Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sick Child

My twelve week old daughter has had a cold for three weeks. Last week, on Sunday morning, the emergency doctor said she had a chest infection, the antibiotics for which ended a week later. Within 24hrs, her breathing had deteriorated, and while at a lecture with her in a sling on my chest, I was no longer happy and called the emergency doctor again. This was 10pm, and by 11pm I was struggling to keep my voice steady as a friendly red-headed doctor at the local children's ward told me my tiny baby needed an x-ray to rule out pneumonia. HID was at home with Boy, I was all alone, and frightened for her and terrified of my own responsibility.

Her chest concaved under her ribs with every laboured breath. Her paler-than-usual skin was mottled and her eyes were red with huge dark circles. I looked at her and cursed myself for not bringing her sooner. The main reason I started to worry was that she'd stopped fighting. Not crying when she was put down, or during nappy changes, or putting on her coat, it just wasn't like her!

Monday night: I held her and fed her while she endured test after test, finally at 3am, they showed us to a side room, it could be contagious bronchilolitis (not bronchitis, my Boy had it a few times, once at 6m old which warranted an overnight stay in hospital). They put her tiny, wheezing body into a huge metal cot and put up a parents' bed for me. Again, she failed to complain, up til now, the strong willed little lady had only ever slept alone (with no one touching her, i.e. not in a sling or right beside me in bed) for twenty minutes, and never knowingly. For the next three hours, I lept up at every cough, stir and constant beep of her sats monitoring machine which went off every time her heart rate peaked or her oxygen levels dipped. Beep, beep, beep, all night. I comforted her the best way I knew how, I put her to the breast. Oddly, the staff began to record whenever I fed her, and duration or each feed.

The x-ray showed a shadow on her lung, a partial lung collapse. The doctor found a heart murmur too, apparently minor, but horrible to hear. She needed nebulisers every 8hrs, a scary and loud oxygen mask with inhaler-type drugs to widen her airways. I tried to ensure she was deeply sleeping or on the breast, with her big blue eyes wide in surprise at the loud noise next to her ear. It wasn't easy to feed her with a wire attached to her foot, or change her nappy, and I couldn't even walk around the small room swaying her as I would comfort her at home, and putting her in the sling wasn't an option either. I think I needed the sling more than she did. I hated holding her over my arm while she coughed until she was sick.

On Tuesday morning, I congratulated myself for keeping an emergency bag in the boot of my car with a selection of nappies, vests and babygrows, for both babies. I didn't however have such emergency items for myself, so I rang HID and asked him to bring a few things, a breastpump included, as Missis wasn't taking as much as usual and I had a few blocked milk ducts. The last thing I needed was mastitis, and the nurses didn't seem to understand why I needed to express, they were talking about supplementing Missis with the expressed milk. I was more than happy with the way she was feeding, which was almost as normal, pretty good considering she was struggling to breathe, but they still insisted in recording every feed (well, every one they saw, I certainly wasn't wasting my time writing down feeds when I could have been sleeping.)

The hospital's feeding specialist arrived with a breastpump just before HID did and cut to the chase.

"I don't know what people have been telling you, but you just need to breastfeed your daughter. The doctors sometimes get nervous when they can't see how much is going in, but you need to ignore them, you know best."

This woman and I were on the same page. I explained about my mastitis worries, and she showed me how the pump worked, apologising that none of the equipment was sterile, meaning we would have to throw the milk away. I saved it in a sippy cup for Boy, who is old enough not to worry about sterile stuff. The specialist and I laughed at the irony of expressing into a cow&gate glass bottle, since the medela one had gone missing, and joking "it's as bad as eating a nestle chocolate bar!", she really was great.

While she was there, HID arrived with Boy in a sling on his back. I was pretty sure that no visitors other than parents were allowed, the nurses must have missed him up on Daddy's back, but gosh was I glad to see a little ray on sunshine in that dark and sad room. He spent half an hour cheerfully shouting "beeeee!" whenever Missis' heart and oxygen monitor went off, tripping over wires, jumping on my bed, pointing to my elongated nipple in my breast pump, and drawing on the sheets with a rogue crayon in the nappy bag.

Soon after, they left owing to small boys and confined spaces and the things that happen. I busied myself with basic tasks whenever Missis didn't need me, which wasn't often, like eating, or brushing my teeth, or, heartbreakingly, nipping to the loo. This involved leaving her to power walk as fast as possible off the ward to the parent's toilets, weeing at breakneck speed, and then the agonising wait at the intercom while the nurses find time to let you back on to the secure ward, all the while, hoping she wasn't awake, crying, in distress, or god forbid, had taken a turn for the worse in my short-as-possible absence.

