It was 2:30 Thursday morning when the tears came. I’d felt like crying a few times before that, but I’d held it back. I’d been in control. I’d told myself there was no reason to cry. But at 2:30 Thursday morning, I lost the battle. The tears spilled over my eyelids and ran down my cheeks, falling like rain on the hospital-issue white cotton blanket. That was okay. I just didn’t want them to fall on Big Brother’s face.
He was cuddled up against me, as close as he could get with while lying in a hospital bed, tubes and monitors attached to one arm and an oxygen mask on his face. One of my arms was under his neck, the other over his chest. I’d been holding his hand, but his slipped away as he finally (finally!) drifted into a light sleep. When his fingers dropped to the blanket, my tears did the same.
There was no reason to cry. He was fine. He was going to be fine. He would be fine in the morning. But the tears fell anyway.
Maybe because it was the middle of the night and I was tired. Maybe because my little boy looked so pale and sad and helpless in that hospital bed. Maybe because, for twenty long minutes before finally falling asleep, my son had begged me to “please, please, please just put my shoes on and let me get up so we can go home, please let me go home, I just want to go home, Mummy, please take me home”. And I had to hold him and love him and tell him no.
As he slept, for the hour between his exhaustion overcame him and the nurse came in to check his vitals again, I had time to compose myself and consider again how we went from a quick doctor’s visit to Big Brother’s third ambulance ride, fourth visit to hospital, and first overnight stay.
Tuesday afternoon, Big Brother had a bit of a cough. Not a lot of a cough. Certainly not one that was bad enough to keep him awake Tuesday night. But with the serious flu going around Brisbane this winter, we decided we should take him to the doctor on Wednesday and get him checked out. Just in case. Little Brother seem fine but had been a bit clingy so, based on previous experience, I thought he might have an ear infection.
I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for both boys. The only time available was 12:30pm. Big Brother was a little lethargic, so after breakfast I let him lie on the couch and watch a couple of movies. (This is a big deal in our house, where we don’t watch TV.) Little Brother was fine.
Big Brother told me his tummy and legs hurt. He wanted to go to the bathroom, but said he was too tired to walk and asked me to carry him.
Big Brother asked if I’d carry him to the car. I told him we’d just finish getting ready to go and then I’d carry him out. He started to cry and told me his lungs hurt, and please could I just carry him to the car now and put a blanket over him? I did. I was glad we were going to the doctor, because it looked like he really did have the flu.
We arrived at the doctor’s office. Big Brother had been quiet the whole way. “Can you carry me in?” he asked. “But make sure you bring my blanket.” I picked him up and carried him in. He sat on my lap in the waiting room, leaning his head against me. His eyes fluttered closed and he didn’t seem to hear me when I spoke to him. Suddenly, his face lost all colour. Even his lips looked white. He closed his eyes and went limp in my arms.
The doctor examined Big Brother. He didn’t have a temperature. He didn’t have a throat infection or an ear infection and his chest didn’t sound too bad. She would have been happy to prescribe some antibiotics, but she was concerned about how he looked. He was really, really lethargic. He couldn’t seem to wake up. When I got him talking, he drifted back off in the middle of a sentence. He was white as a sheet. The doctor took us in to the treatment area and a nurse checked his vitals. His oxygen levels were alarmingly low. They put him in an oxygen mask, lay him on the bed and called an ambulance.
My husband and Little Brother left. It turns out Little Brother had two severe middle ear infections. My husband bought his medicine then took him home.
The ambulance arrived to take Big Brother and I to the hospital. Big Brother had perked up a lot on the oxygen, and excitedly told the paramedics that this would be his third trip in an ambulance, but the other two times he was bleeding.
1:30pm, Wednesday – 2:30am, Thursday
Big Brother’s oxygen levels were low. He had chest x-rays and a catheter put into his arm. He made friends with the nurses in the resus rooms of Emergency, told the pediatric nurse, “You’ve already told me that three times!” and high-fived everyone he talked to. He cried and begged us not to give him needles and explained that he had a doctor’s kit at home and he was going to grow up to be a doctor too. Thanks to one quick-thinking ER nurse, he collected a whole new “doctor’s kit” full of goodies to take home and use on his own “patients”.
He ate ice cream, watched TV and asked everyone to leave him alone so he could go to sleep. He liked the idea of an oxygen mask being like a fighter pilot mask, and hated having a nasal swab. He was diagnosed with viral pneumonia at about 8:00pm Wednesday, and we were told that if he could stay off the oxygen overnight, he could probably go home on Thursday.
It was 1:30am when he needed oxygen.
The nurses wanted Big Brother to stay. One of the doctors wanted him to stay for another 24 to 48 hours. But in the end, the pediatrician said that he could go home if he wanted to and if I was comfortable. With viral pneumonia, the only thing to do is treat the symptoms and wait. His oxygen levels had improved, I knew what to watch for to identify if he was having trouble getting enough oxygen, and we live close to the hospital. Being in hospital was more stressful than helpful to Big Brother at that point. So we were discharged and told we could go home.
We got home at 4:30pm Thursday.
Big Brother’s breathing is getting better. He’s up and about, playing with his new doctor’s kit. He can’t do anything strenuous without running out of breath, but he’s feeling better. He no longer tells me his lungs hurt.
We were in hospital for just over 24 hours, and I was so glad to get home and to know that Big Brother was okay.
I can’t even begin to imagine how parents cope when their kids are in hospital for an extended period.
To all the parents in that situation: You have my sympathy and well-wishes.
To all the doctors, nurses, ER staff, and paramedics at Reccliffe hospital and beyond: Thank you. For everything.