We planned our Summer Vacation for a week stay in Houston. The busy city is full of attractions that will keep little toddlers engaged and it seemed a good fit for our family. We booked a quaint 1920’s home with a tidy back yard just a few minutes’ walk from downtown. I began using an ap called “Mommy Network” to find age appropriate activities for our crew. We were excited to have time in the park, splash pads, children’s museum, zoo, and just excited for time for our family to connect through playing together.
The Wednesday before our vacation three of our four woke with pink eye. I was eager to get them healthy to keep us on track for our vacation. Luckily, 24 hours later, only one of the three still showed signs, but by Friday he was given an antibiotic for an ear infection. We didn’t have plans to leave town until the following Tuesday. I knew he would be doing great by then.
However, 48 hours later we were taking that little guy to the ER. He had been crying uncontrollably and not eating or drinking much. I could not tell what was wrong. He had no other symptoms. He did not have fever. His eyes were looking much clearer. It was mind boggling. We were concerned, but confused.
Nurse link asked us to take in his amoxicillin so a physician could see his dosing. As we were loading the car I grabbed the bottle.
Then. I. panicked.
Then I freaked.
I had been giving him the wrong dosage of medication. He was supposed to get 4 ML of the 5ML solution and I had been giving him 5 ML.
I overdosed him.
I imagined they would want to pump his stomach. I could already envision the charcoal in his mouth. I knew this would lead to a CPS investigation questioning my ability to continue to care for our kids. I couldn’t think about that now. I just wanted him to be healthy and not have long-term side effects from my hap-hazard mistake. On the long car ride in, I wondered how our marriage would survive me doing this to our kid. Would my husband ever trust me again? Would he be able to forgive me? Could I forgive myself?
Once in the ER, I promptly admitted the dosing. The nurse casually nodded, apparently not alarmed. I repeated the dosing and then said, “I’m afraid I did this. I’m afraid he is overdosed.”
That kind nurse in all his maturity confidently looked at me and said, “don’t be worried. That amount of dosing won’t affect him at all.”
I wanted to just sob in relief, but I still didn’t know what was going on with him. I was just relieved his suffering wasn’t caused at my hand.
A quick 20 minutes later, lab work and chest x-ray revealed he had bronchiolitis from the parainfluenza virus. Basically, he caught a virus similar to the flu and was in respiratory distress.
Respiratory distress is concerning because infants have to work so hard for each breath that they can tire out and stop breathing.
The good news was that at the hospital they could give him oxygen that would allow him to rest and fight the virus. They could give him fluids through an IV and his body could do the hard work while he slept. Within an hour of him being admitted he finally stopped crying and looked peaceful again.
As we were moving him up to the ICU floor, his twin brother began showing similar signs. So, Dad stayed with Charlie in ICU and I headed back to the ER with Gabe. It was clear Gabe had the same virus, but was earlier in the course of the virus. He was promptly admitted to the main pediatric floor.
This wasn’t the vacation we had planned. We cancelled the 1920’s home for two rooms in our local hospital. Instead of a week of the 6 of us together, we had a week divided. However, after experiencing the fear and helplessness at home we were resolved that we were where we needed to be.
The separation added extra anxiety and exhaustion as there were few breaks to process or rest. I wanted to hold both babies, it was impossible to choose which one to leave. I took comfort in knowing that my husband was always with the one that I was not. However, it meant I rarely saw him. Simultaneously, my two older boys were in good hands, but I did not get to hug those boys for a solid week.
If you have spent much time in a hospital you are familiar with the constant flow of medical staff in and out of your room. Even with the constant barrage of people you wait hours to hear from the physicians. All you want to know is, “how is my little guy today and when are we going home?”
After a few days, we started to become a bit delirious from exhaustion, beeping alarms. Cabin fever started to set in. Your skin starts to feel funny from not feeling the outside breeze or sun. I only know I was experiencing delirium because the idea of ordering hospital food was exciting and I began thinking the food was yummy.
