I’m sorry for not keeping you all better updated throughout the past couple days. I don’t have a laptop and that really limited my access to a computer.
Before I begin, I just want to warn you that I’m still pretty tired and this may be a bit all over the place. And this will be long. I know you don’t care about many of the details I’m sharing, but I’m writing this for me. Because I want to write down what happened.
I’ll start at the beginning.
I think I wrote in my post Monday how the kids were sick and Joshua had been breathing quickly. I was more concerned than I let on when I wrote about it. The nurse reassured me somewhat when I called in the afternoon, but I was still uneasy. That should have told me something , as being a mom for 7+ years gives you experience in knowing what is “normal” and what is not. I knew Joshua’s breathing was not normal. However, I think the fact that he had just come down with what was seemingly a normal “minor” cold Saturday night threw me off. Normally, if kids develop issues with “junk in their lungs,” it’s after they’ve had a cold for awhile, not just for barely 36 hours! But this just goes to show that you never know what can happen.
When 5 o’clock Monday rolled around and Joshua’s breathing had still not improved – if anything was worse – and he was very listless & lethargic, I was very worried and tried to get ahold of Nate. Of course, he was in a closed no-cell phone area and it took me a good hour to reach him. Finally I did and he left work immediately. When he arrived home an hour later, it was 7 pm and he agreed that Joshua was not okay. I called the doctor. Our own doctor was on call and she called back immediately. I told her what was going on – Joshua’s rapid (55+ breaths/minute) labored breathing and how listless he was and she told us to take him to the emergency room as he could have pneumonia. he said he could be admitted and it would be a good idea to pack a bag.
After hurriedly getting a few things together and debating what to do (should I take Joshua to the ER myself? Should Nate? Should we both go? Should we find someone to watch Nathan & Emily? Bring them?), we decided that both Nate & I should go and we would bring Nathan and Emily along. By this point, it was 7:30, and it would be hard to find someone to watch them on such short notice, especially when we had no idea what would happen or how late we might be.
We went to a 30 minute away, bigger, better ER than our small town ER just down the road. After our last experience at the local ER with Emily, we knew we wanted better care for Joshua. We definitely made the right decision.
The receptionist took down Joshua’s information and the triage nurse immediately took us back for assessment upon our arrival. She hooked Joshua up to the oxygen saturation monitor – you know the little clippy piece with the red light they put on your finger? It measures the percentage of oxygen in your blood. Joshua’s reading was low – 89/90 – and she said we made the right decision to bring him in. She took us back to a room right away – we never had to sit in the ER waiting room at all! I was quite surprised, but I guess it showed how serious the situation was.
The nurse came in immediately and connected Joshua to a better monitor. She put the heart monitor stickers on his chest and hooked him up and then the doctor came in. Joshua’s oxygen saturation was hovering at 88-90 (ideal is 97+) – quite low for our little guy. His breathing was very labored and rapid, “wheezy,” and his chest was “retracting” with the effort. His heart rate was elevated as well.
I asked about RSV and the ER doctor said it was too early in the season and didn’t test for it. He had a respiratory therapist come in to administer a breathing treatment in hopes of opening up Joshua’s lungs some more. Joshua hated that, but it did help; after a little while, his O2 improved slightly – 91/92.
The nurse gave him a dose of steroids to help with lung inflammation. Then they took him back for x-rays. I was very glad Nate had come because, as I’m pregnant, I couldn’t have gone back with Joshua. So Nate went with him that way our poor baby wasn’t alone.
His x-ray came back clear. The doctor said it looked normal for a young child who had a “viral infection” but there was no evidence of pneumonia. Everyone was very nice and I remember feeling relieved that Joshua was in good hands.
They decided to do another breathing treatment, as Joshua’s O2 levels were once again starting to decrease. Once more, his levels went back up for a short while, but again began decreasing after some time.
