As I recount this experience, even several weeks later I’m surprised at the anxiety I still feel about this experience. While at the same time amazed as I realize that even though so small and seemingly so fragile, the resiliancy of your little body. As you read this years later, please remember that as a parent there is nothing more terrifying than having your child in danger. Nothing more frustrating than not being able to take on your experience as our own.
When I returned home from Nashville, TN you had a slight cough. It seems like a symptom of a common, non-threatening cold. As two days went by the cough became more frequent so I made an appointment with your pediatrician’s office to get you checked out. Just to make sure everything seemed okay. We saw a doctor that isn’t your usual pediatrician. Your demeanor seemed fine, and he listened to your lungs and heart and said that they sounded fine. We were just going to have to ride whatever this bug was out. The next day you went to Aunt Channie’s while I was working. By afternoon when I came to pick you up, the effects of this “bug” had gone from bad to horrible, and it was all you could do to lift your head off Channie’s chest to look at me when I walked through the door to pick you up. Your eyes looked sunken, and a bluish-pink color surrounded them like a mask. You were very sick, and I was immediately terrified.
There happened to be a KidsCare Urgent Care center around the corner from where we were, and I wasted no time loading you into your car seat and speeding down there. I called Daddy on the phone and caught him just as he was readying to board an airplane to come home to us. We had no idea what the next few hours had in store for us but they unfolded in what seemed like slow motion. Every moment was a breath that you were struggling to inhale and nothing can stop the clock or a parent’s heart like seeing their child struggle to do something that is inherently natural…..just breathe.
When i got you into the Urgent Care facility, we were immediately taken back to an exam room. The nurse rushed to get you on forced oxygen and get a reading of your oxygen saturation by placing a clip-on monitor on your finger. The saturation level was measuring between 82 and 83, which is dangerously low, something i already knew as i watched your poor little lethargic body labor intensely to take in each shallow breath. So much work, for so little air. You were next given an albuterol treatment, an inhaled steroid that is administered with the forced oxygen. All the while, you sat snuggled in my lap, hardly able to keep your eyes open as the exhaustion from the lack of oxygen set in.
After what seemed like eternity, we were taken back to get a chest x-ray. You were put into a tube sitting upright with your arms up above your head. You were crying, I was crying. Trying to give you some sense of comfort in a foreign place, and while you were strapped into a tube and all i could hold onto were your fingers, this seemed impossible. The tech took 1 x-ray of your profile, and one facing the machine. She then helped me release you and you clung to me tighter than you ever have before. I was so happy to be there for you, but so terrified not knowing what those images might reveal. We went back to our exam room, sat back down with oxygen on your face and waited for the doctor to return. When she did she pulled up the x-ray’s and the official word from the Radiologist. She told me that the report said “bronchial pneumonia. A term that isn’t often used in pediatrics.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that. She showed me your lungs, and your pretty little heart on film. There was a distinct line in your left lung and two small pockets of fluid near your heart. As we discussed what this meant we watched your oxygen level. Improved from when we came into the office, but nowhere near healthy and you were going to need to go to Primary Children’s for additional care and observation. It was a viral infection, and there was no medication they could give you to help you fight this. You would have to do it on your own. As we sat in the KidsCare, I kept my hopes high that your oxygen level would come up, even a few points so that i could put you in your familiar car seat, in a car you ride in every day to a new place you’ve never been, full of faces you’ve never seen, sticking monitors all over you and coming in constantly to adjust oxygen levels, and check your temperature. In order for me to take you to the hospital myself, we needed your oxygen saturation to get up to 90-91 and stay there without the forced oxygen that was being administered through your nose. With forced oxygen and mommy holding you upright, the highest we could get the number to creep up was to 88. The doctor told me that they had to call an ambulance who would transport us to Primary Children’s Medical Center. I sat holding you, crying, singing to you to try and comfort you, while at the same time trying to let everyone know what was going on. Aunt Jenn, Grandma Freed and Grandpa Freed were going to meet us at the PCMC Emergency Room and so was Auntie Laura. Daddy was on a plane so all I could do was send him a text message that he would read when he landed in Denver. As I’m sending the text message my hands are shaking and I know as soon as Daddy turns on his phone he will feel the same panic, but I have to let him know.
