Jan. 31, 2016: The Plague

Our week can be summed up in two words: puke and poop. One might also add hospital to that list. Oh my, it was certainly eventful!

So as you might have guessed, the stomach bug hit our house. At present, it has taken down three of us—only Chris was spared. But Sam got hit by far the hardest. Theo and I didn’t get it too badly, all things considered.

Wednesday night, we ate dinner, and Sam sort of picked at his. But Sam often picks at his dinner, so we thought nothing of it. He was literally running laps in the house before bed and seemed totally fine! We put him to bed, and he went down fine. And then 30 minutes later, we heard him crying and went to investigate. And that’s when it began. For the next twelve hours, it was nonstop vomiting. Every ten minutes or so for most of the night. I moved him into our room because it has an attached bathroom, and he would vomit and then fall asleep on the floor. And then wake ten minutes later to vomit. Again and again and again. Near dawn, it slowed to every forty minutes or so, but by that time there was nothing left in his tummy, so he was mostly just heaving. Honestly, my kids have had the stomach virus before, and neither of them has ever been anywhere close to that sick. Last time, Sam actually got the most mild case of the four of us, in fact! But this time, he was just sick as a dog. His whole little body was just shaking with the effort—it was pitiful.

As it happens, I had his four-year-old well-child check scheduled for Thursday already, so I took him in. I told the pediatrician that I was worried about dehydration, as he couldn’t even keep a single sip of fluid in. The minute he’d take a sip, he’d vomit again. She, too, was concerned about dehydration, so she prescribed him Zofran to stop the vomiting so that he could at least keep down fluids. And indeed, the Zofran worked—his vomiting stopped. And for a while, it seemed like he was on the mend. He didn’t have much energy, of course, but he was sitting up watching TV, and he had a cup of water or Pedialyte with him at all times and was taking small sips. He didn’t want to eat, but I didn’t expect him too, and I didn’t push it. Just made sure he always had a cup of water or Pedialyte and was taking sips.

Friday morning, more of the same. But as Friday went on, he seemed to be going downhill. He hadn’t vomited in more than 24 hours (and no diarrhea), but something was still off. He seemed to have less energy than the day before. On Thursday, he at least got off the couch and walked into the kitchen a few times. On Friday, he would get off the couch and then just lay down on the floor. And he wasn’t really talking much, either. (Not that he talks a ton anyway, but it was noticeably less on Friday.) And as the day went on, I noticed him falling asleep over and over, while sitting up. I had expected him to be tired—he was up literally all night on Wednesdaybut it seemed excessive. By the time Chris went to pick up Theo at school around 2:15, I was getting really nervous. Sam fell asleep on my legs, facing up toward me, and I could see his chest retracting as he breathed and what looked to be a really fast pulse fluttering in his neck. I took his pulse, and Dr. Google told me it was at the very high end of normal for a child of his age…but as I sat there staring at him, I thought, “If he isn’t any better by bedtime, I’m literally going to be afraid to put him to bed, because I might wake up to an unresponsive child.”

And that was the point when I decided to call Kaiser again. (We had already had him in once and talked to advice nurses on the phone twice, and they kept telling us to just give him fluids.) I knew the office was open for two more hours, and I thought maybe they could squeeze us in before they closed for the weekend.

As it turned out, this advice nurse told me to head straight for the emergency room. “We don’t give fluids here anyway—we’d just transport him via ambulance to the hospital if that’s what he needs. So it’d actually be faster for you to just put him in your car and drive to the hospital yourself. And honestly, I’m worried about him, so I’d say pack up and leave right now.”

So I did. And of course, traffic was awful because rush hour was beginning and it was raining and parking was awful. So it took me 45 minutes to make it into the ER, and I was terrified every minute. Sam kept falling asleep, and I kept rousing him as I drove. Chris and Theo followed behind me in a second car, as I was pretty sure we were going to end up being there for a while and they’d have to go home.

The ER doc looked him over and said, “I suspect it’s dehydration, but we’re going to run some tests to be sure. In the meantime, let’s get him started on some IV fluids. We’ll do that for a few hours, and then I think you’ll see a whole different kid, and you’ll be able to go home.” So they did all of their necessary checks, and Sam didn’t flinch at any of them—rectal temperature, blood pressure, pulse ox monitor, ear check, blood draw, insertion of IV…no flinching. The nurses and techs said, “Wow, he’s such a good kid—so cooperative!” and I responded, “That’s because he’s really not feeling well! If he was himself, he’d be fighting you. He hates having this stuff done normally!”

