Monday, December 19, 2011

Pneumonia again; and stitches in the head

My daughter came down with pneumonia again in November and was admitted to the hospital for 4 days.  She had had pneumonia for 4 times now since she was born, and she’s only 3 ½ years old. Poor thing. I’ve never been admitted to a hospital in my life until I gave birth to her. 

It started innocently enough; she developed a mild cough, so did her little brother. But as her brother recovers, hers got worse to the point that she started wheezing. The night before she was admitted, she couldn’t sleep (neither could I) because she had trouble breathing and she was already burning up in a fever.  Both my husband and I are well versed in pneumonia attacks - as she’s had it 3 times previously – we were pretty sure she’ll have to be admitted. 

Aliah getting the nebulizer treatment in the emergency room
So when the doctor confirmed that she needed to be admitted, no one was surprised – except maybe my daughter herself. Luckily we left her brother at day care before coming to the hospital. This time was a little more complicated than before; all previous pneumonia attacks happened before her brother was born, meaning she was still the only child. Now we had to think of who could take care of her brother, as I couldn’t watch both a sick child and monitor a healthy child. My husband could not take additional leave days; his job was pretty crazy at the moment. Lucky for us, his parents had just retired a few months ago, so they volunteered to care for the little guy. But as my son is still breastfeeding at night, so my husband would have to pick him up after he leaves work at night. So all four of us camped out at the hospital for 3 nights; me and my daughter on the bed, and my husband and my son on a small, travel mattress on the floor. The first night we had to stay in a four-bedded children’s ward as all single bed wards were full. 

My husband left for work around 6.30am, so I have to bath both kids, dress them and feed them breakfast while waiting for my in-laws to pick up my son for the day. Not an easy feat when one of them is a healthy child. Luckily all the other beds were empty (all of them got transferred to other wards during the previous night) so we had the ward to ourselves. He managed to spill orange juice, spill a container of cornflakes on the bed and on the floor, pressed the nurse button several times (I had to apologize embarrassingly to the nurse) and almost tipped over the IV drip stand; all in the stretch of a couple of hours. At the same time, I had to coax my daughter to take her oral medication and her nebulizer treatment, which she had to take every 4-5 hours.

We got to transfer to a single bedded ward on the second day, around 8pm. So the remaining 2 nights we slept more fitfully, as we got an extra bed; the travel mattress was left in the bag. On the third day, a fruit basket with a Smurfette arrived for my daughter; my office sends fruit baskets to all employees that got hospitalized. The cheerful faces were like a ray of sunshine in a rainstorm; both kids were tearing up the plastic covering like crazy. I was smiling to watch them whooping in delight, until my son started playing soccer using the persimmon as a ball. Lucky the persimmon didn’t crush into pulp under his little feet. 

so happy!
All in all, I think kids and hospital just can’t go together, especially when the kid had to be strapped to an IV drip. The bed was pretty confining and TV got boring after a while; I had to let her watch the Disney Channel to keep her occupied, which kept playing Mr. Bean cartoons again and again. Whenever the IV drip was taken off, she begged to go to the playground at the children’s ward entrance or the small shop downstairs. I spent some money buying magazines, small toys and various biscuits for her, to keep us both from going insane. At first she doesn’t mind the nebulizer treatments, but later she started acting up and refused to take it. I had to make it an entertainment for her; sometimes I carried her and we danced around the bed where the IV line permitted; sometimes I took a few turns at the nebulizer myself, to be ‘fair’ to her. What a mom wouldn’t do to get her child healthy again. So on the fourth day when the doctor proclaimed that my daughter is good to go home, we left as soon as possible, hoping not to come back to the hospital until next year, at least.

My hopes were short-lived.

It was almost 3 weeks after my daughter left the hospital. I was doing a full medical checkup at that same hospital. My employer covers a full medical checkup for all employees once in every three years, and this was my first time. I was waiting for the ultrasound when my maid called. She was new and had just worked with us 2 days after my daughter left the hospital; she doesn’t understand our language very well, so there were some communication problems in the beginning, but she was getting better. She told me that she was washing up my daughter (she just pooped) when my son came running into the bathroom, slipped and fell down, hitting the back of his head on the door ledge. I didn’t hear my son crying, so I didn’t worry too much about it. 

I immediately called my husband, asking him to get home and check on our son. He was at a car workshop, luckily nearby our home. My son seemed perfectly fine despite cutting his head open; he was already playing with his sister as usual, he wasn’t even crying anymore. My husband took one look, called me and said “I think he’ll need stitches.” I was like “What???” I thought it was like a graze when you fall down on your knees. Since I was already at the hospital, my husband packed up the kids, hailed a taxi (our car was left at the workshop) and came to the hospital to meet me.

I had to cut short my medical checkup and postpone to a later date, and went to the emergency room to meet them. It was already noon, so naturally the kids were getting a little cranky for their naps. I was a little freaked out to see my boy’s little head cut like that. The blood was just oozing slightly out of the cut, without any spills. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the pain too much; he remembered the pain when somebody touched his head, or when he lied down on my lap to nurse. Even when the doctor first looked at him, he said “He doesn’t seem to be in any pain at all.” But he did cry when the doctor cleaned his wound and bandaged his head. We had to wait for the general surgeon for about an hour, to come to stitch him up. While waiting, he jumped around on the sofas, ate some chocolate biscuits and pulled off the head bandage three times. A nurse commented to me, “Weren’t you here a few weeks ago…” I was like, “Yeah yeah, that was my daughter getting pneumonia, now my son cut his head.” 

Aliff in his head bandage
Then the surgeon arrived, looked at his wound, and asked us whether we would prefer for our son to take the general anesthesia or the local anesthesia. To take general anesthesia, he would have to be admitted, not eat anything for 6 hours and stay at the hospital at least for one night. I had had enough of hospital wards, so we decided to take the local anesthesia. I didn’t have the heart to watch my son’s head being stitched up, so my husband stayed with him during the procedure. My daughter was already asleep in the stroller outside in the waiting room, so I stayed with her. 

But that didn’t stop me from hearing my son’s cries, which was pretty distressing for me, imagining what he was going through. I braved myself enough to peek through the door, and I saw him lying face down on the table, my husband soothing him while holding him down with a nurse, the doctor on his left side, stitching away. My son was whining and crying a little, definitely uncomfortable. I was glad that my husband stayed with him; this was totally different than holding down my daughter while she was being pricked in the hand for an IV line. 

Half an hour passed and my husband came out, holding the little boy in his arms. He immediately reached out for me, crying. It was the combination of discomfort, pain, weariness, disorientation and the after effect of the local anesthesia. He doesn’t want to be put down on his feet, but when he does stand on his own feet, he seemed to sway a little on the spot. I tried showing him my phone to distract him but then he took my husband’s phone and matched them, saying “same.. same..” Truth be told, it was rather funny. After getting his meds, we hailed a taxi and scrambled back home. I breastfed my son, and he was asleep within 10 minutes. 

Sleeping on his tummy, like I said.

For the first 3 days, he was still feeling the pain, so he remembered to sleep on his tummy or on his side at night. He was even scared to lie down to nurse or to put on his diapers, so we had to hold his head or put a small bolster pillow underneath his neck to support him. On the 4th day he could already lie down with his head supported with a soft pillow. Now he’s already forgotten the pain and could put his head down like normal. Every time he jumps on the sofa or on the bed, we’ll remind him that he might fall down and hurt his head again. He’ll remember the pain for 5 seconds, touch his head and continue jumping. Ahh, the blissful ignorance of childhood.


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