth and during her stay. I felt so grateful that they were so prepared, but it also was not how I had imagined things going. Of course, with the birth of a baby, things rarely go exactly as we dream they will.

Immediately after the Bean was pulled out of my belly, my Sweetie went with her and the nurses to the weighing station where she was cleaned up and weighed and measured. She had to be accompanied by her Daddy until they put her tiny ID tag on so there was no question that we had the right baby.

She did fine on her APGAR score (I don’t remember the number) but she was super tiny: 3lbs, 13oz and 17 inches long. She was so skinny. It’s weird to look back on the pictures. They wrapped her up in a blanket and brought her over to me so I could see her and touch her tiny face. Too soon, they took her away to the NICU to care for her.

Seeing my daughter for the first time.

Overnight, while I was puking on the floor of my hospital room (see Birth of a Bean for the story), the Bean was dealing with some fluid in her lungs. She was almost 5 weeks early, and I’d been given an injection a few weeks earlier to help mature her lungs.  But she didn’t get squeezed the way babies do when they’re born vaginally. That squeezing is so beneficial for clearing the lungs of amniotic fluid. They taped a tiny nasal cannula onto her face to blow air up her nose and down into her lungs to dry them out. They didn’t tell me about her respiratory distress until the following day when I was in better shape, and by then she was fine.

She was slightly jaundiced, so she got to spend some time under a tanning lamp to break down the bilirubin in her system. I still have the foam eye shades that she wore to protect her eyes. They had to test her blood several times over the next week and they really had trouble getting blood out of her tiny veins. For the bilirubin test, they just prick the heel and smear a tiny drop of blood on a special piece of paper. But the Bean wasn’t giving up her blood that easily, and they had to squeeze and press her tiny foot really hard to get anything out. One young tech just couldn’t get anything out and had to get a more experienced nurse to help. Watching them do all that made me a little uncomfortable at first.

First diaper change - yes, I was really excited.

Because the nasal cannula was in her nose, the Bean initially had an NG tube inserted into her mouth and down her throat to her stomach, so that we could feed her. She was too small and weak to get enough milk through nursing. Once she didn’t need the extra airflow anymore, they moved the NG tube to her nose so that we could also practice breast feeding. I started pumping my milk as soon as I was able to, and the nurses fed that to her through the NG tube by attaching a syringe to the end. Her first feeds were 1 ml of milk every three hours. At the beginning, they also added something to my milk to help fatten her up faster. The Bean hated that tube. Even at 3 days old, she was grabbing at it with her tiny fingers and doing her best to pull it out.

There were sensors attached to her skin and around one of her feet, with wires leading to a machine that reported her vitals: heart rate, oxygen level, and respiratory rate. She also had an IV needle in her hand. It was so sad to see my tiny baby hooked up to all that machinery, and it took some practice to get used to dealing with the wires.

I very clearly remember the first time I got to hold my daughter. My Sweetie pushed me to the NICU in a wheelchair, and I was initiated into the routine of scrubbing my hands before entering. The Bean’s incubator was close to the entrance of the NICU, and I could see her tiny curled up body from the door as I scrubbed. I went to her bedside, but didn’t know what I was allowed to do. I’d never seen such a tiny baby, and though I’ve held many newborns, I felt like she would be so fragile.

Our first snuggle.

It happened to be time for her diaper change and feeding, so the nurse was at her bedside. She asked if I wanted to change the diaper, and of course I was excited to get right to work being a Mom.  But even though I’d changed a ton of diapers, once again I wasn’t sure what to do with such a tiny person. So the nurse walked me through a diaper change and taught me how to swaddle her. Then, I got to pick her up.  The nurses were amazing towards us and gave us all the advice and comfort we needed. For the at least the next few weeks, the NICU would be our home away from home, and the nurses understood that we needed to feel comfortable there.

My little girl was so tiny that even preemie clothes looked baggy on her. I picked her up in awe, and started crying happy tears. It was almost 24 hours after her birth and I was finally truly holding my daughter for the first time. It didn’t matter that I was in a busy NICU instead of my private room. I didn’t care about all the tubes and wires and machines and monitors and lights in that moment. It was just me and my daughter, finally meeting in person. She was just so precious. My Sweetie had already had some time with her and our parents had been into the NICU to visit before I was able to go, so I really cherished that initial time we had. Finally, we were all together as a family, and about to embark on the greatest adventure of our lives.

And baby makes three.

The Birth of a Bean

The Bean at 22 weeks

In my 6th month of pregnancy, my OBGYN got worried that I wasn’t gaining enough weight – in fact, I’d lost some weight that month.  So he sent me for a series of ultrasounds to monitor the growth of my precious baby.  He also told me to stop working – I was not exactly on bed rest, but needed to reduce stress as much as possible.  I had been planning to quit my job anyhow, because we were moving to the Bay Area, but I had not been planning to quit 6 weeks before our move.  (We were scheduled to move a month before the due date to allow us to find a doctor and get settled before the big day.)  Luckily, I was able to go on short-term disability, which allowed me to rest and have time to go to all those ultrasound appointments.  The ultrasounds showed that the baby was healthy and strong, but was very tiny and was growing very slowly.  At 34 weeks, she hadn’t grown at all for three weeks, so my OB told me I was to report to the hospital that afternoon for induction of labour (side note: it was Friday, the 13th of March, and my sister’s birthday).  We had been planning a farewell party for ourselves the following day at our house, so we quickly called some people and told them the party was cancelled.  We also called our families and gave them a heads up – there would be a baby in the next few days. 

