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Feb 1, 2010

Gratitude

The last few days have been pretty hectic around my house, as you may have gathered if you follow my Twitter feed, and it is all because of that little baby boy who usually brings us so much happiness and joy. Not this time, no sir-ee. Not that I’m bitter or anything, but he decided to spike a fever to 103.2 the night before my OB/GYN final, requiring Patrick to take the day off work (unheard of) and both of us to pull strings to work shorter hours on Friday (strictly frowned upon). Then, after feeling wimpy on Friday, he was better Saturday, only to start pulling on his ears and wheezing. So off to Urgent Care we went.

Sunday evening, at the Sick Kid Doctor Visit with a pediatrician in the practice we go to, Colin was acting much more like himself and seemed to be feeling better. Knowing I am a med student, the doctor started out telling me jovial stories about her medical school education and teaching me the best way to listen to kids’ lungs. Then she actually listened to him and dropped her happy teaching attending face in exchange for a legitimately concerned expression for an experienced physician. This shift in tone was not lost on me and I felt my blood pressure go up by about thirty points.

“That doesn’t sound good at all,” she said was a frown. “I’m going to check his oxygen saturation.”

Which was also not good at all.

“Let’s try a nebulizer treatment.”

To shorten the story a bit, or at the very least to make it less painful for you than it was for me, he got two breathing treatments and then we were sent home with a nebulizer and strict instructions to come back the next day (today) to recheck how well he was getting oxygen. She considered keeping him overnight in the hospital, but thought he’d probably be okay. I pretty much stopped breathing when she said all that.

She did, at one point, put her teaching face back on and said, “You should listen to him! This is CLASSIC rhonchi.” I replied that I would really prefer not to hear that in my own sweet, perfect child’s lungs.

Colin got a handful of breathing treatments, a follow up appointment where he didn’t sound much better, and a chest x-ray today. I was able to resume breathing today when the doctor called me to tell me the results from the x-ray: completely clear. All the gunk and crap and goop that he is coughing up is just gunk. It is neither infectious nor is it irritating, and it will simply take a few weeks to clear it. He will finish his antibiotic for his ear infection, but we don’t need to follow up any more than that. In summary, he’s okay.

I recognize that this is a minor run-in with the medical profession, but I will tell you that it scared the bejeezus out of me. Colin has never been sick enough to take BACK to the doctor before, much less have his oxygen status rechecked multiple times for adequacy, and this experience has left me with an entirely new and great respect for people whose children are severely – or even moderately – ill. It is terrifying to be alone in the exam room with your baby, not knowing what is wrong or what is going to happen, looking him in the eye and telling him he will be okay when you don’t know that you’re right. Holding his hands so he doesn’t rip off the mask or pinning he arms to his side while they shoot the chest x-ray; these are minor medical procedures and tests from the medical side but from the patient’s side – my side and Colin’s side – it was incredibly scary and traumatic. This was almost more than I could handle, and I kind of knew what was going on.

In addition to being beyond grateful to the Universe for Colin being well and healing, I am also grateful for this experience and the impact it will undoubtedly have on my future treatment choices and patient care. I have a new appreciation for the execution of medical orders and perspective on the major impact that “basic” or “minor” interventions can have. Colin doesn’t seem to be any worse for the wear, but I feel ten years older and fundamentally changed, much in the same way that I felt after going through labor and delivery. I hope that I can implement these lessons into my practice and help people avoid these feelings of helplessness and desperation. By answering questions, giving full explanations both before and after decisions are made, and constant reassurance, we can make being sick less painful.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go sit in Colin’s room for awhile and watch him breathe while he sleeps.

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tracy said...

Hugs, Katie! i well remember having a sick baby (RSV) and the terror it brings. Hope all is well with Colin and your cute family now.

Pyjammy Pam said...

My three 2 year olds all have RAD and we have to give them nebulizer treatments daily. It's awful. I hope Colin won't need them any more, poor peanut.

Sara said...

Look up the evidence on those pulse oximeters - all they do is freak people out, lead to hospitalizations and lengthen stays - without any shown benefit. Don't flip out.

Dragonfly said...

I cannot imagine wanting to listen to a loved ones lung and observe their clinical signs. Let alone my own child (if I had one).
sending good thoughts your way...hope he bounces back asap.