The ambulance and EMT’s arrive, and you cry as I leave you for only a few moments to run out to the car and get your car seat, which would be strapped to the gurney. My heart breaks as I hear you crying, becuase the harder you cry, the harder it is for you to breathe. I get back to the room, we get you hooked up to portable oxygen, a portable monitor and buckled into your car seat. It is strapped to the gurney and time to go. I hold your tiny hand as I walk beside you out to the ambulance. We climb in, they close the doors and we’re on our way. As we ride from South Jordan up to the University of Utah campus I fight tears. I’m terrified, desparate because there is nothing more I can do for you, than be with you. Exhausted you sit in your car seat, holding my hand. Your little eyes wandering around this strange place, to the strange face of the EMT who is with us and out the back windows. You see the cars as we pass them on the free way, each one falling further and further behind us. In those moments that seemed like forever in passing, you let go of my pointer finger and I looked down at you, terrified to see why you let go. I hear the EMT chuckle, and manage a laugh myself when your hand is suddenly up in the air, waving as you say “Bye bye” to the cars you see out the back window. If the sigh of relief I felt could have filled your lungs too, your oxygen level would have skyrocketed in that moment.
When we were in the ER, Papa, Grandma Freed, Aunt Jenny, Uncle James and Auntie Laura were there. They stayed until we were admitted and taken to our room. On our way up to our room, we ran into Grandma Bowers, Uncle Dustin, and a neighbor of his. They were there to offer their support as well and it was so nice to see more familiar faces. As a mother I’ve learned that sometimes no matter how much I wish I could, I can’t do it all on my own, and thats okay. I relied on everyone for support until Daddy got home (Papa Freed picked him up at the airport), and he finally made it to the hospital around 11pm. Even as I type this, thinking back to this experience, I still get a gut-punch that reminds me of how scary it was. You are stronger and more resilient than even the doctors thought, and you surprised all of us with a very quick recovery. Plus until the day I leave this earth I will maintain that even that sick, you were the absolute cutest patient we’ve ever seen!! Take a look for yourself (below)!! That bed you are standing in was a crib, which was shortly after this photo replaced with a regular hospital bed that you and I slept in together, with Daddy right next to us on the thing they call a couch. Every time one of us moved, the cord on your oxygen hose would get pinched and and the alarm on the vitals monitor would go off because your oxygen level was dropping. This happened probably 20 times throughout the night. I would unbury the hose from whichever one of us it had made its way under, and when your levels got back up above 90, my panic level would regulate and I could fall back asleep. I woke you up every two hours religiously to nurse you, which the nurse noted was the only thing keeping you hydrated and preventing you from needing an IV. As a mother I was so grateful that I was able to offer you the closeness and comfort of our little ritual and that it was able to prevent you from a needle poke. We made it through your hospital stay without one, and for that I was very grateful.
The next day your respiratory function improved drastically – much faster than anyone thought it would. Your pediatrician, Dr. Wall came to see you at the hospital too and he was happy to see an improvement from what your chart showed the day before. Aunt Jenny brought us lunch from Cafe Rio (much needed sustinance!) too. Throughout the day, doctors would come in, remove your oxygen and we would watch you levels drop slightly. By about 4pm, I was exhausted, and felt dirty in the clothes that i was wearing the day before. I had pink spots from the oral steroid they gave you at the Instacare all over my shirt, and I just needed a shower. Daddy and I agreed that he would stay with you while i drove home to shower and then I would come right back. Before I had even gotten past the University of Utah Campus, Daddy called and said that your oxygen was staying at 98 without the tube, and the doctor was going to release us to go home. This was of course under the provision that if there was any negative change in your breathing patterns, we would return immediately. I flipped the car around, got back to the hospital, and within an hour we were on our way home to rest and let you continue to recover in the comfort of our home.
The next few days you were showered with well wishes and even gifts that meant the world to both of us. Uncle Nathan and some of my coworkers brought over a Build-A-Bear that they made especially for you. Complete with tutu and high heel shoes. My good friend Carlie and her beautiful family sent a balloon bouquet and a really soft, squeezable teddy bear. I’ll tell you Miss Sawyer, we truly have some of the best friends and family anyone could ask for. I’m grateful for them every day and as you grow older, I hope you come to appreciate and reciprocate all of the love that is given to you. A quote I love is “When it’s dark, the stars come out” and I’ll tell you, our sky shines pretty brightly with some pretty amazing stars.
I have archived this experience in the “scariest times of my life” mental file folder, and if we never spend another night in Primary Children’s Medical Center it will be too soon. I will forever remain grateful for the support we had as a family, it definitely contributed to the strength that you had in recovering quickly and for the wonderful care we received at PCMC.
Here’s to always taking deep breaths. I love you.