Saturday, 21 December 2013

Stay at the Sick Kids.

What a week we had.

David woke at 2am, which has become his usual feed time but he wasn't feeding as keenly as normal. Plus he was crying uncomfortably as if he had trapped wind but no amount of burping was helping. By 5am, I was exhausted, stressed and struggling. Iain asked the usual Dad question of "what's wrong with him" (I could have throttled him - "if I knew that, do you think he'd be crying?!"). All that was really got me through those shitty early hours was the knowing that John had nursery that day so we could at least stay in bed and catch up on lost sleep.

Then I noticed the temperature. At first I assumed it was simply because we were co-sleeping and David was just a bit hot but as the morning went on, his temperature went up & up. As lunchtime approached, David was still getting hotter so I decided to strip him to his vest and when I saw his skin, the panic set in. I've since learnt that the medical term for describing it is "mottled" but I think a good comparison is corned beef. This combined with his temperature, painful crying, & now not wanting to be touched or lifted, rang the meningitis alarm in my head.

I decided to phone NHS24 who ran me through all the general stuff, asking 101 questions and getting me to check his temperature whilst on the phone. The nurse I spoke with advised we see our GP that afternoon and thankfully I was able to get an emergency appointment a couple of hours later. At our GPs, David was briefly examined and as soon as the doctor took his 39.1°c temperature, we were on our way to the Sick Kids. Thankfully my sister was able to give us a lift otherwise the doctor was ready to organise an ambulance for us.

Exhausted & cried out in A&E.

When we arrived at A&E it was all systems go. We were taken straight through (when does that ever happen?!) and David was hooked up to a heart rate monitor. Before long he had a cannula in, bloods taken, a urine sample caught & his temperature taken countless times. Then they decided they'd need to do a lumber puncture. My heart sank. I was advised to go for a walk as it's not a nice thing to witness, so I dragged myself up the corridor and burst into tears. Up until then I'd been so consumed with soothing David and retelling our day to countless different doctors but now I was on my own the overwhelming emotions took over. How could I let him get ill? Why couldn't I make it better? What if its something serious and I can't fix it? I'm his Mummy & I've failed him. Once they opened the door to let me back in, I practically ran back down that corridor and knocked the doctor flying to get David back into my arms. They told me he took it like a champ but I knew they'd have stood there soothing him before letting me back in.
Still in A&E, they started him on antibiotics and at 9pm we were transferred to a ward. The nurse told me it was a medical assessment ward but when we arrived at our room I soon realised from the "Isolation Nursing" sign & the ban on visitors under 5 years old that we were actually on what a nurse later told me is classed as a "dirty ward" - one where infections are rife.

That first night (Monday) in hospital was heart breaking. David's temperature sat consistently over 40°c and his heart rate monitor never stopped beeping. I kept lying down with the intention of getting 40 winks but another doctor or nurse would come in and David would cry at being constantly disturbed. At once point his temperature was so high that a nurse stayed with him, frequently replacing cold cloths on his head & tummy in a futile attempt to cool him down. And after a long night, things were much the same. It seemed that no amount of Calpol (yes, given to 4 week old - prescribed by a doctor, I may add) and endless cold cloths would even affect this raging fever.

"We'll do something further tests" the doctor announced on the morning round. A chest X-ray & an ultrasound of his head & organs. Walking into the X-ray room and seeing all the fairy lights strung across the ceiling and the cartoon characters painted on the walls - I burst into tears whilst clinging to David's roasting hot body. It didn't matter how many twinkly lights or happy characters they used to disguise it, this was an awful place for a newborn baby to be.

Thankfully both the X-ray and ultrasound were fine. And later that day we got an answer; one of the initial tests showed a virus called "parechovirus". The doctor explained it was no worse than any other virus but it can have a nasty affect on young babies as they don't have an immune system. But now we had an answer & could work on making David better. Fluids were introduced & since he was getting distressed at being held & touched, I was to stop breastfeeding him & instead he was given expressed breastmilk via a tube down his nose. This was the hardest part for me & I broke down when the doctor suggested it. This was the only thing I could do to help, the only thing I could do to soothe him. And now I couldn't. Now I wasn't even meant to pick him up. And things continued to get worse when David's cannula, that they'd struggled to get in (& settled for putting in his foot), fell out. After a further struggle to insert another into his hand, it was in an awkward place (right in the crease between his wrist & hand) and kept blocking. The doctor advised me if they couldn't get his antibiotics through they'd need to insert a third cannula into his head. Cue breakdown number 20,4634.

