ER visit #3: The rehydration chronicles

As is our custom, I’m writing up our latest emergency room visit. It’s becoming a kind of tradition around here (you can read about the first and the second), although I’d be okay with stopping this particular tradition. Emergency room visits are not the kind of thing you would normally put in a scrapbook, but they’re always such intense, memorable experiences that I appreciate having a record of them.

Lucy had been sick since Tuesday with a fever and intermittent vomiting. She only had five bouts with the barfing (two of which were within an hour of each other), so I wasn’t too concerned, especially since she was keeping down her clear fluids and peeing regularly. We kept expecting her to take a turn for the better — for her stomach to stop hurting so much, for her to forget to keep her puke bucket by her side, for her energy to bounce back after a nap — but it was just not happening.
Lucy rests outside.
This is what happens when you’re sick on the first 80-degree day of the year.

In the meantime, we canceled meetings. We read books. We watched an impressive number of movies. Rosie lost her second tooth while Lucy took a nap one day. (Good job, Rosie!)
Rosie loses second tooth.
Now she can eat spaghetti like a pro.

On Friday, May 9, Rosie went with her grandparents to a special kid’s program at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We’d been anticipating it all year, but Lucy and I had to settle for staying home and watching The Pink Panther, one of my all-time favorite sick day movies. I kept encouraging Lucy to sip water and chicken broth, which she seemed to like. I contacted our doctor’s office and checked in with a nurse about Lucy’s condition. We both agreed that since Lucy was not vomiting and also urinating regularly, we probably didn’t need to come in. But the nurse urged me to call if Lucy threw up again. After Rosie returned from her outing, Lucy drifted off into an early afternoon nap. We took advantage of the special Mama-and-Rosie time by reading a few Berenstain Bears books and making ice cream.

I had hoped that Lucy would wake up with some renewed energy, as she had had such a pleasant morning — but it was not to be. Lucy woke up rather hysterical, crying and moaning incoherently. It took me awhile to understand why exactly she was crying (“Lucy, honey, can you tell me where it hurts?”) but it became clear that she was having stomach pain and generally uncomfortable. Even though Lucy hadn’t thrown up again, I wanted to contact a medical professional about her discomfort. I called the same nurse I spoke with in the morning, and she told me to bring Lucy in right away — they wanted to take a look at her. After borrowing our neighbor’s car (thank you, Jack and Mary Smith!), texting Jon to call him home early from work, and packing up a few books and the barf bucket, we were on our way. Rosie was a champion sister, hauling bags and following instructions carefully so that I could carry Lucy to the car.

At the doctor’s office, Lucy was calmer, but clearly not feeling well. Her fever was down but she was extremely weak and exhausted. Dr. Rosenbaum could tell that she was pretty sick and immediately said he was going to prescribe an anti-nausea medication (Zofran, which Jon and I kept accidentally calling Zoltan) to help her stomach discomfort. “Should I have brought her in earlier?” I asked, seeing Lucy through the doctor’s eyes and realizing how awful she looked. No, Dr. Rosenbaum reassured me. Since she hadn’t been vomiting very much, it wasn’t a no-brainer, but it’s good we had her in now — she seemed pretty dehydrated and she needed extra help.

After checking her vitals and poking her all over, he declared that she did not seem to have a problem that required surgery — a relief to hear, as I had been wondering about appendicitis. He urged us to get the anti-nausea medication, give her some Tylenol to reduce her discomfort, and encourage her to drink lots of Pedialyte (an oral rehydration solution for kids). Then he sent us down the hall to get a blood test. By this time, Jon had arrived, so he and Rosie headed off to fill the prescription while Lucy and I walked over to the phlebotomist (or “flopping-bottomist,” as Rosie called her). Lucy handled her first-ever blood test bravely, astonished at all the blood they were removing from her body. I reassured her that her body would make more.

At home, Lucy crawled back into bed. After sitting with her a bit, Jon and Rosie returned home, and we gave her a dose of Zofran, the anti-nausea medication. She did not like the way it tasted, and as we tried other things, it became clear that she was generally resistant to any kind of helpful medicinal therapy: the Tylenol made her cry, and she could barely stand drinking the Pedialyte. All she wanted to do was sleep, which was a problem because what she really needed to do was drink.
Pizza.
Lucy didn’t eat this, but we did.

Lucy napped. Rosie and Jon and I had supper (thank you, Aldi’s pizza!). After bathing Rosie and cleaning up the kitchen, the phone rang. It was one of Dr. Rosenbaum’s colleagues, Dr. Britt, with some information from the blood test. “You should go to the emergency room and get Lucy some intravenous fluids,” she said. Lucy’s glucose and bicarb levels were not right, indicating dehydration.

This surprised me, as I had thought Dr. Rosenbaum was optimistic about the Pedialyte treatment at home — and I was not enthusiastic about the prospect of dragging Lucy out of her bed and going to the hospital. I explained this to the doctor, prefacing my concerns with, “I am very compliant, and we will do whatever needs to be done, but… is this really necessary?” Dr. Britt said that it was the right thing to do. “It’s going to be hard for her body to climb out of this just by drinking fluids,” she said. “Go to the hospital and she will feel much, much better.” Okay. I filled Jon in about the doctor’s recommendation, and we decided that I would take Lucy to the hospital while he stayed home with Rosie.