Here’s a couple pictures I took with my cellphone that night:
You can see his O2 levels are at 90, this is about an hour after a breathing treatment:
Pediatrics was called in to access Joshua. After waiting for a good hour or so, the pediatric resident came in and asked us a million questions. He then disappeared for a 1/2 hour and eventually came back with the “hospitalist” (on staff head pediatrician.) She told us they were going to admit Joshua as he obviously needed more help & monitoring. At this point, Joshua was exhausted and falling asleep in my arms. He refused to let us put the oxygen mask near him, but once he drifted off to sleep I was able to hold it by his face. With 100% oxygen, his levels improved to 92/93.
When we found out Joshua was going to be admitted, Nate & I decided that he would take Nathan & Emily home & try to get some rest. I would stay at the hospital with Joshua. The doctors & nurses seemed to think Joshua might be released in the morning so we were hopeful it would be as simple as that. At about 12:30, Nate & the kids went home.
Tuesday 9/21 – Early Morning:
Joshua was finally moved up to a room on the pediatric floor at 1:30 am. Apparently there were a lot of “respiratory kids” admitted and it took them awhile to clear a room for us. The room was semi-private and while there was no one in the other bed, they did warn us that it was the last available bed on peds, so if someone else was admitted, we would have a roommate. (Thankfully, we did not!)
The resident had been a little concerned about Joshua being dehydrated as he hadn’t eaten or drank much all day. The doctor had said we could try giving him small amounts of pedialyte (he had drank some water in the ER and then threw it up all over me, so we would have to go slowly.) But poor Joshua was so exhausted that, after screaming while the very sweet nurse assessed him, he fell asleep. Once asleep, his SATS dropped to 88-90 again, so the nurse set up supplemental oxygen which we had blowing on his face. This helped improve his levels to 92/93.
With Joshua finally asleep, I attempted to get some rest, but it was pretty impossible. Everytime he moved, his oxygen level would drop due to the oxygen not blowing directly on him, and the monitors would alarm. It was a long exhausting night and I was just so worried about my little guy.
Joshua woke up around 6:30 and was very angry & thirsty. I asked for some pedialyte to give him. I could only give him 10 ml (basically a dropperful) every 5-10 minutes, as we didn’t want him to throw it all up. Poor Joshua was so thirsty and would suck that down and then scream and turn hysterical when I wouldn’t immediately give him more. It was just horrible. I knew he was hungry too, so I asked if he was allowed to eat. Of course, that took another 15 minutes for the nurse to verify that he was allowed food and then for them to get him some Cheerios. Once he was able to eat, he calmed down some and felt a little better.
Around this time, it was shift change and a new nurse came in. She & I started off on the wrong foot. Joshua had finally stopped screaming and was sitting calmly in my arms. His O2 levels were around 90 and the nurse said we needed to put the oxygen mask on him. The doctor had just been in to see him, knew his level was low, and so did the other nurses. They were ok with me waiting to put the mask near his face until he was asleep. We all knew if I (or anyone) put it near his face when he was awake, he would scream and throw a horrible fit and it was nearly impossible to keep the oxygen near his face anyways. So it just made sense to wait. Especially as he was constantly being monitored and while his O2 was low, it wasn’t getting worse than 89. So I told the nurse I wanted to wait a few more minutes. She said: “Well it’s either the mask or I’ll pull out the nasal canula.” I told her again that I wanted to wait, he was almost asleep, and the doctor and other nurses had been fine with waiting. The nurse immediately became irritated and said “Well I’m going to have to tell the doctor that you’re refusing.” I was so angry then – here I am going on 24 hours of no sleep, 5 months pregnant, fighting off a cold, and extremely worried about my poor baby, and here is this cranky old nurse who is refusing to listen to me, and trying to paint me as an uncooperative parent when that was not the case at all! I was so close to asking for a new nurse! I told her: “I’m not refusing. I’m just saying I want to wait a few minutes.” I reiterated that I completely understood that it was important for him to have oxygen, but it was pointless at that exact moment. And if we waited 5 more minutes, we could put the oxygen on him successfully.