As it turned out, there was a reason why he was so cooperative—he was in severe dehydration and metabolic acidosis (when the blood pH is too acidic). Once the labs came back showing that, they told me they wanted to admit him and continue to push fluids all night long, and then recheck the labs in the morning. No problem by me—I just wanted him well.

So all night long he got fluids—first a quick push of two bags of saline for straight hydration, and then a slow drip of fluids with electrolytes in them to get him back in balance. And in the morning, his bloodwork was much improved. Not perfect, but much improved. But he still wasn’t drinking on his own, and they wanted him to drink before they’d release him. Plus, he still wasn’t acting all that great. They had told me to expect a major improvement, and honestly, the improvement wasn’t that great. He was somewhat better in the morning, but not nearly as much as I had hoped. He still just wanted to lie down most of the time, and his coloring, though improved, still wasn’t very good. He still wasn’t talking much, either. So, they recommended he stay another night. “If he suddenly starts drinking later today, then we can talk about sending him home. But if not, we want to keep him for another night,” the pediatrician said.

So Sam and I spent all of Saturday morning and early afternoon cuddling in the hospital—which was not entirely unpleasant, though I wish the cuddling had been with two healthy people! By this point I had gotten the bug too. I can’t believe how fast it hit—I woke up Saturday morning feeling very hungry, since I hadn’t really eaten since lunchtime the day before. But at about 7:30, as I was standing by Sam’s bed, I was suddenly hit by a horrible wave of nausea, broke out in a cold sweat, and felt weak all over. Oh no!!! I hit the Call button to have a nurse come in to watch Sam while I went and threw up. As it turns out, the vomit never came for me. I felt awful all day—that terrible, nauseated feeling where if anyone even talks about food, you feel everything rise up in your gut. And so achy and feverish with chills…it was dreadful. But I never actually got physically sick. I think it was sheer will that kept everything down—I did not want to kneel over a hospital toilet and vomit!

By this point, Theo was sick too—I had gotten a text from Chris at 2:30 a.m. saying that Theo was throwing up, too. Ugh! Poor kid.

So let’s say that Saturday was not fun, for the most part. But then shortly after lunch, Sam suddenly took a turn for the better. I got up to wash my hands, and when I turned around he was standing next to me, having walked as far as his IV line would allow. He pointed at the door as if to leave, but he was hooked up to an IV, so obviously that wasn’t an option! Then he willingly took a few sips of juice and ate some goldfish crackers. Wahoo!! I asked the nurses to send the pediatrician in when he or she had a chance to stop by, so I could talk to them about whether we really needed to be in another night.

Sam and I actually fell asleep then, so a few hours later the pediatrician came by. When I explained everything to her and she looked over Sam, she said, “I’m comfortable letting him go home if we push one more bag of fluids in him to make sure he doesn’t dehydrate overnight. Then on Sunday, just keep giving him fluids orally to ensure that he doesn’t end up back in here.” Done! As I told her, if it was any threat to his health, I’d absolutely stay in the hospital another night. But I felt so darn sick myself that I really, really just wanted to be home if at all possible. And Sam, by this point, was sitting up on the bed eating crackers and asking for Thomas, so I knew he was doing a whole lot better. She agreed that a good night of sleep (which one does not get in a hospital) would do both of us a world of good, and now I know exactly what to watch for with dehydration. And so we went home at about 8:00, and Sam and I went to bed and slept for 9.5 hours—unheard of for me, and certainly much needed for both of us! It’s now Sunday afternoon, and we’re both doing well. I have eaten my first bit of solid food, and Sam is continuing to eat crackers and drink some water and Pedialyte. He’s back to wandering around the house and playing with his toys, even if he’s not yet back at 100% speed. And Theo is doing okay—still having some episodes of illness, but he didn’t get it anywhere near as badly as Sam, so I feel good about him recovering soon. He’s up and building a Pinewood Derby car as we speak, in fact, so he can’t be feeling too bad! I think his tummy just needs time to rest and heal.