That night, bronchiolitis was the confirmed diagnosis, and we were moved out of our private room to a contagious bronchi-ward, with three other sick babies. They were all much older, much sicker, and much louder. But the mums were the loudest. All I wanted to do at 7pm was sleep, but the mums just chatted and chatted. I suppose after 9 days (which is long they had been in) they had become institutionalised to a certain extent, it was like being in university halls. I didn't fit in there either. I was amazed how often their sick and crying babies were scolded and told things like "stop being silly now!" and left in their cots to cry. I hated putting Missis down even for a second, even when she was sleeping or contented. They all watched their individual tv's, and looked at me strangely for not wanting mine on.

It was here I learned from another mum I was receiving free hospital meals because I was breastfeeding, god bless the nhs. That night, I ignored the cot and fed Missis in bed with me and slept with her, having to sit up to feed from my left side as her wires would not stretch that far. The nurses tried to make me put her down, but she was getting better and was having none of it. I was too tired to sit in the chair to feed, I was afraid I'd drop her. But the nurses were convinced her high heart rate was due to bedsharing, even though each time I put her down, it rocketed and her oxygen levels dipped. We both got much more sleep on Tuesday night.

I was convinced we'd be allowed home, the other mums kept talking about their babies being "off oxygen" for however many hours was the key to going home, Missis had never needed any! Sure enough, we were discharged by 3pm with an inhaler.

At 9pm last night, I was re-packing my bag as she seemed to deteriorate, but it was a false alarm, and now her only symptom is a cough that will last a month. The relief is indescribable. And I caught up on my sleep no problem. The worst thing about the whole experience was not having HID with me. He had to care for Boy in my absense. But when Boy was laying in that hospital cot, all those months ago, I had HID by my side to make me strong, and this week I had to find that strength all by myself. I missed him so much.


At 10:56 pm , Blogger Margarita said...

That is such a scary thing to be put through. I am sending best wishes your way, hoping for a quick recovery and no more nights in the hospital!


At 11:22 pm , Anonymous Slugs said...

Oh honey. Good on you for standing up for yourself and your baby girl. I hope the recovery from the illness and the trauma is swift and you have no further nhs interaction for a very long time.

At 7:51 am , Blogger Kelly said...

I read this when up feeding my baby in the middle of the night. We spent a horrible 5 days with Piran in teh SCBU after he was born but he came through it. It was hard on us all though and I had the support of my husband there when he could. You are so brave and strong to have managed it mainly alone.

One of the problems I had was the fact that the nurses are not breastfeeding trained but yet they were trying to teach me to breastfeed. I am glad you found someone who understood and could help you.

I was lucky, because I was still admitted I got my meals provided but it seems slightly unfair to me that only breastfeeding mothers would be provided with food. Just because in the end I was unable to breastfeed would not mean that I would be happy to leave my baby for long periods of time so I could go and find somewhere to buy and consume food.

At 7:53 am , Blogger Kelly said...

So sorry, I forgot to add that I am so pleased that she is okay and I hope she gets over the cough soon.

At 9:24 am , Blogger TheMadHouse said...

Well done for being strong and standing up for yourself. MaxiMad has suffered with a chest condition after being ventilated at 18 weeks. We were in HDU for 8 days adn then again for 5 days the following month. I was so lucky as MadDas was with me, but a hospital is a screy place.

We couldnt sleep with Maxi, as parents are not allowed beds on the HDU, but he had 24 hour 1 on 1 nursing. When I did fall asleep in the chair, they put a blanket over me.

It can be terrible to see them un well.

We were given a wedge to put under Maxi's matress adn also a humdifier which helps with the cough.

At 11:25 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG that sounds awful, my heart really goes out to you and thank God you are both home and OK. Children's wards really aren't set up for little babies and breast feeding Mum's and I am sure that you are both relieved to be home.

Hope you both feel OK. ((hug))

At 9:47 pm , Blogger Kat said...

Oh gosh this sounds just horrible. Well done you for getting her help and coping all on your own. Big hugs and I hope she is getting back to her usual self quickly. K xx

At 7:29 pm , Blogger Cave Mother said...

Poor you. That sounds absolutely awful. It is my worst nightmare. You must be so strong, though, because you have got through it, and thank god things are going to be all right.

At 9:42 pm , Blogger Sandy Calico said...

Oh honey, how awful. It sounds like you coped brilliantly at a very scary time. Fingers crossed for a complete recovery xxx

At 2:33 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gods mill grinds slow but sure........................................

At 11:20 pm , Anonymous Online Mum said...

OMG, such a horrible time for you all. You were so strong to cope with everything. I am so glad she is on the mend - sending hugs for you both. x

At 9:11 pm , Blogger Emma said...

Hope she's better soon, I cant imagine what was going through your head.
Hugs & Prayers xx

At 7:16 pm , Blogger allgrownup said...

thank you all so very much for your thoughts and well wishes. She is now fighting fit. It means a lot that you were all thinking of us x


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