Thankfully, the nurse said “ok” and left. I’m not sure if she realized I was trying or decided it wasn’t worth fighting me or what, but I was thankful to be left alone.
We mainly dealt with her “assistant nurse” for the rest of the day, which I was very relieved about, but later on, the first nurse was much nicer. I’m not sure what happened, but maybe she realized that I truly was just tired and I was cooperating and just wanted what was best for Joshua. All in all, it worked out. We had the nurse for all of Tuesday and then yesterday too and she was super sweet all day yesterday and I just loved her. I guess it goes to show first impressions aren’t everything. Thank God!
Back to Tuesday: We had been given the impression while in the ER that Joshua would just be observed throughout the night and we would likely go home in the morning. When the doctors did their rounds, it quickly became clear that was not the case. While Joshua was slowly & clearly improving – and he clearly felt much better once he was able to eat and get some fluids – his oxygen levels were still not stable enough. He required supplemental oxygen throughout the morning. The doctor had the nurses start Joshua on an inhaler – he would receive treatments every 8 hours.
Joshua did not have pneumonia. The doctor said they were treating him as if he had Bronchiolitis or inflammation in his lungs from an asthma attack. She said that based on his history of allergies & eczema, he has a good chance of developing asthma. But at this point and time, his body was likely reacting to a virus that targeted his respiratory system, and they usually call this “Bronchiolitis.”
The head pediatrician on duty was very nice and I really liked her. She was kind and personable and clearly loved children. She took care of Joshua the entire time we were there, which helped a lot. Sometimes they’ll see multiple doctors and then you end up with communication issues and different doctors have different standards. It was much nicer to have just one doctor (with a couple residents under her) on Joshua’s case and she consulted with our family doctor. She took her time to explain things to us and as much as possible, minimize the discomfort to Joshua. Even though the resident was pushing for Joshua to receive IV fluids early Tuesday morning, the head doctor held off and I am so grateful to her. Once Joshua started drinking, he was just fine and had no more issues with possible dehydration. Throughout his entire hospital stay, they never gave Joshua an IV – thank You, Lord!
Nate arrived with Nathan and Emily. He wasn’t able to find someone to watch the kids, so he ended up needing to take the day off work. At the time – while I was dealing with a screaming very sick toddler – I felt so alone and discouraged. But I talked to my mom, who encouraged me that I needed to make sure we were communicating to people that we truly did have a need and not to feel alone. Sure enough, it turns out communication was the problem. The next day, when our need became clear, we had many offers of help, which we were/are so grateful for!
Joshua started to stabilize and his levels began to stay up nicely while he was awake. We could tell he was beginning to feel better and act more like himself. In fact, he started doing better as soon as Nate brought Nathan & Emily. He perked right up when he saw his daddy & siblings and became happy & excited. His oxygen levels immediately started doing better and we were able to put aside the extra oxygen while he was awake. It made sense that he did better when his whole family was around him – Joshua is pretty much never away from his siblings. Because I homeschool, he’s around them pretty much 24/7, short of a couple hours here and there for church, etc.
Just before Nate arrived, I realized how completely exhausted I was – going on 30+ hours of no sleep and I was coming down with the same cold the kids had. Add to that, I was starting to notice frequent braxton hicks contractions and I knew I had to be careful to take care of myself and our little Luke.
Nate took over at the hospital for me, so I could take Nathan & Emily home to pick up a few things and try to get a short nap in. I felt better just leaving the hospital and breathing some fresh air! We came home and our sweet neighbors watched Nathan & Emily for a little while so I could get a nap. It was so incredibly kind of them. I was able to change my clothes, wash my face (it’s amazing how just doing something so trivial can make you feel more human), and get a few more things for the hospital.
I was also finally able to make a few phone calls and talked to one of my friends who offered to take Nathan & Emily. She ended up watching them for a few hours that evening, which allowed Nate & I to have time to ourselves (which of course is a relative term when there are doctors & nurses in and out and constant interruptions) to think and make plans. As it became clear Joshua would be spending another night in the hospital, we had to figure some things out.
