Today I had an appointment in Boston with my Neurosurgeon. It's Thursday so my youngest son's father was driving him in to school. My husband took my oldest (William) to school and I drove in traffic for 2.5 hours. As soon as I checked in at the hospital, I got a message from my son (Richie) saying he had a sore throat and was weak. Seeing I didn't see him today or last night I have no idea what is going on. Immediately I wanted to jump up and start driving back past that awful traffic to get my baby, but I knew I could be jumping to conclusions and this appointment was important. Thankfully, my brother who is going to be attending State Trooper Academy is home for the next few weeks so I knew I could count on him. Some of you are reading this and think "what is wrong with that lady? kid has a sore throat and probably wants to go home early for video games." Sometimes being a mom you need to make decisions like if they can watch scary movies or if a kid is faking being sick to not go to school. Guess what? I am not taking that chance with my baby.
Lets rewind about 13 years ago, October 2005 I found out I was pregnant with my second child, no one in the family seemed to be too happy. I was too young, I had a 2 year old, I just got a fulltime position after graduation, the father and I were not married, even the father felt it was too soon to have another baby. December 2005, I found out my 14 week pregnancy was not advancing as it should, the baby's heart rate was slower than normally; it was in the 90's which sometimes means its a boy, but so early on it should be higher. They warned me what the outcome could be, a week later an ultrasound confirmed there was no heartbeat. I wasn't bleeding or cramping or have any indication there was a problem, just some nurse practitioner who said "sorry for your loss" and literally walked out of the room. That's it! Of course I was devastated, how did this happen? Why did this happen? What's next?
Well later on that night, I started bleeding and I bled for days. I sat in the bathtub and just cried. I had my 2 year old son to take care of and I didn't know what to do. I called the doctors and they said to let is pass naturally. Well guess what? Even at 14 weeks it feels like real birth. I had contractions and was passing chunks of tissue into the toilet (sorry TMI). I called my mom who lived about 40 minutes away and told her what was happening and she was so irate that a doctor could just leave me like that. At the time she was nurse manager for the PACU (post op for patients who just underwent surgery). She called her co-workers and told them the story and 2 hours later I was being wheeled in and administered an IV by the hospital's best anesthesiologist (thanks Mom), I was prepped for a D&C (Dilatation and curettage). A few hours later I woke up and it was all over. I lost my baby, gone like nothing ever happened. At least I got 2 weeks off from work (thank god for short term disability) to fully heal and mourn.
I had a follow up, post op appointment; they were a little more apologetic and explained that the baby was a girl. They also said most babies with a low heart rate like she had would mean death as a miscarriage or later on as a still birth and if she survived she may have been retarded or had a heart abnormality (my cousin needed a heart surgery at 2 days old, so I thought maybe it was a hereditary issue). Not like I wouldn't have loved her any less but no parent wants to hear their child has a problem (since working with mentally handicapped women in my teens I always said I wanted to adopt down syndrome children). Maybe that was a sign so long ago?? At that time I was also told not to try and have a baby for the next 6 months because my body needed to heal. I started birth control and was reminded the first few weeks are not safe to have sex. Who listens to doctors when they are young? Obviously not us.
3 weeks later I felt funny, I called the doctor and they said because I was 14 weeks along the baby was already forming and sometimes tissue can be left in the womb and even though you are not pregnant the body feels pregnant. That wasn't enough clarification for me so I demanded a blood test (not just a pee on the stick test-qualitative) but a HCG quantitative test. That is a blood test that has a numerical value to justify the age of a fetus, not just a positive pregnancy. I was measuring at some high levels. The doctors explained this could be because of the tissue remnants that may have been left inside of me (TMI). Another week went by and I was still peeing positive on a stick at home, I had my labs redrawn and the number had quadrupled- that means a viable baby, not just remnants of a miscarried baby.
My doctors ran tests and ultrasounds and of course scolded me for getting pregnant 3 weeks after a miscarriage. They also warned me about the health of this pregnancy and not to get attached that I would most likely miscarry. 4 months into the pregnancy and I was high risk, but I was definitely carrying a healthy baby boy (my rainbow baby). This time everyone was happy for me. Was it guilt because my other baby had died or was it just pure happiness over a new baby in the family? My pregnancy continued on to my due date. Due date came and went, 2 weeks later I was still preggo!
I don't know what the rules are now, but in 2006 they would induce women who were over their due date. I was induced a week over my due date and nothing! I continued to chase around my then 3 year old, 4 cm. dilated. Another week went by and they said that's it! If the next induction did not progress into labor I would have a C-section. Thankfully that bundle of joy was born later on that night a few minutes after 11PM weighing 9 pounds and 6 ounces, WOW! After having an awful delivery with my first son, this one was a breeze. I pushed about 3 times and that little butterball came flying out. Everything about him was perfect except he was a little jaundiced, which means he had high levels of bilirubin in his system so he was yellowish and had yellow eyes, we said they looked like cat eyes!