From this point forward, I will probably be a completely panicked mess every time Sam throws up in the future. It so took me by surprise—I mean, I’ve raised (well, am raising) two kids, so I know that hydration is the most important thing with stomach viruses. And I knew to make sure he was drinking, having wet diapers, etc. And he was doing both! So watching him be sleepy and not interested in doing things…well, it was easy to just think, “Of course he’s tired—he was up all night throwing up. I’d just want to be on the couch, too.” There came the turning point where I realized he was beyond sleepy and that something else was going on, but it’s a fine line between a kid being worn out from illness and a kid going into dehydration, I’ve now found.

The pediatric nurse was actually surprised when she reviewed Sam’s labwork—she said, “Oh my goodness, we don’t usually see levels like this until a child has been throwing up for about three days. You say he only threw up for one night???” Which tells me that Sam clearly dehydrates more easily than many kids. Or at least he did on this occasion. Part of me wonders whether he had been a little off before this—he’s had a noticeable change in fluid intake and urination over the past month or two, and in fact I had mentioned it to his pediatrician because I was concerned. (The kid who spent almost four years drinking very little and peeing very little was suddenly guzzling water all the time and drenching diapers. I realize that’s a good thing in general, but it’s an odd thing when it’s a sudden change from the way he’s been for the first several years of his life. It made his pediatrician and me both worried about diabetes—which, thankfully, we ruled out with a simple glucose test on Thursday.) So I wonder if his pH balance was a little off even before this started, and the dehydration just pushed it over the edge.

Who knows? There’s no way to know, but I do know that I will probably spend the rest of my days paranoid when he gets a tummy virus. When I saw his lab numbers and realized that metabolic acidosis can send children into a coma or worse, I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. What if I had ignored my instinct and just kept watching him at home? What would’ve happened? Honestly, I can’t even think about the what ifs; it upsets me too much. I am just focusing on how glad I am that Kaiser was able to get him filled back up with fluids and back on the road to recovery.

And in another bit of happiness this week, I was reminded of the goodness of people. One of our mattresses got sacrificed to the Stomach Virus Gods (enough said!), so we needed to find a new one. I posted on a local community Facebook group asking where people had found to buy decent mattresses at a price that wouldn’t break the bank. One of the local moms from Theo’s school messaged me that she had a twin mattress and box spring that had never been used and that we were welcome to have. They’d even deliver it to us, because they just wanted it out of their house! So now we have a lovely new-to-us mattress and box spring, and the old one never needs to see the light of day again.

In other news, I did spend the early part of the week repainting those bathroom cabinets, and I think I’m quite happy with them! I need to re-hang the doors, and then I’ll take a picture. I had planned to re-hang the doors on Thursday, but then, you know, vomit happened….

I also wrote a blog post earlier in the week, inspired by Sam’s upcoming fourth birthday. Click here to read it if you haven’t already.

Also, a fun little Theo video for you. On the way to pick up Sam from preschool, Theo often rants about whatever injustices he perceives in the world. These rants are always entertaining, but one early this week was particularly passionate, and he informed me, “Mom, you need to record this and put it on Facebook so the media will see it. Because I’m sure people will see it on Facebook; I’m quite well known on there.” I swear, this is all Theo. If I saw something like this on YouTube, I would probably assume the parent had put the kid up to it—sharing their own ideas or whatnot. But this is all Theo. Chris and I are both supporters of social programs in general, and I’m sure Theo has heard us talk about them before, so that probably inspires some of his thoughts on the matter. But we haven’t actually talked about homelessness in a political sense before (only expressed sympathy for people who have to be out in cold weather without a home); most of our discussions of social programs have more to do with disability issues. So where Theo got on this soapbox, I couldn’t tell you. But I’m pretty impressed by his oratory skills! The ad-libbing when the cat comes into the video was my favorite part—how he turns that into part of his platform. I’m telling you, that kid is a politician in the making. Whether that’s a good thing or bad, I leave up to you. 😉

Also, here’s a little video of Sam (looking adorable in his hospital gown) on the mend, when he was just starting to show signs of his old self:

Next week, I promise a non-vomit post! At least, I hope so—I hope our vomit days are behind us. Sam’s birthday is on Thursday, so that’ll be exciting! And we have the Pinewood Derby next weekend. I made a birthday video for Sam, but I think I’ll unveil it on his actual birthday, so check back then to see it. In the meantime, have a happy, healthy week!



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