Sure enough, we pull up at 11:01 despite my best efforts to race there, and I unstrap the kid and bolt to the door and – it is locked.
The pl…ace is full of staff members and they see my dilemma but they are not budging. I am standing there in shorts and a t-shirt on a cold night with a 2 year old wrapped in a pink Pooh bear blanket. My cell phone rings. My wife says the staff at the After Hours pediatric told her to take the kid to the emergency room.
An emergency room on a Friday night at 11pm. Imagine every drunk and fistfight and college kid (we are by USF) who got a bloody nose is packing the ER and we watch my daughter suffocate while we wait in line. Horrors. But, we are out of options and it’s 5 minutes away, so off we go.
As luck would have it, they are working on the parking lot of the hospital, so there are 50 cardboard “Detour” signs all over the place. We navigate that and get a spot right up front, which surprises me until I realize that school is out for the holidays.
The place is almost empty. Lucky us.
I head over to admitting and one of the nurses immediately comes over before I can even get there. While they have seen it all and know when not to get excited, she is expressing some concern. They are doing three things at once – admitting, examining, asking what happened – and we are seeing a doctor in minutes.
“I don’t like her color.” Somebody says. “Is she always gray like this?” Heck, we’d been keeping the lights off to let her rest. It’s the first time I’m looking at her color, and under the fluorescent hospital lights, she looks like hell. So do I.
Commands fly: get a blow by oxygen going and start an IV for fluids, plus draw blood for tests.
We’re trying to diplomatically explain to – well, to everybody in hospital scrubs – that my kid has condition called Long QT which means certain drugs like epinephrine can cause a negative reaction, so we’re supposed to be careful…
You get that stare. She was nice about it, but the doctor basically said we can watch your kid suffocate to death RIGHT NOW, or we can give her drugs that MIGHT cause a heart attack LATER.
Okay, I’m in. Drug her up.
Calls go out to my daughter’s EP, the guy who would advise on which drugs she can or can’t have; even though she’s asymptomatic, we want to be cautious, but he signs off and says give her the meds. It’s an albuterol aerosol, administered with oxygen through a mask. Simple but effective.
If you can convince a 2 year old to let you put a mask over her face.
By now she’s got an IV in her arm(that was fun; the guy practically had to lay on her to hold her down after I bragged about how good she was with needles), she has EKG sensor stickers all over her chest (they don’t stick because of the Vapo Rub. Oops.), an oxygen monitor wrapped around her big toe, and they’re trying to strap a mask onto her face. She’s had enough and is flailing.
Personally, I was impressed with her tenacity. Kid’s a fighter. But her mom and I eventually convince her that she has to wear this mask to help her breath, and so she hold the mask in place herself, which helps. The oxygen readings get close to around 95%, but when the albuterol treatment stops, she starts labored breathing again and it drops to 85% or lower. A second albuterol treatment is done, and eventually a third. Over the course of a few hours, I think, she stabilizes enough for a transport to St Joseph’s hospital, about 15 minutes away, where her specialist works and where they have better facilities for pediatric respiratory illness. Right now, everybody is thinking she has a virus, but they also agree that it’s the heavy congestion blocking her airway. X rays are done to look for pneumonia.
A transport will be an ambulance, non emergency. Since she can breathe, Savvy is excited about riding in the ambulance but disappointed that there won’t be sirens. I’m pretty elated that there won’t. We flip a coin to see who’s riding along with her; I win. The EMTs have given Savvy an iPad with several kids movies, so she’s oblivious as to whether one or both of us even come along. They strap her into a gurney with a baby seat attachment and haul her away. She’s loving it.
The ride goes smoothly and I start to realize that I’m tired. It’s about 1AM, maybe later. The driver and I chat on the way to St Joe’s, and when we get there we are whisked into a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU.
Everybody there is wearing masks and gowns and rubber gloves to meet us, and we have to dress up, too, every time we come into my daughter’s room and take it all off every time we come out. They are afraid of some new super virus and these are precautions, but it means if you need to use the bathroom, you take all the gear off, throw it away, and re-dress back up to re enter the room. For however long she’s there.
And while the paper gown looks silly and the latex gloves can make your hands sweat, the mask over your nose and face have several perks. First, they make your kid even less likely to relax since everybody looks like we’re heading into a contamination zone, and second, you get to deal with whatever breath freshness you arranged; as in, French onion soup and garlicky escargots.
Don’t worry; I bought mints at the vending machine.
Okay, then what? We get some diagnoses: no pneumonia, lungs are clear, it’s massive congestion that is/was cutting off her air supply. The doctor says that an adult can get this and shrug it off, just get some extra sleep and it runs its course, but since kids are smaller, they have smaller airways, and this can be the result. The albuterol is doing its thing, and together with the oxygen mask she is getting enough O2. Problem is, when they take it off, her O2 level drops like a rock to mid 80 percent or lower. Daddy ain’t happy about that.
The doctor agrees and says that we really just need to help her while the virus runs its course. She stays in PICU over night and we reassess tomorrow.
So, mom crawls into bed next to Savvy, and dad takes the chair. Somewhere in there, the grandparents came by (Michele’s mom and dad).
Come back tomorrow to see how the story ends!
– from Savvy Stories 2: The TERRIBLE Two’s, available on Amazon and also at Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/355616