Being jaundice for too long is dangerous for the newborn's liver. There are easy ways of correcting this though by giving the baby some Vitamin D-sunlight exposure. I was a breast feeding mom as I was with my first son, so I breastfed sitting in a window. You don't need enough sunshine to give the baby a sunburn just enough to feel the warmth on his skin. Obviously this is documented by the pediatrician and watched over time. Eventually my little cat eyed baby had normal looking eyes, but he had a strange cry. It sounded different than my other son's newborn cry, my father and I joked he had a cat cry to match his cat eyes. We never got any explanation why he such a funny sounding cry, only that it is what it is! I still think it was a sign showing something was wrong.
3 months old and Richie came down with an awful cold, he was wheezing and had a high fever and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Pneumonia as an adult sucks but it is so much worse for a baby. We had to do nebulizer treatments every 4 hours and was given antibiotics, that was an awful week! Well then it happened again and again and again. Every time his older brother would come home with a little sniffle from daycare, Richie would break out with a full case of pneumonia and/or bronchitis. They eventually diagnosed him with chronic pneumonia and bronchitis and he was closely monitored. I was so used to it, that I could hear it the day it started brewing before an X-ray could even see it. The doctor suggested that Richie had a lowered immune system, so whenever his older brother caught something we would just automatically start Richie on medications. Some doctors we talked to said that's dangerous because it weakens the lungs. We found out a few times though while his doctor was away on vacation and an intern was uncomfortable starting him on meds he would develop a full case of pneumonia while the other times we were preemptive with medication he would only get a slight cough.
This followed him into his early years, one day I dropped him off with one of his grandmothers and went to work. When I picked him up at the end of the day he was feeling warm but had not started a wheeze. Whenever he had a fever I would get him x-rayed because of his history. But this time he had no fever, he was just tired and complained he didn't feel good. The next morning he woke up the same, but when he fell asleep for a nap I noticed he was sweating (whenever his father sweat like that he was fighting off an infection) I took his temperature and it was 106. I didn't think about anything, I just grabbed a bag with clothes for him and his brother and headed to the ER. I called his father and the doctor on the way. By the time we arrived at the hospital you could barely arouse him. He was lethargic and almost limp in my arms.
They tested him for all the usual things he got: pneumonia, bronchitis and they had no answers for me. Bloodwork showed he a bad infection but they could not find where in his body. I knew something was wrong, but they had no clue which antibiotic to give him. If you give a child too much antibiotics or the wrong antibiotic for an illness they became resistant to it, so they were hesitant to give anything and the fever was not dropping. Why I thought of it I don't know but I remembered my co-worker at work had strep throat the day before. I told the doctors it made no sense how it would get from her to me and then to him, but I asked for his throat to be swabbed. He wasn't awake enough to tell them what hurt and how bad, it was like he was comatose (he wasn't, but his body felt like that and he was delirious). Guess what? He tested positive on the rapid strep throat swab and was administered amoxicillin even though he has no "strep throat symptoms). About 45 minutes later his fever dropped and he was laughing and joking around with his brother. 'Til this day we still have a standing joke about "getting the temperature," where the boys poke each other in the ass. Boys will be boys, although it was a little while everyone was in danger of "getting the temperature."
Fast forward a little and we were getting into the school ages. Long story short, I'm sure I'll write about it one day, Richie was diagnosed with Autism. His autism is very mild and more noticeable when he's annoyed or overly sensitive to his surroundings. So being sick and not feeling well exacerbates his behavior. If he is not feeling well in the morning, now as an "expert" on his moods I normally can tell when he's faking it or when he is indeed sick. And as explained above, a normal child's little cold is dangerous to Richie and will last a week opposed to the normal 2-3 days his brother experiences. At the beginning of the break up between his father and I, he blamed me of over exaggerating Richie's symptoms. Time and again though if left untreated Richie would get worse, now Dad believes me when I act like the "expert." So, when Richie texted me today about having a sore throat and feeling weak, I wasn't taking any chances. I told him to go to the nurses office and wait for someone to pick him up. Less time around other potentially sick children would save us hopefully a trip to the doctors office or a prescribed antibiotic. He is not the boy in the bubble, but having a mother's intuition and babying him maybe a little more than need be, I know my son is safe and most likely is not going to get debilitating sick.
The moral of this story is don't go all Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but know when to call the doctor. Some issues can be more serious than others. Working in the medical field I have seen parents wait too long to get their children checked out. At the same time I have a couple childhood friends who have acted as their child's "expert" (advocate) and has caught some awful conditions before it was fatal.
P.S. As I write this, Richie has been relaxing with no fever and an occasional cough. If he gets sick, it will most likely be in the middle of the night tonight. As with most kids, without fail its the middle of the night when they get sick. So, we have juice and Motrin ready and dad has already called asking if he is staying home from school tomorrow. It's a little too early to know that, but this mom is ready. I am not a doctor, just a mom who knows her kid, read my disclaimer and always contact a doctor if you're concerned.