The kids have been sick, as you know if you read my last post, but yesterday afternoon The Big One gave me a scare. While laying on the couch (where she had been all day), she started crying and holding her neck. When I asked her why she was crying, she told me that the back of her neck hurt in the middle and that her head was hurting. Immediately I thought meningitis. After reading a bit online, I became more concerned. The Big One had many of the symptoms- most alarming to me was the neck pain and headache.
I called my pediatrician and explained the new symptoms as well as the old to the nurse who answered the phone. She put me on hold, pulled The Big One's chart and then proceeded to repeat everything from our visit the day prior. When I asked if I should bring her in, they told me that unless she has not improved in 5-7 days the doctor didn't want a recheck. When I stressed my concern about the neck pain she told me that neck pain is common with a URI (upper respiratory infection) and not to be concerned unless The Big One was still sick in 5-7 days. Really?!?! I hung up the phone angry but determined.
Now, I know a little about medical stuff. Before The Little One was born I evaluated patients for admission into nursing homes. I worked with hospital staff and physicians, and poured through chart after chart. I am familiar with medical terminology, illnesses, medications- the like. I am also familiar with how terribly wrong things can go when a family members concerns go unheard. More often than not, the family member has just enough information to be dangerous, but doesn't know as much as they think they do, but sometimes, their intuition is dead on. And a mother's intuition is force to be reckoned with.
Less than an hour after The Captain got home from work we were in the van headed to the ER. We arrived about 7:30pm and the waiting room was standing room only. After about a two hour wait, we were brought to the room. We waited some more and finally saw the doctor. He looked in her eyes, ears and throat, and then asked her to look up to the ceiling. She tried, but then refused, holding her neck complaining of pain. He sat on the bed, concern in his eyes and suggested that we do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. Ouch. My heart seized with fear and anxiety. I know what a painful procedure my baby was about to have to go through- I've had 3 epidurals, but since meningitis can be deadly, it needed to be done.
The nurse came in to place her IV, and listening to her scream while they searched for the vein was almost too much to bear. As a mother you spend your life trying to keep your children away from things that cause them pain- not putting them into the line of fire. With The Little One in my arms, there was little I could do to comfort her. The helplessness became overwhelming and with tears streaming down my face, I had to leave the room. Standing in the hall outside her room, listening to her screaming and crying, the need to be near her overcame the helplessness and I returned just as they were inserting the IV. What I felt at that moment, was minor compared to what was to come.
The Big One resting before her spinal tap.
After she was sedated the doctor came in for the procedure. The medication she was given did not knock her out, it simply made her groggy enough that she wouldn't remember. The Captain, and two nurses held her in position while the doctor inserted the catheter and withdrew the spinal fluid. She screamed like I have never heard her scream before. Her heart rate nearly topped 200. It was scary. Mostly it was scary because one wrong move and my lively preschooler is paralyzed for life. It was heart wrenching to hear her scream. And once again I felt helpless. Thankfully it was over quickly, the fluid was clear and the results- negative. It was hard knowing that she had to go through all that pain and all was okay, but had we not, the outcome could have been drastically different. After waiting for her to become a little more alert, we were given the all clear to go home- the diagnosis: elevated white cell count, source unknown. Tylenol and Motrin for fever and pain, rest, fluids and a follow up with our pediatrician were the discharge instructions.
Today, she is a bit better. Her back is sore and she tires easily. She is not complaining of neck or head pain. Her fever is gone and she actually got off the couch and ate a little. Today, she has no memory of what happened, but I do and it is an image I won't soon forget. My big girl was so brave, and left the proud owner of a new butterfly pillow and a teddy bear. Whenever I look at those little tokens on her bed I will forever be reminded of how strong and brave she was, and how I was neither of those things.
We couldn't have asked for better experience, considering. The staff was professional, compassionate and caring. Not once did I feel that I was overreacting- instead my concerns were validated. Now, I think it's time to start looking for a new pediatrician.
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