When the Cutlass came down with a fever last weekend, we weren’t too concerned. Her temperature was only mildly elevated (it maxed out around 101), and she was in relatively good spirits, so we assumed that it was a byproduct of teething. When she still had the fever on Monday – after a particularly restless night – Mrs. Cutter decided to bring her to the doctor.
When I left for work that day, I thought everything was fine. I was wrong. A few hours later, we were sitting in the emergency room, and the Cutlass would end up staying in the hospital for four days.
Along the way, I learned a few lessons about hospitals and having a sick child.
Seriously, DON’T HAVE KIDS
Last month, I (mostly) jokingly advised people not to have children. I can now give you a completely serious reason why you might not want to reproduce: If you don’t have children, you will never have to pick up the phone and hear your wife tell you in a panicked voice that she’s bringing your daughter to the emergency room.
The conversation was brief, but I received a few important details: The Cutlass’ temperature was up to 105. More worrisome was that the doctor noticed some swelling in her head.
I had to immediately leave work, stop home to pick up some supplies, and then rush over to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. I don’t recall much about the drive, but it’s a miracle I was able to maintain a safe speed.
My state of mind actually worsened upon seeing my daughter. She was screaming, felt hot to the touch, and worst of all, she had an uncharacteristic glassy look on her face.
In an emergency room, you will hear words you don’t want to hear
After telling us to relax (easy for him to say!), the emergency room doctor informed us that the swelling in her head was a symptom of meningitis. I didn’t know much about meningitis, but I knew it wasn’t something I wanted my daughter to be diagnosed with.
They needed to determine if the meningitis was viral or bacterial in nature. We learned that viral meningitis is unpleasant, but will usually run its course naturally. Bacterial meningitis is far more serious and must be treated with antibiotics. It can also lead to further complications.
They gave her some Tylenol to bring down her fever. (To us, it seemed like it took them an exceptionally long time to give her the Tylenol, but it probably didn’t take that long. Time has a way of warping when your child is in pain.) Next, they wanted to obtain blood and urine samples and also perform a spinal tap.
Despite the ominous sounding name, we were reassured that a spinal tap wasn’t especially risky, nor was it painful. We were concerned, but they reassured us that it was the best way to determine the cause of her illness.
We had to leave the room while the procedure took place. We felt a great sense of relief a few minutes later when the nurse brought her out to us. She was a little dazed from the anesthesia, but aside from that, she was fine.
Hospitals are not a restful place
Since someone needed to look after our other two children, I went home, while Mrs. Cutter stayed in the hospital. While I didn’t have the most peaceful night’s sleep (more on this later), I still got more rest than Mrs. Cutter.
I left the hospital around 7. The Cutlass still needed to be moved to her room in the pediatric ward, have further tests run, and given a bottle. By the time that was complete and the Cutlass was asleep, it was close to 11 PM.
Mrs. Cutter was finally able to go to sleep shortly after, but less than an hour later, she was woken up by a nurse performing her rounds. While it’s nice to have an attentive staff, it doesn’t allow for a peaceful night of sleeping.
Honestly, sleeping interruptions aside, the staff at Shady Grove did an amazing job. The nurses were all extremely friendly and helpful, and the doctors seemed to be right on top of things.
The next night, I switched places with Mrs. Cutter and took my turn sleeping on the convertible guest chair. There have been times in my life when I wished I was taller. When forced to sleep in a hospital, my sub-average height becomes a blessing. A taller man would not have found the arrangements quite as comfortable.
After an uneven night of sleep, I was feeling a bit tired on Wednesday. It was at that point that I sort of wished that the Cutlet had been hospitalized instead of her sister. The Cutlet would have been content to just sit on the bed and watch television, but Family Feud didn’t hold the Cutlass’ attention for very long.
Don’t look up diseases on the internet
Have you ever suffered from some sort of malady in the middle of the night? Have you then looked up your symptoms on the internet and become convinced that you were dying?
I learned that when your child has been diagnosed with an illness, it’s advisable not to look up that illness online. The worst case scenarios that you’ll come across don’t do much to set a parent’s mind at ease.
Hospitals are a great place to get sick
By Wednesday morning, the Cutlass was feeling much better. Her fever was gone, and she was acting like her normal self.
Unfortunately, her father wasn’t faring quite as well. My throat had grown extremely scratchy, and it felt like I was full of mucus. Apparently, spending a day in the hospital was enough to make me sick.
As I sucked on a series of cough drops, I began to long for the outside world. As the day went on, I felt like I could actually sense the germs in the air. It was a huge relief once Mrs. Cutter returned and I was able to go outside. Fresh air never smelled so good.
After I returned home and put the kids to bed, I was finally able to take a shower. Let me tell you, this was the BEST SHOWER EVER. I was probably in there for close to an hour, and had I not been exhausted, I might have stayed even longer.
There’s no better feeling than leaving
On Thursday morning, the Cutlass’ test results had failed to show any bacterial activity, indicating that the meningitis was viral. Combined with the lack of fever, it was apparent that we’d soon be able to go home.
That afternoon, we finally received the news we were waiting for: They were confident that it was a virus and had just about run its course, so we were free to go. I quickly packed up the Cutlass’ stuff and headed home, where the rest of her family was overjoyed to see her.
Well, MOST of her family was overjoyed. Her brother seemed to enjoy his time as a singleton. He was actually able to sleep late in the morning, without being woken up by the Cutlass’ cries.
Still, I think he did miss her; At least a little.
A health scare can put things into perspective
As parents, we sometimes get caught up in how inconvenient the act of parenting can be. In case you hadn’t noticed, many of my posts are focused on how much of a pain my children are being.
When one of your children has a health scare, parenting doesn’t seem like such an inconvenience. Instead, you find yourself wishing that your child was home with you, once again waking you up in the middle of the night.
With that in mind, I looked at my reunited family on Friday morning, and I couldn’t help but smile. Sure, they might be huge pains at times, but I’ve got three healthy children, and that’s all that really matters.