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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Laugh or You'll Go Bonkers

Here's what happened this week with my sick kiddos. It's a saga, I'm warning you.

Saturday night, Ella spiked a 103.1 degree fever, horrible cough, and cold symptoms. I took her to the pediatrician the next morning, who tested for strep and the flu, both which came back negative. Doctor #1, as we'll call him, told me that she probably just had a virus that would run its course, give her fluids and Tylenol, blah blah blah. If she still had the fever on Tuesday, I should bring her back. Then he actually said "Good luck." As if that's the only thing he could give me. Luck. Hm, didn't fill me with a lot of confidence, but I took my sick, hot baby home.

Guess where we went on Tuesday morning? Yep, back to Dr. #1. Ella had had a fever all weekend and was just not doing well. He saw us and said "Still not better?" Now you have to imagine an older gentleman, who is very good at his doctor-y job, but sort of aloof and grumpy- looking. Not Dr. Warm Fuzzies. Dr. #1 checked Ella over again and said that now he heard crackles in her right lung. Which indicated pneumonia. The doctor did a test to see if send away to see if the pneumonia was a type that is resistant to the normal drugs kids are put on. Ella got medicine and the doctor sent us on our way, again with the "Good luck." I think he means it in a nice way but it comes of in a snarky, doubtful way. 

Overnight, I thought Ella was improving a tiny bit. She actually slept for about 2 consecutive hours, about twice that night! I have been sleeping in Ella's bed next to her, so it's been a tiring, scrunched week of sleep. On Wednesday morning, Jonah was home from school with a tummy ache. Since we've all, except Jonah, had what apparently is not the flu but the Noro Virus (Doctor #1 informed me), I wasn't sure if Jonah's tummy ache was due to the dreaded Noro Virus or to anxiety. Ella seemed to be doing ok that morning, eating a tiny bit again, walking around a little more. Her fever was down to around 100 degrees. 
Baby Aidan with a bubble hat
Then about noon she started getting really fussy and wanted to just be held. I stopped what I was doing and sat down on the couch to cuddle her and rest. We watched "Spongebob"- one of Ella's top three favorite shows, but she kept complaining that she was tired. Her body felt different as I held her. She wasn't able to hold herself up on me at all, she just slumped into me with her whole being. Then she fell asleep. That never happens. I knew something was up. 

When Ella woke up from her nap, I took her temperature because she felt like she was literally on fire. She was at 103.7. Yikes. My stomach clenched with fear. Ella couldn't really wake up. She just kept laying down and whining. I noticed her tummy when she breathed looked like when Ben and Jonah got RSV as preemies and were almost hospitalized AGAIN after I had finally gotten them home from the NICU. I was worried about Ella. I called the pediatrician and spoke with a nurse. She took the information and tracked down Dr. #1, and then called me back. She said that Dr. #1 had said "Well, Ella wasn't THAT bad yesterday, how could she have gotten so much worse?"


The nurse said she had told Dr. #1 that Mom had noticed a significant change in Ella and felt that she needed to be seen. I thanked the nurse for advocating for me. She said that after many years of talking to moms, a mom just knows when there is something really wrong with her child. So Ella and I went back to the doctor.

Dr. #1 was at the office, but too booked to see us, so we saw Dr. #2. I explained everything that I was worried about as Ella lay limp and burning in my arms. Dr. #2 checked Ella over and said he heard a lot of crackling in her right lung. And her oxygen saturation level was poor. And she was dehydrated. And she shouldn't be having such high fevers if the meds were working, so obviously the pneumonia was progressing and she was not responding to the current meds. 

Just let me add, I love Dr. #2. I love most of our pediatricians, and I know them all because we're there a LOT. But Dr. #2 has a way about him that is calm and makes you feel like you have time to think of, AND ask, all your questions. He made me want to cry just by having him there. I know he respects Mommies. 

Dr. #2 said he was going to pull Dr. #1 in to check Ella also, because he wanted to hear if there was a change from yesterday in Ella's lung. Dr. #1 came in, didn't even really speak to me, and started listening to Ella's chest. Then he went out to talk with Dr. #2. He said that the pneumonia had definitely taken a more serious turn. The test to see if it was the resistant kind of bacteria wasn't back yet. So the doctors discussed in the hallway how to proceed. As my little baby kept whimpering "I want to go home now." She must have known what was coming. 

Blood test.

Ella had a blood test to see what her white cell count was, and that would determine the way the doctors chose to treat her. We needed to find out if the pneumonia was in her blood. Scary. We didn't know if Ella would need to be hospitalized.

The blood test did not go well because although there were three of us holding Ella still, the nurse could still not find a vein. Today Ella has a lovely large purple bruise. Ella screamed until she turned red, but didn't shed any tears because her body was all dried up inside. That was so hard. I think they need to film these things and show them to people who are debating whether to have children. It is so painful to have to put your children through pain even if you know it's for their own good.