After taking a minute to sign up at Swedish Covenant’s online ER check-in service (which is so helpful), we started packing up. It was about 8:15 pm, and our appointment was in one hour. I hastily changed into comfortable clothes, brushed my teeth, and tossed together an assortment of books, movies, and snacks to get us through what could be an overnight stay. In the midst of the packing, Dr. Rosenbaum called and confirmed everything Dr. Britt had said. Jon broke the news of our trip to Lucy, who (predictably) did not want to leave the house, but was ready to do it “if she had to.”

Jon carried a very limp Lucy to the car and buckled her in. “I feel like I’m falling to pieces! I feel like a broken-down old car!” Rosie helped me carry my three bags to the car (the cost of hasty packing is heavy packing), and we took off. Luckily, Swedish Covenant is just a five-minute drive away from our home. Lucy and I spent most of the drive talking about what I would do if she fainted. After having watched The Pink Panther that morning (which features a fainting Princess Dala), she was very interested in this question. I reassured her that I would carry her into the hospital if she fainted. (And, frankly, her interest in discussing it gave me hope that she would stay conscious for a little while.)
Piggy Lou
Piggy Lou: a stalwart companion in troubled times.

We parked in the blessedly close Emergency Room parking spaces. After burdening myself with the bags, I carried Lucy into the waiting room and deposited her in a comfortable chair to snuggle with Piggy Lou. We hardly waited five minutes before we were ushered into the triage station. Dr. Britt had called ahead to Swedish to give them all the blood test numbers (so Lucy wouldn’t need to get poked more than necessary), so after taking Lucy’s vitals, we walked over to a cubby and got Lucy settled on a hospital bed.
So tired.
This girl needs some more liquid.

After a parade of friendly doctors and nurses, Lucy got hooked up to an IV drip for fluids as well as another dose of Zofran.
The drip.

She was nervous about getting poked again, but the nurses were terrific about explaining the process and engaging her participation (“Which arm would you like us to use?”).
The IV.
The actual drip seemed to cause her some skin irritation — the point of insertion was a bit red and mottled — so I sat next to her and patted her arm with an ice pack, which seemed to give her some relief. They gave her a little Benadryl through the IV to help with the irritation. After a little while, Lucy fell asleep.

Pride & Prejudice.
I could tell I was headed that way too, so I popped my favorite version of Pride & Prejudice into my laptop — the same one we watched while I was in labor with Rosie — to help me stay awake enough to continue to rub Lucy’s arm (she woke up anytime I stopped).

Rubbing hands.

Nurse Angie had started the drip pretty slow to reduce discomfort, but increased it a bit after awhile in order to expedite our departure. It looked like we wouldn’t need to spend the night at the hospital (hooray!). All in all, Lucy was probably on the drip for over two hours. Toward the end, she experienced soreness in her muscles due to keeping her arm extended, so she was very happy when, just before 1 am, they removed the IV and she was able to bend her arm.
With the nurse.

It was immediately clear that the IV fluids had really improved things for Lucy. She was able to walk, and although she was tired (it was the middle of the night, after all), she was lucid and cheerful. We checked out, hopped in the car, and drove home. We were happy to see that Jon was still awake, and Lucy greeted him with a big “Daddy!” which delighted him. Into bed Lucy went, with me and Jon following shortly afterward. What an adventure!

In the morning, Jon and Rosie woke up first and enjoyed a few books together. I slept until after 9, which felt lovely. The three of us ate a quiet breakfast, only to be interrupted by a big “Boo!” Startled, we turned to look — and there was Lucy, surprising us from around the corner of the kitchen! She was clearly feeling so much better. I started to cry, so thankful to have our dear girl back with us. It had been a long stretch of illness, and we were grateful for a quiet weekend to recover.

Drinking some fluids.
Lucy, feeling better, pounds the fluids.

Rosie was really happy to have her sister back, and insisted on wearing coordinating clothes and eating the same foods as Lucy all day long. Who would have thought that a couple hundred milliliters of fluid would get this girl climbing trees two days later?
Climbing trees

This emergency room visit felt different because, unlike our other two, this one was not optional. Things would have gone badly if Lucy had not been able to get the hydration she needed. It makes me freshly grateful for good healthcare and modern medicine. I spoke with Dr. Rosenbaum again on Saturday (the day after our ER visit), and he declared: “You got your Mother’s Day present a day early!” It was definitely the best gift I could receive on Mother’s Day. Especially when you add in a trip to Jeni’s with a healthy family!
At Jeni's Ice Cream

3 Thoughts on “ER visit #3: The rehydration chronicles

  1. young on May 23, 2014 at 3:17 pm said:

    Sounds so scary! Glad everything went as well as possible and that everyone is recovered! Hooray for helpful medicine!

  2. Yay! Glad our girl is well again. She looks so old in the ER pictures – definitely growing up:) I love her self-reflections, always! “I feel like I’m falling to pieces!” We all feel like that sometimes but can’t say it. Good job, Lu!

  3. Ann, I totally teared up while reading this! You are such a good, intuitive mom, and your girls are really special!

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