What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Monica.
Recently, my 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son came down with routine colds. Colds are never fun, but these seemed pretty mild and both kids were recovering quickly. By the fourth day, I sent my daughter back to school and later that afternoon she had her best swim lesson of the summer. That's why it came as a surprise later on when she was up all night with a fever. The poor thing was so uncomfortable she just couldn't sleep. She finally slept from 4 to 7:30am, which was such a relief. But when she came downstairs after waking, I immediately saw that something was wrong. Her facial features (specifically, her eyes and nose) were swollen and distorted. I tried to not freak out as I talked normally to her and asked how she was feeling. The second the pediatrician’s office opened at 8 o’clock, I called to get an appointment. The doctor who saw her that morning did not seem overly concerned. She said to have her take some Benadryl and that the swelling seemed related to her cold or an allergy. I kept pressing. “But she has a fever – a fever doesn’t go along with allergies.” I asked if it maybe was some sort of infection. The doctor insisted since drainage was clear, she did NOT need an antibiotic. My heart and mind just felt uneasy, and my instinct told me something bad was going on. As we left, we ran into her primary care doc (who was booked full that day) and she had concern all over her face when she saw my daughter. She insisted an antibiotic should have been prescribed, but she said to try the Benadryl first and come back the next day if the swelling was not better. Long story short, things did not improve. Swelling was worse the next morning and blood was coming from her nose. Our second all-nighter was followed by another trip to the doctor’s office. A nurse practitioner reluctantly prescribed an antibiotic but she seemed very perplexed with my daughter’s symptoms. She said to take her to the emergency room if the swelling got any worse. I kept asking what that means, and I was getting angry she couldn’t fix whatever was wrong NOW. I did not like the ambiguity I felt from her, and I called my husband in tears after the appointment. He didn’t like it either. After we consulted with two doctor friends of ours, the nurse practitioner called me at home and said to take my daughter to the emergency room at a children’s hospital. My sitter rushed over to take care of my son so we could leave for the ER. I felt a sense of relief to be at least on our way to figuring out what was wrong. My daughter, God bless her, said on the way there, “Mom, we are having a girl date to the hospital!” God, I love her. Here I was freaking out in my head while she was just excited to be alone with me. When we got to the hospital, the ER doctor took one look at her blood-crusted nose and swollen features and told me the seriousness of the situation. He said bacteria must have entered a tear in her nasal membranes, which can be very dangerous, as it can travel to the brain quickly. She would need to start intravenous antibiotics right away. He said he was admitting her. I will never forget the look of worry on that doctor’s face. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such fear as I did in those moments. But somehow I had to be strong and hold it together for my precious girl. My husband was stuck in traffic trying to get to us. As they pricked my daughter three times to get the IV in, I held her hand and put my cheek to hers and told her it would be okay. She was so brave. Much, much braver than me and how I felt on the inside. A close girlfriend brought us dinner and my husband finally arrived two hours later. We got the first set of blood results, and thank goodness, her complete blood count was normal. No bacteria in her bloodstream at least. The night was rough and filled with interruptions for checking vitals, changing IV bags, and my daughter waking up scared at times. I slept with her for much of the night, my back crammed against the hard bedrail to make sure she felt comfortable and not crowded. I wish I could say my head was in a better place that night, but fear was getting the best of me. Dry heaving over the toilet in her room as she slept, I was a wreck on the inside…thoughts of “what if” kept creeping in. I have never felt so helpless in my life, but I had to force myself to stay strong for my little girl. The next morning, some swelling in her eyes had gone down, which was great news. Her official diagnoses was Nasal Cellulitis. The doctors made me feel a little better when they said they had seen this before in small children. A child can pick at their nose, especially if irritated by congestion or a cold, and easily create a small tear for bacteria to enter. My daughter tested negative for MRSA which was good news, and thankfully, she responded to the antibiotics over the course of two days. The highlight of the weekend's stay was when she was released from isolation and allowed to visit our hospital floor’s playroom. We stayed the entire hour it was open and played just about every game and toy they had. She was the happiest kid in the world! And I was the happiest mother, knowing we were able to go home because she was on the mend. My heart goes out to parents of children with debilitating conditions or illnesses. I cannot imagine being in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. I have learned so many lessons from this scary experience. First and foremost, always trust your instinct when it comes to your children. This was advice given to me when my daughter was a baby, and I wholeheartedly agree. Keep questioning if things don’t feel right. Be your child's healthcare advocate. Secondly, the fears I have about small, insignificant things do not matter. After what happened, I can more clearly see what fears are real and valid and which things are best to let go. Even though I already knew this in my head and have worked through so much of it, sometimes it takes experiencing a rather significant (and in this case, traumatic) event to teach us what is important in life. The small things, they are not getting to me anymore. I am more present in my days, and I can honestly say, life is beautiful. Seeing my daughter fully recovered, playing with friends, smiles across her face - there is nothing more joyful than that.