Sunday, April 28, 2013

Intensive Care

What Ben and I have always liked best about the kids' pediatrician is that his party line is, "I am not concerned."  For the past almost 7 years, this has been exactly the right thing to say to us because we are usually concerned about everything.  We called the doc-on-call the night baby Harry lost his umbilical cord, for example, because his belly button was a little bloody.

On Friday morning, though, when I took a snotty, feverish, foul-tempered Cooper and a white, weak-voiced Harry who was complaining of increasing chest pain and could not catch his breath when we walked up the stairs to the doctor, the pediatrician was very clearly concerned.  I could tell because he spent over two minutes listening to Harry's heart and then asked the other pediatrician in the office to come in and listen, too.  He also sent Cooper to the lab for a complete blood count instead of confidently telling me it was the dread Justavirus (which it totally turned out to be-- I got the diagnosis over the phone while I was in the ER, but I am getting ahead of myself.)  The telltale sign of concern came in the waiting room at 10:26 am where we were waiting (duh) for Cooper's blood test and the doctor came to find us to tell us he spoke to a pediatric cardiologist at the children's hospital and we should go to the ER.  Right away.  (As soon as, you know, we tortured Cooper with a CBC, the cherry on top of a swell office visit.)  No, it wouldn't be a good idea to go pick Jack up at school first, and no, we really shouldn't wait for Ben to come home from class even if it meant dragging a 6-week old and an infected toddler to the hospital.  We should go there.  Right away.  (But first I asked for some Tylenol for poor wretched Cooper whose ibuprofen had worn off).

So we did, me frantically calling the school secretary so Jack could stay in the office until Ben made it home, Harry sobbing because all he wanted to do was go home and take a hot bath, Cooper screaming because of the blood draw, the fever, and the waterfall of mucus exiting his eyes, nose, and mouth.

As soon as we got there, Harry had his second echo cardiogram of the week, this one showing an enormous increase in fluid around his heart.  I didn't know that the echo was bad, though, until a couple of (brilliant, awesome, took such good care of Harry) cardiology fellows came down to see hm and casually mentioned in the course of conversation that we were being admitted to the PICU so they could drain the fluid in a couple of hours.  Who the what now? (Tip from someone who studies communication:  WORK ON YOUR BEDSIDE MANNER A TEENY BIT).

They were right, of course, and by 4:26 that afternoon, Harry was sedated, Jack and Cooper were home with my brother, and Ben, Dorothy and I were walking the halls of the pediatric intensive care unit while a terrifyingly large team of crash cart wielding cardiologists and critical care doctors STUCK A CATHETER IN HARRY'S PERICARDIUM, or as Ben and I understood it, put a pen in his heart, because one of the docs took a ballpoint pen apart and showed us the tube when we asked a logistical question about the procedure, so that's what we said to make each other laugh.  We imagined it was a lot like that scene from Pulp Fiction only with Patch Adams instead of the John Travolta character. (And obviously, the goal of the procedure was not to stick anything in his heart-- that was one of the risks though--one of a list of risks that were so stomach turning and petrifying I had to walk away and let Ben hear the rest of them).

The doctors drained 8 ounces of fluid from Harry's pericardium. 8 ounces.  That's a lot.

 He has fluid around his lungs as well.  He's in the PICU with manageable pain and a drain in his chest.  We don't know what caused the effusion.  He is in fairly good spirits, and so are we.

Saddest thing he said:

I told him the good news about checking into the hospital was that he didn't have to be in pain anymore because the nurses could help him.  He asked how, and I said they had lots of medicine.  He asked what kind, and I said any kind he could imagine.  He asked if they had cherry.

Since then. he has learned about ketamine, midazolam, and morphine.

We're hanging in there, even if there is a place we never thought we'd be.
so helpful in the ER, this one

resting heart rate in the mid-140s at this point in the ER


moby wrap worth its weight in gold

homework in the PICU



  1. I can't even imagine what this must feel like for you. I think the world of you and Ben and family so I'm sending nothing but good thoughts your way. Speedy recovery Harry!

  2. Oh my goodness, the poor baby! I am so glad you are in such good hands and I hope they can figure out what happened and that he is feeling better soon. I am so sorry he is having so much trouble.

    The medicine story is heartbreaking. Poor Harry. I hope it gave him some relief.

  3. Julie J.9:22 AM

    So sorry for you and Harry. It is so scary when our kids get "hospital worthy" sick. I'm just glad they were able to find out what the problem was, and had a solution.I hope it gets better each day, and Harry is back to his old self soon! We are thinking of you guys!!!

  4. *hugs* I've got you all in my thoughts.

  5. Been searching for updates -- so glad he is feeling better. Resting heart rate in the 140s? Holy shit. That's like fetus-level!

    I hope he milks this one for all it's worth when he gets home. New baby in the house? OK new baby, I see your cuteness and raise you one heart procedure. Your move. :)

  6. Ugh. Being in the hospital sucks as it is, but when it's your kid? Forgetaboutit.
    Thinking of you all!

  7. Oh no! But thank goodness for good doctors! So sorry to hear this; hope Harry's checked out and back to 100% in no time!

  8. Oh my word. I saw your picture on IG and have been thinking of you guys all weekend, hoping there would be a blog update when I got to work. I can imagine how terrifying it all was, and what it must have been like to admit Harry by yourself with the baby and Cooper... Oh my word. I'm so glad they were able to help him quickly. Poor little tyke.

  9. I cannot imagine. Ethan was admitted w/ croup when he was 18m old, but it was NOTHING like that. I'm glad he's starting to feel better and that you need not ever see the inside of the ER or the PICU again, with any of the kids!