The doctor said Joshua was doing much better, but his oxygen levels were still decreasing to 89-91 while he slept and that needed to improve before she was comfortable releasing him. She thought he’d be able to go home in the morning, but how he did that night would be the test.
We decided that Nate would spend the night at the hospital while I went home with the kids and got some rest. I felt so torn, but I knew that Joshua was stable, he was in good hands, Nate would take good care of him (plus Joshua is very much a Daddy’s boy), and I needed to think about Luke too, which meant taking care of myself. It was definitely the right decision.
I took a safe-while-pregnant sleep aid and went to bed early that night. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep on my own without a little help. It worked and I slept pretty well, short of waking up a few times because of my now obvious head cold.
Wednesday 9-22 morning:
I called Nate for an update. Joshua had slept pretty well, but he continued to need extra oxygen. He was not going to be heading home that morning. I packed up Nathan & Emily and went back to the hospital. When we arrived, the doctor/residents had just finished their rounds. They decided to increase Joshua’s inhaler dosage and up the frequency to every 4 hours. They hoped that this, combined with twice daily doses of steroids would be enough to open up Joshua’s lungs all the way.
Nate’s aunt volunteered to take care of Nathan & Emily for the day, so Nate could go to work. We were/are sooo very thankful. The kids had a lot of fun with her and it was a big relief to us.
I stayed at the hospital with Joshua. He was happy & played that morning. In the hospital playroom, he stood up in the middle of the room without any help and walked a good 10 feet! It’s amazing how kids just pull out new milestones in the middle of/or right after being sick!
Mid-morning, he took a nap. The nurse hooked him back up the oxygen monitor (the doctor had okayed him being off if while he was awake as he was doing so much better) and I sent a bunch of text messages to friends & family, asking for prayer that Joshua’s SATS would stay high.
God answered our prayers and Joshua’s levels did not dip below 93 the entire 2 hour nap.
It was such wonderful news! I think the nurse was almost as excited as I was – it was really sweet.
Our little guy woke up and was very hungry.
Those steroids had really increased his appetite. Especially his appetite for Cheerios. He ate 4-5 containers of Cheerios Wednesday alone! After he finished eating, he threw what he could at me and on the floor before I stopped him. He developed a habit of starting to put something in his mouth and then suddenly deciding against it and rapidly flinging it on the floor. But then he would eat the next bite, so I would never know what was going to go flying through the air. I felt bad for the poor cleaning people, but the lady assured me they were used to it and it was no problem.
The afternoon was rather long and boring, with more evaluations from the student nurses who were there training. Bless their hearts, I know they have to learn, but it was hard to be patient when one student kept putting Joshua’s O2 monitor on his foot the wrong way and it wasn’t getting accurate readings. Accurate readings were the key to us going home! I didn’t say anything in front of her but after she left and our main nurse came in, I asked her to check it and she fixed it.
Joshua was moody that afternoon. The nurses said the inhaler treatments could make him jumpy & hyper, plus the steroids would make him moody. And it was definitely evident that afternoon when he was clearly tired and ready for a nap, yet he kept popping up and jumping around the hospital crib.
Here he is pointing to the monitors. He had ripped off the oxygen saturation lead again, so they turned the monitors off for a while.
Then he would whine, then laugh, then whine some more.
But he clearly needed to rest and if I took him out of the crib, he got even more cranky. So I sat in the chair next to him and just talked to him. Finally at 4:30, he still hadn’t slept more than 20 minutes (during which he kept his SATS up) and I gave up and fed him dinner.
I was a little discouraged, thinking we would definitely be staying another night. I thought the doctor would have wanted him to take another good long nap and kept his O2 levels up by himself before releasing us.
But at 5pm, she surprised me by showing up and saying we could go home. She listened to Joshua’s lungs once more and said he sounded “wonderful.” An hour later, after getting meds and instructions from the nurses, we were discharged! We were instructed to give Joshua his steroids twice a day through Friday and we had to continue his inhaler treatments every 4 hours around the clock.
