Sunday, December 9, 2007

RSV, or Why I Won't Hold Your Newborn

The little one is sick again, and everytime he gets sick, I think about our time we've spent battling his breathing, or lack thereof.

The first time he was in the hospital was arguably one of the most stressful times in my entire life.

When he was 39 days old, I discovered that I'd made a HUGE mistake. We'd simply forgotten to put him on my husband's insurance within the 30 days after he'd been born. I was informed of this by the cardiologist that he was supposed to see for a mild heart murmur. And again by the surgeon who was supposed to repair his dual inguinal hernias. I spent the next couple of days begging human resources and the insurance company to help me. They couldn't, or wouldn't.

A woman, sent to me by God (there's simply no other explanation), struck up a conversation with me over the weekend after my three days of begging. She's the only other person in the world I've met who did the same stupid thing. She explained that they got catastrophe coverage from their Allstate agent, for peace of mind.

Peace of mind, apparently, was the least of my worries. That Monday, I went to my Allstate agent, applied for the coverage for my little baby with a cold. It went into effect on Wednesday at midnight. I called the new pediatrician on Wednesday morning for advice for my baby who couldn't breathe. They explained that I should care for him at home with saline and humidifiers. He's 46 days old, just shy of seven weeks old. I was sleeping on the couch with him at night so he could sleep upright and begging him to nurse.

That was also the day that my husband got a vasectomy. I wouldn't ordinarily mention this, but the man had been promised 72 hours of sitting on the couch with a bag of frozen peas and a wife at his beck and call. He was not that lucky.

Thursday morning, I called the pediatrician again. They reluctantly agreed to an appointment that afternoon. I knew nothing of breathing troubles. I knew ear infections inside and out, but this was all new territory. Knowing what I know now, we would have already been at the emergency room, as he was in severe respiratory distress. I just didn't know it. All I knew was that each breath seemed to be a full body effort and that he hadn't had a good meal in days.

About 30 seconds after I arrived at the pediatricians office, he was given a breathing treatment with 100% oxygen. About ten minutes later, they were walking me and the baby, still on oxygen, over to the hospital, pushing my other two children in the stroller. The pediatrician asked me if I was worried about my insurance - apparently my face registered concern. I said no, I was worried about how on earth I was going to call my husband and ask him, 36 hours after surgery in a delicate place, to help me. I had promised that I wouldn't need his help for 72 hours, that I surely I could do it on my own for three days. But here I was, needing him like I'd never needed him before.

I waited about three more hours before I called him, and he didn't even complain once. He limped to the hospital, got the other two children (who were 20 months and 4, mind you) and called his mother. This was one of the times she rescued us.

But inside the hospital room, with my tiny baby, I still didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what the monitors were saying, I didn't know what was wrong with him. It felt like hours that we were in that room monitors were beeping (I had no idea that that number that was 76 should have been a 100. I had no idea that when the monitors beeped you had to go hunt down a nurse, that they didn't come to you). I didn't understand why they had to wait until the end of a shift to get a NICU nurse to put his IV in - the regular nurses tried and tried, but he was so small and dehydrated that they couldn't get it. The NICU nurse couldn't go back to the NICU after being near him. I didn't understand any of that, and none of it was explained to me.

They suctioned him and suctioned him. They explained to my broken heart that if I'd let him stay in respiratory distress much longer that he would have gone into cardiac distress. They gave him oxygen and medications that I didn't recognize. They xrayed him and hydrated him and suctioned him some more. And gave him breathing treatments every two hours. I tried to sleep, in my clothes, and picked at the hospital food.

Finally, the next morning, they gave me a name for what was wrong with my baby and a tiny amount of information. For someone who wants to know every detail, it had been torture for me. He had RSV and he would be fine. Except for that some of these babies have a hard time with their breathing for a very long time. I naively thought that I would not need my nebulizer for my infant for longer that the 10 days.

Since then, I've learned that insurance is a beautiful thing (between that hospital stay and the hernia surgery and all the other garbage from the first eight months of his life, that stranger saved us over $35,000). I've educated myself on my son's breathing and his medication and what oxygen saturation is and how it relates to his heart rate when he's monitored. I've learned when I can handle an illness at home, when I need the doctor and when I need an emergency room. I've learned to not let them put the IV in his left hand, even though it's his best vein, because if that boy can't suck his thumb in the hospital everyone will regret it. I've learned not to forget his woop. I've learned how much I hate steroids, but how I'm so grateful to them. I've learned to always bring the nebulizer on vacation, because if I don't bring it, we'll need it.

I've learned that information is power. And that my husband will always rescue me.


Karen (Pediascribe) said...

Wow. How scary!

green.barn said...

My darling daughter,

I am so glad you wrote this down. You can still make your dried up old squinch of a mother cry.

CASister said...

And your sister, too.

We know the story and love the boy. Those days were tough.

God bless doctors and modern medicine. And mothers. And fathers. And mothers-and-fathers-in-law!

Anonymous said...

My precious family,

I too have shed tears for this special little boy in these situations.

God will never forsake us. He always has an angel somewhere just standing by to reach out to us when we need them most. Isn't that the greatest reassurance.

How blessed all 3 children are to have such wonderful and caring parents.

Always share your burdens with your family. It's good to have a shoulder to lean on.

#2 said...

Thanks y'all.

Had it not been for my family, I wouldn't have made it through with any shred of sanity. And believe me, shreds are all I'm hanging on to anymore.