On the 24th of November 2010, we finally walked out of hospital with our daughter, after a month in the NICU and Special Care Nursery. As far as I was concerned, I never wanted to see another hospital ever again. Ironically I had planned on writing a post about our NICU experience this week. Instead, I am writing about Milla’s latest experience in hospital, just last week.
She hadn’t been well for a few days. Her temperature kept spiking, it would come down with medication, then as soon as it wore off, straight back up again. She would wake in the middle of the night, burning up, and vomitting from fever. She had been to the Dr already, and he said it was a virus, keep her fluids up, etc etc. We just couldn’t keep this damn temperature down, as her medication wore off, she would become flushed, lethargic and miserable.
When I took her temperature on Tuesday, and it read 40 degrees, I felt my heart jump into my throat. I took it twice more, just in case it was wrong, 39.9 , 40.0. CRAP.
We soon found ourselves in the emergency department of our local hospital. Where we waited for over 2 hours, with our toddler who was burning up, and screaming. Actually, the screaming was probably a good thing, as eventually I think we were ‘rushed’ through, just so the waiting room could get some peace and quiet again.
Something to know about Milla, she’s not really a fan of other adults. She is a very sensitive little girl, and rarely tolerates being held or sometimes even spoken to by anyone other than myself or her daddy. A health nurse told us once that it could be due to her time in NICU, every time someone came near her, it generally brought pain. Blood tests, drips, feeding tubes, breathing apparatus. She did not have a gentle introduction to the world, and it seems to have affected her social/emotional development. With this in mind, being examined by drs and nurses does not go down well.
She screamed hysterically when they just tried to listen to her heart. When they said that they were going to have to put a drip in, I felt a clench in my stomach. They said we could wait outside. No. I would be there for my daughter. They wrapped her tightly in a blanket, with just her arm out, whilst they attempted, several times, to put an IV into her little tiny arm. I wondered if she remembered this pain from when she was born? Did she have flashbacks to her time in NICU? I know I did. I stroked her forehead, and whispered shhh, over and over again. I think this was to calm me, as much as it was to calm her. By this stage though, she was almost beyond burning up, and was so lethargic, she was slipping in and out of sleep, even as the Dr was still working on the IV. I didn’t know whether to be relieved that she was not screaming, or panicked that she seemed so out of it.
They finally gave her something to bring her temperature down, which had been hovering around 40 degrees. She slept for a while, somehow in that noisy emergency department.Then we had to take her for a chest xray. I held her down whilst she screamed. At least I knew it wasn’t hurting her, she was just scared. (just scared? That’s bad enough really)
Back came the Dr. Her blood results showed an infection. Despite managing to get a urine sample, which also showed infection, the Dr decided she wanted a more accurate sample, which involved inserting a catheter to get it straight from the bladder. I felt that clench in my stomach again. By this time we were on the ward. As I carried my little girl to the procedure room, already with an IV in her arm, I tried not to think about what was going to happen. Where I was taking her. I had the option not to be in the room, but again, I said no. Of course it would be easier for me to just wait in another room, not see what they did to her, not hear her crying. But why should I have the easier way out? She was the one going through the pain, I would be strong for her. As I held her down, whilst another Dr held her legs, and yet another Dr inserted the catheter, she screamed and screamed and screamed. She fought against me, she fought against the Drs. Again I kept whispering ‘shhhh’ ‘it’s ok’ ‘it’s nearly over’ and ‘I’m sorry’. And I was, so so sorry, that my baby girl had to go through this. I tried to be strong for her, but the tears escaped, spilling from my eyes. I imagined her wondering why her mummy was letting people do this to her, why was her mummy helping them do this to her? Finally it was over, I held her so tight, and just kept whispering over and over again, ‘I’m sorry’.
She screamed most of the night, on and off. She screamed when they came back in to hook up antibiotics, and discovered her IV was loose and had to reinsert it. She screamed as her temp crept back up, and she started shivering and shuddering. She screamed when she threw up all over herself, the cot and me. She screamed and cried and screamed all night.
At about 5.30am, she finally fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. At 6.30am, her temp spiked again, and she woke up vomiting. I was exhausted, I had vomit on me, my body ached from leaning over the cot all night, from holding her down for one procedure to the next. But the worst pain was in my heart. Watching my baby girl go through so much, hearing those screams, wondering what she was thinking, did she feel betrayed by me? Imagining how scared and confused she was. Relishing the few moments that she managed to sleep, grateful that she had at least a little peace.
When the Dr came and told me that she wanted to put a feeding tube through her nose and down her throat, my instant reaction was NO. Please, no more procedures, please don’t hurt her anymore. I desperately tried to get her to drink. ‘C’mon baby, you have to drink, please drink’ I begged her. The Drs were adamant. I tried to be strong, but I couldn’t stop the tears, as I tried to convince them to give her fluid through the drip that she was already connected to. No.
Once again, I carried her to that damn procedure room. They bandaged her hands so she couldn’t pull the tube out. Once again, I held my baby down, whilst she screamed and thrashed around. Once again, I whispered meaningless words, that she wouldn’t even be able to hear over her screams. My tears flowed freely now. “I’m sorry baby”.
Can you believe, a couple of hours after this photo was taken, we were allowed to take Milla home?! She was so upset, so distraught, that’s the real reason i think she wasn’t drinking or sleeping. She needed to be at home, where she felt safe and comfortable. The Dr agreed. We could give her antibiotics at home, they had already pumped so many through her IV over the past 24 hours or so. As long as we could get her to drink, otherwise she would need to come back. Thank God we were right, and once she was home, she drank nearly her whole bottle of milk.
Later that night, when I finally went to bed, after being awake for around 40 hours, I lay in bed and cried, silent tears. My body felt like I had run a marathon. My muscles were so sore, so sore from holding my daughter down, whilst people hurt her. Her screams still echoed in my head. I’m not silly, I know the reality of the situation was that she wasn’t actually that ill, that the Drs were helping her, that so many children go through far, far worse than she did. But she is my daughter, I am her mother. It is my role to protect her. It goes against nature to pin your child down, whilst they scream in pain and terror.
Being a parent can be hard work, every day. It can be tiring and exhausting and frustrating. Being a parent, when your child is sick, is not just hard work, it is heartbreaking. The reward is, when they get better. They smile and laugh, and seem to forget all about the ordeal they went through. And as a parent, it’s our job to dust ourselves off, harden up and move on. How does the saying go, “