Thankfully, we had a shower in one of the boy’s rooms and could take care of some personal needs. My husband was afforded the luxury of going home to get some personal belongings. I think he was delirious too, he tried three times to pack a bag for me. Bless his tired heart. I ended up only being able to wear one of the shirts he brought- and it was his. This almost brought him to tears, but it still makes me smile. Trust me when I say I looked rough. I had been through the ringer and I looked like it. I know he wanted to take good care of me, but I could care less. I just wanted a hug and to go home.
It was about this time in our stay that it was my rotation in ICU. Little Charlie was having a really rough day. We were back to uncontrollable crying. Nothing soothed him. Well, nothing but pain medication. Charlie was due for his next dosage right a shift change time. The day nurse took liberty make sure night shift knew he needed it immediately. She came to me before leaving and said that my night nurse was swamped, but another nurse (and gave me her name) would bring me his medicine right at 7pm.
Seven came and went and Charlie was back to crying. By 7:15 Charlie had been screaming for 15 minutes with me holding him at our door calling for the nurse (we were 10 feet away). We were ignored.
I finally got Charlie safely back in bed (all lines and all) and made it to the nurse’s desk. Now standing within 5 feet of two nurses.
No turning, no response.
I could now hear their full conversation. I heard all about their new Invisalign treatments and the pros and cons.
It took me loudly saying something two more times. To which point she finally turned to me with an annoyed look.
Her name tag revealed that she was the nurse I was informed would bring me his medicine right at seven.
She informed me she would get his nurse. I felt rage as I could still hear my baby screaming from his room.
She walked out, me assuming she is finding my nurse. There is now no one in sight to ask for help.
Approximately 7:30 P.M., the same “invisalign” nurse brought him his medicine.
I am not sure how in my state of rage I noticed this, but I noticed how well manicured this nurse was. Her hair was down and curled when I first talked to her, but now was neatly and stylishly swirled in an up-do. She had beautiful smelling perfume (which is rare in ICU- after all what if a little one is allergic to your scent), her nails were recently painted a professional but fun summer pink that coordinated perfectly with her royal blue scrubs. Her make-up was perfect. Her scrubs were freshly ironed. She was stunning.
Once my son’s medicine finally kicked in and I calmed down, it hit me. In all her beauty, in that moment, she was one of the ugliest people I had ever met.
There was nothing beautiful about ignoring a child’s scream- especially in ICU. There was nothing caring or loving or beautiful about cutting her eyes at the mother trying to help her child. There was nothing understanding, patient, kind, or beautiful about the way she avoided her responsibility so she could continue her social conversation. Her sweet scent was soured by her actions.
My mind then started thinking of all the beauty we had seen that week.
We almost wept when a volunteer offered to sit and hold our baby so my husband and I could have lunch together. I almost wept again when I arrived back to see him cuddled and asleep on her chest.
It was beautiful when a friend brought lunch that wasn’t hospital food. It helped me remember there was life beyond the hospital floors.
It was beautiful when nurses brought my boys balloons, and then toys to play with.
It was beautiful when my friend came and held my baby while I vented. Her poor ear is probably still tired. Or how she stayed with me when we couldn’t get an IV in him and together we watched every prick.
It was beautiful when our pastor came and prayed with us.
It was beautiful to see my own Mama come and hold my babies.
It was beautiful to read comments on Facebook of the 100’s of friends saying they were praying.
There was nothing more beautiful than my friend that kept my boys for five days without complaint or reservation. There are not words enough to describe that level of beauty. I know how incredibly hard that job was and she graced us by lifting such a heavy load and replacing it with peace that week. To know that my older boys were cuddled and loved during a week that I imagined they felt left or maybe abandoned is a gift far greater than rubies.
It has been almost four weeks since our little staycation to our local hospital. I am just now starting to calm enough to cry. I have cried every. time. I try to write this blog. I have no doubt it is part of me processing and healing from those tense days.
In all this pain caused from fear and anxiety, I have a developed a deeper appreciation for true beauty. I appreciate style, but my eyes are clearer. Sincerity, authenticity, genuineness, compassion are a few of the cosmetics I wish to donn daily. Their beauty fills your heart and soul in a much richer and fulfilling manner. I wish to leave a daily dose of this type of beauty to those I encounter.
Thank you to my rich supporters of friends, family, and medical staff that enriched our lives and cared for our babies. Thank you for making our world more beautiful because you cared.