Several times while Dr. #2 was talking with me, I felt like I was going to burst into tears. Like when you know you have to throw up but it doesn't come right away and you're able to choke it back. Those were my tears. You're just in such a scary place and you don't know what the answers will be about one of the loves of your life, and you're helpless. So after the blood test I knew we had 15 minutes until the doctor came back in with the results, so I held Ella and she wept without tears and I wept enough for both of us. Man, sometimes parenthood really sucks.

Sometimes parenthood is great- Fall 2008
The doctor came back with the good news that Ella's blood results were good. No pneumonia in her blood, and so what both doctors thought they should do is add another medication to Ella's growing list, and see if that would help heal her tiny body. There was a chance it wouldn't help, because it may be that the pneumonia is being caused by the medication-resistant bacteria, in which case she would need medication that is not approved for use in children. Fantastic. Sign us up for that!

The doctor said if anything changed at all overnight we needed to go to an ER immediately. If Ella's breathing worsened, if her fever got higher, if she got more lethargic, if she got dehydrated...I said she IS dehydrated! What should I do? The doctor said we could go to the hospital, get oxygen and fluids, and probably a chest x-ray, or I could take her home and try every possible way to get fluids into her. We decided on the second option. I can't stand having my kids in hospitals, after them being there for so long after each of their premature births. The doctor had confidence that I could keep Ella as healthy overnight as a hospital could. I wasn't filled with such optimism, but I would try.

The night was long, as I slept beside Ella in order to feel her breath and the level of heat she was giving off. Ella slept like a rock for several hours. Then she got up, needing a drink and a snack, and after a couple hours of wakefulness, fell back to sleep for a couple more hours. I laid awake most of the night, watching Ella's back rise and fall. I would carefully sneak my hand under her blankets to feel whether she was struggling for air. But she seemed to just be plugging along, so I finally drifted off.

This morning, the boys all got on the bus for school. Ella woke up and first thing, rolled over and smiled at me. That kid can smile through anything. She seemed weak, but mentally, almost her quick normal self. At 9 am, the school nurse called to tell me that Aidan was in her office, complaining of a bad ear ache. He's had a cough for about 2 weeks, and last night had told Daddy that his ear hurt. Ella and I went to pick Aidan up, and on the way I called to make him an appointment with the pediatrician. They so love us there, this week.

My dad came up to lend moral support for a few hours today, and thank God he did. We got Aidan home, made a plan for the rest of the day, and the phone rang again. It was the school nurse. With Jonah in her office. Complaining of a tummy ache. Again. After trying unsuccessfully to convince him to go back to class, the nurse and I agreed I would come and pick HIM up from school. I left Ella and Aidan with Papu and went to fetch Jonah. I told the school nurse I dared her to call me again with Sick Boy #3!

I brought Jonah home, picked Aidan up and brought him to his doctor's appointment. Aidan has huge Doctor Anxiety, so those visits are never fun, but he did great. And sure enough- sinus and ear infection. 

We went home, where Papu had made a wonderful dinner for us so that all I would have to do was pop it in the oven. Friends, family, teachers, and therapists have been emailing, texting, and calling all day to check on our munchkins and make sure we didn't need anything. I love when our circle of support gathers around us. It reassures me that I am not alone.

Papu left early in the afternoon, after making sure everyone felt loved and hugged. Then the real Crazy set in. Ella was feeling a little better in little spurts. But then she'd be exhausted after expending a little energy and need Mommy Hugs. Any time she got the slightest, tiniest boo boo, she'd get hysterical. When you have sensory issues, you're three, and you're very sick, even getting poked lightly with a pencil tip is extremely traumatic. 

Aidan started really getting sick this afternoon, despite having had his first dose of medicine. His fever increased to 101.3 and he just sort of whimpered all afternoon. He was a mess. He wanted Mommy Snuggles too, but Ella insisted that Aidan "smelled stinky" (her biggest insult- another sensory issue) and refused to share Mommy's lap. So we had to take turns with Mommy's lap. That worked pretty well even though Mommy's lap was getting a little tired.

Ben came home- the only boy to have made it through the school day. I went out to welcome him home, and remind him that he couldn't play until his homework was done. We've realized doing homework first alleviates a million problems for Ben later on in the evening. But Ben didn't come in the house.

Then I realized Jonah still had homework to do. He had a big fuss about doing it, as usual. I let him calm down while I went back outside to find Ben to tell him it was time to come in for his meds and homework. He said he'd be right in. Apparently "right in" in his mind is about 25 minutes. 

I finally got Jonah to the homework table, with his supplies, got his text book and opened it, found a pencil, and then I could see he was shutting down because of anxiety about how the homework was difficult. His tummy hurt, he was tired, he was dizzy, etc. I got him to focus and reminded him that his 504 Plan accommodations say that he can dictate long answers and I can write them for him. As he was looking over the first question, I put on my coat and shoes and stomped out to drag Ben in from playing with his friends. Operation Embarrassment Because You Didn't Listen To Mom was underway. Ben knew he was in the wrong so he came with me without any hassle. 

