Last night, Scott and I had to watch one of our children being loaded into an ambulance for the second time this year. It’s not something I ever want to see again. PJ has had a fever ranging from 100+ to 103 since early last week, and we found out on Friday that she has croup. The poor girl has been so uncomfortable, and has been up repeatedly every night since she first woke up crying at 3:45am last Tuesday. Sunday night, she had been up at 11pm, 2am, 3:20am, 5am, and then at 7:45; she finally got up for the day… Each time she awakens, we bring her into bed with us with her beloved “Ducky”, give her some milk in her special cup, and just let her get herself together cuddled between the two of us in bed. It’s so difficult when you have a sick child that is old enough to know she’s miserable, yet too young to explain where it hurts or to understand that we’re doing all we can do to fix it.
Last night at 12:45, Scott heard her screaming – not crying, just screaming – over the monitor. He went right up to her room and she was kneeling on her bed, shaking uncontrollably. He brought her into our bed as we’ve been doing for the past week and woke me up. The poor girl was an absolute mess. She was shaking like I’ve never seen before, and she kept stiffening up and squeezing her hands into tight little white-knuckled fists. I was expecting her to be burning up with fever, but her hands and face were surprisingly cold. I told Scott I was really concerned and wondered aloud if we should take her to the hospital, or call her pediatrician. I also pondered calling one of my pediatrician friends, but didn’t want to be that kind of person. She had refused milk and her Ducky, so we asked her if she wanted to read her Abby Cadabby matching book – her current favorite. She told us that she did, so Scott went to the foot of our bed and retrieved it from our ottoman where we keep some of the books she likes to read in the morning and before bed. As soon as he switched on his bedside lamp to illuminate the book for her, I saw that her lips were a bluish-purple. At that point I started panicking – I was so, so scared. Scott and I both took the required CPR course when Bo was released from the NICU, but that was ten months ago, and I didn’t know if I had the presence of mind to recall the steps. Some of the things running through my mind at that point were:
- Do I call 911?
- Am I overreacting if I DO call?
- Should we both go with her to the hospital?
- How could we not? She’s so scared of doctors, it would be so difficult for the one who had to go, and the unknown would probably be even harder for the one that stayed.
- Who should I call to come over to watch Bo? Amelia and Jim came to mind, but would they be mad if I called them and woke them? Would they think we were being ridiculous?
- She’s been having all of these sensory issues – is this some kind of sensory reaction to being sick? They told us she’s totally not on the spectrum, but what if she’s suddenly getting much worse and now she is? Will she change after this?
- Is she having a seizure? Oh shit – I thought we were done with the seizure stuff after Bo was cleared in August. I don’t think I can do this again.
- That’s it, I’m calling 911 and Amelia. Screw 911 if they think I’m wrong to call, and Amelia would be really upset if she found out tomorrow that we didn’t.
I called both, and while Scott brought Parker downstairs, I ran outside over to Amelia and Jim’s to knock on their door since she hadn’t answered her phone. She called me back before I even got into their building and said she’d be right over. I apologized about a half-dozen times, and I think she told me to shut up. The ambulance arrived about four minutes after we called and by then PJ was still shaking, but her lips were starting to lose the bluish cast. They asked us a few questions and Scott went to the ambulance with them while I ran out to the car. I think I was telling Amelia to help herself to anything in the house. I believe I specifically mentioned wine (this is not any sort of comment on Amelia having an issue with alcohol that I’d assume she was craving a nice glass of Pinot Noir at 1am, it speaks more to my state of mind at the time)…
I realized as soon as I pulled our car out of its spot that Parker had neither Ducky nor her milk cup, so I stopped the car in the middle of the driveway and ran back into the house to get them. It was the least I could do to help or comfort her in a situation where I otherwise felt I had such a lack of control.
The drive over was horrible. I knew she was going to be okay, but driving behind that ambulance, and then passing the building of the hospital which housed the NICU I visited Bo in four and five times a day just flooded me with a horrible deja vu sense of fear. To this day, whenever I see an ambulance with sirens blaring, I still wonder if someone’s baby is inside there, fighting for his life. After PJ was born, I would visit friends at that hospital who’d had babies and just loved going back and somehow reliving those amazing five days I first fell in love with my little girl. After Bo was born, the entire building changed for me. I saw it as the place where I didn’t get to hold him, where we got one piece of devastating news after the other, where I thought he was going to die before he even got the chance to be held – or know he was already so desperately loved after mere hours on this Earth. It was the place where a week later, five doctors somberly approached Scott and me, asked us to sit down, and told us the unconscionable – that our baby boy had suffered a stroke and the rest of his life was a complete question mark.
Here I was again.
When we got to the hospital, Parker had stopped shaking and was given a hefty dose of Tylenol to quell her fever. She slowly but surely came back to herself and we arrived back home with her a couple of hours later – exhausted, but relieved.
This was a scary night – I think the thing that keeps resonating with me though is how much I was brought back to this past February – how so, so real those old feelings felt again, and how easily they came flooding back. I truly thought I was over the shock of it all. I no longer shudder when I mention that Bo had a stroke, or his resulting hemiplegia or Cerebral Palsy. I thought I had accepted it, and had moved on to the stage of dealing with it. I guess I still have a long road ahead of me…