Tuesday night continued to be tough. I hadn't slept for two nights now and the constant flow of doctors and nurses coming in & out continued. David barely settled and I barely stopped crying whilst trying to soothe him. By Wednesday morning I was desperate to just sleep, and by this time, David was starting to settle down a little. So I could have (& in fact did) cry when a nurse came in to tidy my bed away and do the morning clean of our room. I spent another morning just staring at David, watching his wee chest rapidly breathing away - a nurse even came in to tell me I could go to the canteen or put the telly on if I wanted, but I didn't want to leave him, or even be distracted in case something changed. Thankfully throughout the day his temperature started to go down, if only to 39°c.

On Wednesday evening my parents brought me up some bags of supplies & clothes and I managed to sneak out the the corridor to have a cuddle with John whilst my Mum stayed with David. The doctors & nurses were saying there was an improvement in David but I still knew he wasn't his usual self. But on the plus side, he was now reacting to the Calpol he was given, where as on the previous days it had no affect on his fever. When the nurses changed shifts at 8pm, I braced myself for another long night. By 1am I had cried the most I had since we arrived and watched as each nurse walked past our room, praying someone would come in and ask if we were ok. David just wouldn't settle and I was struggling. Then the most lovely nurse we encountered came in. Honestly, she was an angel. She took one look at my puffy, cried-out face and told me to go to bed. She then went on to do every one of David's night feeds, cuddle him when he needed and get me organised for expressing through the night too. I only managed 5 or so hours in total but I've never been so grateful for sleep in my life. And she'd finished her shift by the time I was up in the morning so I didn't even get a chance to thank you but you could say my faith in human kind was restored!

By Thursday, there was a big improvement in David. Finally there was talk of getting home! The doctors advised us that as long as he fed ok from me and his temperature continued to go down we would get away in the morning. For the first time that week David was finally more like his usual self and actually spend some time awake wanting cuddles. And breast feeding was going well, with David regaining his usual appetite. He was sick a few times throughout the afternoon and early evening (which is totally normal for him) but I didn't dare tell the nurses in case they decided to opt back to his tube feeds.

I was so glad to see our saviour nurse back on duty on Thursday night. The first thing I did when I saw her was thank her profusely for the previous night and again she offered to look after David through the night if I liked. Thankfully her offer wasn't necessary as he had a much better night, settling at 11pm (with a little help in the form of swaddling by our saviour nurse), only waking once at 4am for a feed before going back to sleep until 7am. It finally seemed like our nightmare week was coming to an end. Friday morning brought much more positivity, especially when the nurses changed shifts at 8am and straight away started to organise us for going home! Iain made his way to the hospital to take us home and just after he arrived the doctors came to discharge us. It was such a contrast to see David fast asleep, in his clothes as opposed to just a nappy & not connected to any monitors or IVs, as his doctor checked him over one last time. She was very impressed with the difference in him, even saying she didn't expect us to be getting home so quickly, given how he was when we arrived on the Monday night.

But it was like everyone kept telling me - babies get well as quickly as they get ill. And although at the time it seemed like the world had stopped turning, so much happened in those 5 days that even now, just a week on, I struggle to remember all the details of our stay (although that might also be due to the sleep deprivation that was fogging my mind). I am however eternally grateful to the staff at The Royal Hospital For Sick Children for all their care & compassion during our stay.

Now I just need to find a spare minute to get the thank you card written! I've also applied to run for The Edinburgh Sick Kids Foundation in the Edinburgh Marathon (not the whole marathon, just the 10K) and I'm just waiting to hear back if I've been accepted - just another little way I can try to say thank you.


  1. So glad to hear David is much better! Hope you've also managed to catch up on some sleep now too!


    1. Thanks Kerry. Tried to catch up on sleep but with two, it's pretty much impossible! Hope you're all well & had a lovely Christmas. xo

  2. hi, i found your blog a little while ago but only just getting round to commenting. i'm also living in the edinburgh area with my 20 month old son and our second due in june.
    i'm so so sorry to hear what you've all been through lately. so glad to hear your little man is on the mend and you're all home. just in time for christmas as well.
    earlier in the year we were at sick kids as caleb had a really bad case of croup. it's such a scary experience being in hospital with your little one. they do an incredible job there, and like you ever so grateful.
    have a wonderful christmas with your little family, i hope you get a chance to relax and simply enjoy celebrating as a new family of four.

    1. Hi Claire! Thanks for commenting. So lovely to know there's another like-minded blogging Mum in Edinburgh. And congrats on your pregnancy!

      We had a similar experience with John just before he turned 1 with him being at A&E at the Sick Kids with croup. Thankfully he's so far escaped another case this year.

      Hope you had a lovely Christmas and I look forward to following your blog from now on. xo

  3. I actually had tears in my eyes reading this, your poor little man. What an awful thing to go through! So glad he's better now, I can't imagine the relief you must have felt when you were able to take him home again xx


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