While I was driving home, the head nurse called and said the student nurse hadn’t given Joshua his 5:15 scheduled inhaler dose. Oops! She said I could give it to him as soon as we got home.
By the time I had stopped at the pharmacy to get Joshua’s prescriptions filled (I had to stop as they would be closing soon and we didn’t have enough steroid meds for the morning dose) and we arrived home, he didn’t get his albuteral until 7:15 – 2 hours later than planned. But he did fine, which was a good sign.
Wednesday Evening – HOME!
Joshua was so cute when we got home. When he saw our house, he pointed, said “Ahhh?!” and just grinned. As soon as we walked in the door, he wanted to get down and he immediately went to pet the cat. He was SO happy to be home and out of that hospital! So was I!
Nate came home with Nathan & Emily a little while later – we were released so quickly, he didn’t have enough time to pick them up & meet us at the hospital! It was a good thing we had both cars! Once my whole family was home, I just felt this huge weight lift off my shoulders. We were all back where we belong and it felt wonderful.
Joshua had a good night. He slept straight through and went right back to sleep when Nate & I had to wake him twice for his inhaler. Even though I got a fairly solid nights’ sleep myself, I woke up feeling like a ton of bricks had hit me. Wow, I’m exhausted. Nate is too.
I had to take Joshua to our own doctor for a follow up checkup this afternoon. It was great to see her again and to get reassured over some things. She thinks we’ll be able to avoid any possible future repeat incidents because we now have an inhaler for Joshua. If he ever gets “wheezy” or short of breath, we can use that. Right now, Joshua is doing very well. He’s still getting over his cold & is still coughing but his lungs sound pretty clear and his oxygen levels were excellent today. The doctor said to continue every 6 hour inhaler doses for the next 24 hours and if he does well, we can then extend them every 8 hours. Then every 12 hours, and then we can stop, assuming he continues to breathe well.
We did one treatment at noon and by 5:45 tonight, I noticed Joshua’s breathing was a little noisier. So he still definitely needs regular treatments, but seems to be ok with 6 hour intervals. Hopefully his lungs will continue to heal and we’ll have him off the inhaler soon. Regardless, I am again just so thankful to have him HOME!
For now, we are HOME, resting, trying to regain some sanity in our lives, oh yes and our health, and just praising God that Joshua is okay. Today, our trusted dr – who is pretty laid back – told me that she was very glad we took Joshua in when we did. If we had waited until Tuesday morning, it could have turned very bad.
Joshua was in the hospital for about 48 hours, just 2 days and 2 nights. Those were two of the longest days/nights, I have ever experienced. The doctors & nurses & staff were wonderful and they did a great job of making an awful situation better. But it didn’t change the fact that staying in the hospital is pretty miserable. For the patient, for the parents, for the whole family.
I’ve realized anew just how much families go through when they have a child hospitalized. The days blend into one another, yet they seem endless. Your family is scattered and you are exhausted. And yet some families have to go through this for weeks or even months at a time. I just can’t imagine.
One of the biggest stressers for me – aside from worrying about Joshua of course – was not being able to be his mom in a way that I am used to. Normally, I make the decisions for my kids – I decide what they eat & drink, how often, I hold & hug them whenever I want. But in the hospital, I had to refer to the doctors & nurses for all of those things. All of a sudden, I had to ask if I could give my son a drink. I had to ask if I could throw out his dirty diaper or do they need to weigh it? I had to let them know that I was going to hold my little boy. It was very strange and I didn’t like it one bit. Again, I can’t imagine having to live like that for an extended period of time. Or even worse, like some poor parents, not even being able to hold their newborn baby. I just can’t imagine.
To all of our friends, family, & my blog readers who have lifted us up in prayer, who have helped with meals or watching our children, and to all those who offered, Thank you. We are truly blessed.
What a wild ride.