They started giving me the induction meds within an hour of arriving at the hospital.  Then I was shown to my private room.  My Sweetie stayed with me and slept on the pull-out bed provided for support people.  NOT the most comfortable place to sleep when you’re a big guy.  My middle sister, who has three older kids and lives on Vancouver Island, packed up the boys and hopped on the ferry right away.  She wanted to be there for the birth.  My youngest sister also came over from Vancouver Island and spent a few days

The week that followed was long and boring.  Sure, I had some great visits with my sisters and mom, but the induction just wasn’t working.  My sisters eventually went home without meeting their niece as they had hoped.  The baby was being monitored every 4 hours (even at night) and I was getting tired of lying around in the hospital.  On Thursday, 6 days after being admitted, I didn’t see the doctor all day.  It was such a busy day for births that they couldn’t afford for me to go into labour, so they didn’t give me the induction meds.  When the doctor on duty finally came to see me at 9pm, she gave me two options – keep waiting it out, or have a C-section the following day.  My OB was willing to stay late to do the operation, and there was a room available at 3pm on Friday.  After some discussion, I decided I was ready to be done with the waiting. 

The next day seemed to last forever even though people had come to visit.  Then suddenly, the nurses were there and it was time to get gowned up.  OMG, I was going to have major surgery and our baby was about to be born!   I hadn’t even considered the idea of a C-section during our birthing prep class.  I was going to have a normal birth, with all the huffing and puffing.  Our baby was small, so it would be super easy to just push her out.  Piece of cake.  Uh huh.  The best laid plans and all that. 

I was nervous going into the operation room.  It was a huge stroke of luck that my OB was available.  I’d liked him right from the beginning, and I knew he was good at his job.  But I don’t really do that well with needles.  I also have a tattoo (elephant) on my low back (tramp stamp location) and it turned out that it was in the exact place where they wanted to inject the anesthetic into my spine.  They had to start the needles above the tattoo (thank goodness it’s not that big), which resulted in me being numb right up to my lips by the time they were done.  Getting the needles into my spine proved to be a challenge.  I kept getting light-headed and almost passing out.  My blood pressure was dropping alarmingly, and the anesthesiologist was concerned for me.  So they finally laid me down and helped me to curve into a ball so they could finally get me frozen.  Then, it was a total breeze.  My legs felt like they were spread wide, even though they were right beside each other on the narrow gurney.  They just couldn’t feel each other.  The doctor got right to work slicing me open.  He was joking around at the same time as being completely professional with the nurses.  He warned my Sweetie (who had been admitted to the room after they laid me down and put up the curtain between my face and the proceedings) when he was about to pull our baby out, and Sweetie stood up and took the best picture of our little girl protesting the sudden change in her circumstance.  I’ll spare you the photo – it’s a bit gory.

When the Bean was born, she was admitted to the NICU almost immediately after being pulled from my belly.   After cleaning her up and doing the initial weigh and measure (under photographic supervision by Sweetie), they brought her up to my face and let me touch her.  The nurse held on tight because I was in no condition to safely hold a baby, and took her away much too quickly.  The doctor sewed me up while telling the nurse about his plans for going to the gym after work (for some reason, I found this highly amusing), and I was wheeled to a recovery room until I could wiggle my toes.  I felt like Westley from The Princess Bride after his encounter with the machine that sucked out his life.  I could think, although my head was fuzzy, but I couldn’t move.  I concentrated very hard on getting those toes to wiggle – I wanted to see my baby.  The nurse who was keeping an eye on me was kind and understood my need to get into the nursery.  As soon as was humanly possible, she signed the order for me to go.

I was still lying on the hospital bed.  I didn’t have the strength to get up, and besides, I had a 6-inch incision across my lower belly, so any movement was impossible.  But I turned my head to see my tiny daughter in her incubator, and was able to reach my hand through the side holes to touch her skin.  This time I was the one who was ripped away much too quickly, but I’d just had a major operation and needed my rest.

That night was brutal.  I was on some pretty strong pain meds, and this really sweet student nurse kept coming in to see how I was doing.  It took a while for the feeling to come back to my whole body, and when it did, even the pain meds couldn’t help me if I tried to move.  The nurse kept asking me if I could try to sit up.  Every time I tried to move, I would get light-headed.  I finally made it to the sitting position, but couldn’t get off the bed.  I can’t remember exactly why, but it was important that I be able to get up and go to the bathroom – they needed me to have a bowel movement before something else could happen.  That night was a bit fuzzy. 

What I DO remember very vividly was what happened when I finally managed to get out of bed.    The nurse had come to check on me, and I told her that I thought maybe I’d been sweating a lot because my bed was really wet.  When she took a look, it turned out that the tube had fallen off my catheter, and urine had been draining out of my bladder straight into my bed.  I was lying in a pool of pee.  Lovely.  Even at the time, I found this morbidly hilarious.  It was clear that I now needed to try to get out of bed so the sheets could be changed. 

 I very slowly made my way up to sitting with the help of the mechanics of the hospital bed, and the nurse helped me to stand up and change my gown.  I shuffled across the room to my bathroom and managed to sit down on the toilet.  I was feeling very nauseous and light-headed sitting there.  Suddenly, the garbage can became a puke bucket.  I’d insisted on eating earlier in the evening (they wouldn’t let me eat until I passed gas – yah, gross, I know) and of course cheese and crackers were on the top of my wish list.  Well, there went my snack.  I collected myself and when the bed was ready, I stood up to make my way back to bed.  Halfway between the bathroom and my bed, I tossed my cookies again, all over the floor.  That’s when Sweetie woke up.  The cleaning folks came and took care of the mess immediately and I went back to bed feeling kinda sheepish about the cheese I’d insisted on.  Perhaps some plain saltines would have been more appropriate, but I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours.  We made it through the rest of the night without further mishap, and then my new life as a mother truly began.