Summer is over. (I know the calendar says we still have another couple of weeks, but in the minds of most people, the season ends with Labor Day.) That means no more trips to the beach, no more cookouts with fruity wine coolers, and no more blockbuster movies in the theater. (At least until November!)
As for those summer blockbusters, like most years, there wasn’t a whole lot of originality in the theaters. Many films were either reboots of popular movies from days past, or additional sequels for franchises which most people didn’t think needed extending.
This summer brought the Cutter family our own version of an unwanted sequel.
You may recall that the Cutlass was hospitalized in early May. Remember how she came home with a clean bill of health and everything appeared to be fine? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story.
Good health has been difficult to come by in our house this year. There have been very few days when at least one member of the family hasn’t been suffering from some ailment.
It’s understandable. The Cutlet probably picks up all sorts of fun germs from school, and the twins’ immune systems aren’t strong enough to deal with it. With Mrs. Cutter and I often being deprived of sleep, we’re not able to effectively fight off the germs either.
Those kind of germs usually result in colds, which is an annoying, yet temporary problem. It’s much more worrisome when for the second time in a month, you get a phone call from your wife alerting you that your daughter is running a high fever and her fontanel is swollen. Considering that this issue had resulted in a four-day hospital stay the last time, we decided to take her back to the emergency room.
As awful as the first trip to the ER was, the second one may have been worse. While the Cutlass didn’t seem to be in much distress, we realized the earlier diagnosis of “just a virus that ran its course” was inaccurate. We were facing the possibility of a more serious issue.
We weren’t reassured by the doctors’ inability to determine what was wrong. The re-occurrence essentially invalidated the previous diagnosis of viral meningitis (that almost never re-occurs), and since the tests from the first visit ruled out a bacterial infection, it seemed unlikely that she had one this time.
It felt like we were living in the first half of an episode of House. The doctors began discussing terms like encephalitis and hydrocephalus. We weren’t familiar with these conditions (thanks to the magic of internet, we soon learned), but we were pretty sure none of them were good.
One of the doctors repeatedly noted how “fascinating” this was. After he used that term for about the fifth time, I warned him that if he used it again, we were going to scream.
In an attempt to determine the cause of her illness, the Cutlass underwent a chest X-ray and an ultrasound, but neither test revealed much. The doctors determined that the only way to really figure out if she was suffering from a major brain ailment was to schedule an MRI.
For adults, an MRI is relatively routine. For small children, it is much more complicated. The patient needs to remain completely still, and since babies only really stay still while asleep, the Cutlass would need to be anesthetized.
When the day of the procedure finally came – it had to be rescheduled due to yet another fever a few days earlier – everything thankfully went as expected. She awoke from her anesthesia happy, hungry, and no worse for wear.
Two days later, we received the results: Her head appeared perfectly normal. All of those scary medical terms? There was no evidence that she was suffering from any of them.
While this was a relief, we were still concerned because the problem wasn’t going away. Every two to three weeks, she would get a fever, usually accompanied by swelling of her fontanel.
One fever was determined to be due to a urinary tract infection. When she had another high temperature less than two weeks later, the doctors feared that she might be suffering from another UTI. It was recommended that we take yet another trip to the emergency room.
At least this trip provided a brief moment of levity.
It was necessary to insert a catheter, so a nurse had to hold the Cutlass’ legs. The Cutlass was understandably agitated by this, and was determined not to make it easy on the nurse. “She’s too strong!” the nurse complained as she struggled to keep hold of my nine-month-old daughter’s legs.
The Cutlass proceeded to show just how upset she was by defecating on the nurse’s hand. At that point, the doctor decided to take a quick break before making another attempt. When the process resumed, a new nurse was tasked with holding her legs.
While she has had a couple of fevers since, thankfully the Cutlass hasn’t had to return to the ER. Unfortunately, her sister can’t say the same. When the Cutlet complained about an increasing amount of pain in her abdomen, we became concerned that her appendix was inflamed. We were relieved that it was merely severe constipation, but we could have certainly done without another trip to the hospital. (And another hefty bill to go with it!)
It’s now four months since the initial trip to the emergency room, and we still don’t know what is causing these fevers. An infectious disease specialist seemed skeptical that she was suffering from cyclical fevers. The best guess we’ve gotten is, “She just gets sick a lot.”
That isn’t especially reassuring, but thankfully, she doesn’t appear to have suffered any negative long-term effects. She continues to grow and hit her developmental milestones, and despite being subject to so many tests and doctor visits, she’s maintained a happy disposition throughout it all. (Aside from an occasional nurse pooping incident.)
Maybe I’m being foolishly optimistic, but it feels like things may be improving. The fevers seem to be getting both less frequent severe. The last time it happened, her temperature dropped before we even had a chance to take her to see the doctor!
I’m hopeful that this is merely a temporary problem. Maybe by the time May rolls around, these fevers will be a thing of the past, and we’ll get to spend our summer enjoying the nice weather instead of another lousy sequel.