Monday, October 19, 2009

Parent's worst fears: Mars' medical emergency

Saturday night, Mars wasn't feeling too good. He'd had a cough, lots of crying for daddy at bedtime, complaining of a pain in his tummy, he didn't sleep much. Very clinging and crying in the morning for mummy. We decided to take him to the hospital early Sunday morning. He threw up first time waiting to see the triage nurse. A quiet morning in emergency, he was pretty much sent right in with Leaf while while I amused Odin in the waiting room.

She came out to get me after a while. They had pretty quickly put Mars in a mask and were having a hard time starting an IV. Five tries without success, he was screaming and traumatized by it. Finally they got a small needle and managed to draw some blood but gave up on IV. Resisted the mask, but I convinced him it was a cool Darth Vader mask. The ventolin helped him but doctor was very concerned. He was in respiratory distress, oxygen levels low, and though he perked up after meds, quickly back to difficulty breathing.

Doctor told us that she wanted to transfer him to the city hospital. By ambulance because of the risk. Thats when it hit me - until then I was in 'just a sore tummy' mode, and this was something that could be fatal. A quick chest x-ray first, crew arrived, gave him a teddy bear, strapped him to stretcher, wired him up with five or six leads, oxygen mask. He looked so tiny and helpless. A sight no parent should ever see. We decide I'll travel in the ambulance with him, Leaf heads home to pack some clothes, find somewhere for James to stay, & follow down with Odin. They load Mars in & he says "I'm ready to go home now Daddy." I still mist up just thinking about it. I think he was in shock - wasn't fussing or crying, just a wide eyed stare.

Thankfully he soon fell asleep in the ambulance. The crew were great, trying to be reassuring, but getting the intubation equipment made me more scared. Lights and siren the whole way, I wouldn't have thought it was physically possible to make the trip in an hour. Still the longest trip ever. Mars woke up as he was unloaded into emergency. More poking and prodding, but very busy, so he was watching all the goings on. Pediatrician came to see him, thinks most likely asthma attack, but wants to keep him for observation and safety. My mum had come down, and Mars perked right up when he saw grandma.

We're transferred up to pediatric ward, but in isolation because it is a respiratory problem - due to swine flu, they don't want to take chances. Good because he gets a private room, bad because nurses are all in gowns, masks and gloves whenever they come in, and he has to get tested for H1N1. Mum and Odin had arrived in the meantime and were waiting in the room. Mars said later that he liked the needles least (from Bancroft emergency's crappy attempts to IV), but I think the nasal 'swab' was worst for him. When the doctor said swab, I figured a q-tip rubbed around the nostril. Instead a 6 inch probe that probably poked all the way to his brain and came out bloody. Nurses had to wrap him in a blanket first to prevent struggling. Other than that, he was so willing to put up with everything. My little trooper.

Steroids and ventolin masks for the rest of the afternoon, he's in and out of bed playing with star wars figures and dinosaurs. Nurses very nice. Another big upset when mum, Odin, and grandma leave that night. Lots of cuddles and stories about the brave knight Sir Mars from dad, he fell asleep very quickly and slept soundly through the whole night. I didn't. He was hooked up to oxygen/pulse sensor which was supposed to beep madly if oxygen or pulse dropped below a set rate. First beeping was about 5 minutes after I finally managed to get to sleep. My heart jumped out of bed before I did. Sensor had slipped on his finger, or he had fidgeted and it went off because it wasn't getting a reading at all. Of course that managed to happen about 10 more time through the night. Combined with two more nurse visits for ventolin, I didn't get much sleep.

Mars woke up ready to go home. He was still coughing, still a little trouble breathing, but he is a smart kid. Up until then, when asked if it hurt to breathe, I got a yes. This time, there was a slight pause, then "No", having figured out what the 'right' answer was if he wanted to go home. He was looking better, more colour, and more active, don't know how many times I stood all his star wars men up so he could knock them down. Lungs still a little raspy according to nurses. Pediatrician came again that afternoon to check him over & said his lungs sounded better enough that we could go home. Swab came back negative for flu, most likely diagnosis was asthma attack, but Mars is too young for standard testing.

He gets to be on steroid inhaler until flu season ends just to be safe, then a followup to see where we go from there. A ventolin inhaler as well, plus his very own 'darth vader mask' to help administer it. Just glad to be home. My mum came and stayed again too, which was a great help. We figure it probably is asthma, Leaf also had it bad when she was little. Used to turn blue and have to be in an oxygen tent. We'd like to find out triggers. Maybe the dogs (I knew they'd regret eating his birthday cake off the table - would make the decision to find a new home for them so much easier!) Maybe seaonsal pollen, mold, or some environmental thing, but most likely a combination. We picked up a hepa filter for the bedroom on the way home. We'll get an allergy test done to be sure.

Mars had a nice day yesterday, lots of distracting from grandma. Today was tougher. My mum left yesterday afternoon, Leaf had to go into school early to catch up, and Mars wanted mummy more than anything. I think the trauma of the whole episode has really affected him. Had to drop him at the sitters this morning and he kept yelling that he wanted to go find mummy instead. I was very tempted to just bring him home again. Even Holly had a hard time & she is quite the master of distracting upset kids.

Spending the day cleaning and vacuuming and looking for mold. Found some in the bottom of the bedroom garbage can, some in an old jug. Unable to get an appointment with family doctor until November, so we'll be a little nervous until then. We have the inhaler, but not sure when another emergency room visit would be indicated. Err on the side of caution I guess. Lots of cuddles for Mars and Odin.


  1. It's so awful when your kids are sick. We've done the ambulance run five times with our little guy and it's so scary. Feeling helpless when your child needs you most is an awful feeling. I hope your little guy is, and stays, 100% very soon.

    Allison Smith

  2. That is so scary! My heart was racing the whole time I was reading. I hope you find out the cause of the asthma so you can rest in peace a little. Tough little guy that one!