Friday, March 6, 2009

Blue Wristbands and ER Doctors: Our Life Never Ceases To Amaze Me

I woke up this morning with extremely sore arms. Perhaps I spent the afternoon playing tennis yesterday, you wonder. Or maybe I just started a new workout routine at the gym. If only I could blame one of those things for my aching muscles.

Yesterday started with me actually getting a shower (yes!) and I was feeling relatively okay, so I decided to trek across town to playgroup. We were all having a good time, talking, laughing, and watching the kids. It was about noon and there were 6 children standing around a child-size picnic table eating some fruit and muffins. It was really very cute.

But then she started choking.

My younger daughter, 17 months old now, has a habit of choking on apples. Regardless of how teeny tiny of a piece I give her, she chokes. So I've resorted to simply NOT giving her apples. Seems simple enough, right? Well, I had forgotten that there were apples in the mixed fruit. Yes, a bad mom moment. I figured it was just a normal food choke, so we were patting her on the back, trying to get the chunk out. After a minute or two, we decided to try digging whatever was in her mouth out. However, there was nothing in her mouth. And she continued to cough up phlegm...but not much of anything else. She immediately became very lethargic. She would sit for a few minutes and then the phlegm-coughing would start again.

I called the nurse who directed me to take her to the ER. But really, when do they NOT tell you to do that? Regardless, she was continuing to choke on SOMETHING and all she was spitting up was phlegm. Her labored breathing and lethargy though was my main concern, so I quickly decided that this was probably a good time to actually follow their directions.

My friend Amy and I left our other children with Rachel (this week's playgroup hostess) and drove to the nearest ER. Reagan hadn't spit up anymore in the car, but she was looking extremely tired by the time we arrived. I was kind of glad that it started again as we walked in the door because they got us in immediately.

By the time we got through triage and back to our ER room, she had spat up several more times. Within minutes there were 6 or 7 doctors and nurses present in our room, observing her and attempting to help her dislodge whatever was stuck in her throat. Amy and I told them we had tried for about 20 minutes before we came in, but we could not get it out.

They ordered an x-ray, although I'm not really sure why. X-rays only show metal objects and we were pretty sure this was food. When the x-ray came back clear, they asked me to have her drink some water. She drank a few sips and nothing came up, but she was still spitting up every so often. The doctor said that if she could drink, she was probably okay, but I insisted that I was not comfortable taking her home if she was continuing to spit up phlegm. Just before the doctor was about to leave the room, it started again. And again I was thankful.

She ordered a swallowing test (some sort of barium fluid had to be drank and then another x-ray). This time the x-ray showed something the size of a grape (eh hem - APPLE) stuck at the base of her esophagus. They informed me that she would need to be transferred to Riley Children's Hospital for a pediatric ICU doctor to remove the object.

The word "Riley" does not resonate very well in my ears. When I think of Riley, I think of cancer patients, severely ill children, and those who cannot receive treatment anywhere else. I admit it was a bit terrifying, but the doctor reassured me that the location of the blockage was teetering on entering her stomach, not her airway. That calmed my nerves a bit. It was not emergent enough that an ambulance had to be called, so we drove her there. She spat up once in the van.

When we arrived, the place was CRAZY. I was frustrated that they seemed to have no interest in getting her in any more quickly than anyone else - even though she had been called in and transferred over from another hospital. Maybe I'm just selfish, but this seemed more important that the 8 year old with a fever across the room.

Reagan had spat up a few more times after we arrived before I went back up to the counter and clarified with the nurse behind the desk that we had been expecting to get right in as that was what they had told us at Community. She apologized, said they were short-staffed, and promised that they would get to her as soon as possible. So we sat and waited in the germ-infested ER with a bunch of kids who certainly could have gone to Urgent Care or even their doctor's office.

Reagan developed the hiccups as we waited and my husband, who had met us at Riley, asked if she had had them before. "No," I responded. Reagan finally fell asleep and we waited some more.

It took us two more hours to be seen by the GI doctors and in those two hours, Reagan had stopped spitting up and seemed much more alert and playful. We were guessing (and hoping) that she had finally swallowed the apple. It was after 8pm when Reagan was sent in for another barium x-ray. The results came up completely clear! Reagan ate some Cheerios and drank a TON of water and everything was fine.

Completely exhausted and very relieved, we loaded Reagan into the van and took off across town to pick up my other two children, still at Rachel's house. We got home around 10pm. Thankfully everyone slept in a little bit this morning.

Overall, I have to say that I'm so proud of my little girl. Despite the fact that she absolutely hates being confined, she sat patiently (for the most part) on my lap for the better part of 9 hours yesterday. She's a real trooper.

Here she is showing you her blue bracelet:

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She is as happy as could be today and back to her normal old self....albeit a bit skinnier than she was yesterday morning!

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Miney said...

Oh my goodness! You have had quite the day! I'm so glad everything's all right. That would be so scary! Has it been super long since I've seen you? I don't think it has, but Reagan's hair looks so long!

Heidi Stone said...

MINEY: Just a few weeks. :) Her hair has been growing like crazy though!

Amie said...

I'm really glad she's okay and ended up swallowing the apple on her own.

Hospitals are frustrating places. Our son had to be admitted to wait 36 hours for an open MRI machine to find out why he had extra fluid around his brain.

Sugar Jones said...

Oh my gosh, lady... What a harrowing day!! Seems like those days, once they are over, feel like nothing short of being run over by a Mack truck and then having it back up and run over you some more at least ten times. Glad to hear your baby is well.

Now Mama needs a little back rub!