As Jonah was dictating his homework to me, Ella needed to sit on my lap. Then she had the pencil incident, where she poked her finger and cried for an eternity at the top of her lungs. Then poor, feverish, miserable Aidan weakly told me from the other room that he was starving so much he couldn't even figure out what to eat. But now he knew he needed Cheerios and a banana RIGHT now or he was just going to starve to death. So I ran and got him the required food. He was not looking good so I gave him more Tylenol. Then Ben and Jonah needed headphones to block out Ella's crying, so we found those. Then Ben decided he needed to read "People Magazine" while I helped Jonah with his homework, instead of trying to complete some homework himself. Then Ella had to go potty so I helped her with that. Then back to Jonah's homework. Then Aidan asked if I could please find him two Q-Tips because he needed to feel them in his ears RIGHT NOW. Then I remembered I had to turn on the oven to heat it up to make Papu's delicious dinner. Then Ella coughed and peed in her pants. So I had to run and get her new clothes. Then she decided she actually had to poop. While she was doing that, I rubbed Aidan's shoulder because it's been killing him all day and he was actually crying about it, it hurt so badly. Then I wiped Ella's butt and got her a popsicle so she would continue rehydrating. Then back to Jonah's homework. We finally finished his assignment, so then I got to work with Ben on his dictation of his homework. Then Aidan needed Gatorade. Then Ella needed a piece of paper to write on so she felt like she was doing homework with the big boys. Then I remembered to actually put the dinner in the oven. Then Ella needed more snuggles because she wasn't feeling well. Then I remembered Ella's Blankie needed to be put in the dryer or she wouldn't be able to fall asleep tonight. Then dinner smelled like it was burning because the meatloaf was overflowing, so I had to put tin foil under the pan to catch the drips. Then Aidan started crying because he felt so terrible and really needed a hug. Then Jonah came into the room, about to burst into tears because he was convinced that I had forgotten that he really wanted a haircut and a Frosty from Wendy's sometime today. I had not forgotten, I just had a COUPLE of other things going on.
Jonah, Mommy, and Ben being silly with sticky foamy stuff 2009
Finally, I just sat with Ella on my lap - while she screamed with some new pain, Ben with headphones on beside me, reading People instead of doing homework, Jonah on the other side of me with his headphones on, trying to find an answer to a question about the Titanic, and poor Aidan in the other room, with his vocal tics of pain and high fever and ear ache, and I laughed. I laughed my head off. I couldn't stop laughing. Jonah said "Mom, are you crying?" I said no! I'm just laughing, because sometimes when life is so crazy and hard, you just have to laugh. So we all started laughing. We laughed together until our sides hurt. Except for Aidan, who was really too worn out from being sick. He didn't think this crazy life was very funny at the moment. But boy, I did. I looked at us from the outside and thought about how absolutely insane my family is, and how I wouldn't trade it for anything because at this moment no one is in a hospital and no one is seriously ill and I'm not wracked with worry and tears aren't leaking out my eyes because of cold fear that my children will not be ok. Instead, tears were leaking out my eyes because of just how crazy my life is. This is not normal, right? This level of Crazy cannot be normal. But it's all I've got, so I'll take it.

Today I watched as my children comforted each other during moments of illness or sadness. At one point, Ella rubbed Aidan's legs while I rubbed his shoulder, so he would feel better. She gave him a kiss on his hot forehead to show she loved him. Jonah convinced Ella to stay with him and Papu while I took Aidan to the doctor today so that they could have fun and not worry about Aidan being sad at the doctor. Before bath time tonight, Ben heard Ella crying over some new boo boo and so he made "Ben's Confection Invention" for her. He brought her a bowl of ice cream. On the sides of the bowl were two flavors of Ella's favorite lollipops. Covering the ice cream were red sprinkles, jelly beans, and Twizzler pieces. And the piece de resistance- the whole beautiful thing was topped with a bright pink paper ball decoration on a toothpick that Ben had found in the cupboard. You should have seen Ella's pale little face light up at the sight of her brother's amazing creation. These children of mine know how to love. Even though we have an extremely high level of Crazy in this family, boy can we love. We love fiercely and with our whole beings. And that, if I can teach my children that, I think I will have taught them the most important thing in life.

Ben and Ella sharing snuggles and lunch last Fall
Here's to a less crazy night. Here's thanking the family and friends who love us. Here's to having all my sweet babies in their own beds upstairs, not wondering if we'll end up in a hospital tonight. Here's hoping Ella will sleep well and breathe easy, and Aidan's ear will start healing, and Jonah's dreams will drift him away from his anxiety. And here's hoping that Mama will get some rest so I can get up and do all the Crazy again tomorrow. I swear, if you don't laugh, you absolutely will go bonkers.

I told you it was a saga.

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