My son looked lethargic and was not able to stand on his own. His body kept leaning to the right and his head and eyes were just focused on the right. As I called his name and slowly kept raising my voice to get his attention, his gaze was not changing. It was like he was focusing on something to the right of the room and was just not responding to my wife and I as we called his name. I wrapped myself in a towel and watched as my son started urinating on himself and had no reaction to his pajamas getting wet. I pulled him in the bathtub with me and my wife grabbed her phone and dialed 911.
When my son was with me in the bathtub he started coughing as if he was going to throw up. I held him and told him it was ok and as the vomit came out we saw blood in it. At the same time, some blood came out of his nose and I started to panic. My wife was talking to the 911 operator and was notified that the ambulance would take him to the closest hospital, but we knew that we needed to take him to the children's hospital about 15 minutes away.
The entire time this was happening, my mind was running in a million different directions. I started thinking if it was the right thing to do to drive ourselves to the hospital. I started thinking about how I have to call my job and let them know that I would not be coming in. I started thinking about how we all need to get dressed ASAP and leave the house ten minutes ago.
If you were to have been watching this episode happening it was chaotic as my wife and I were yelling, not in a bad way, but in a drill sargent-type way to each other. "Here hold him so I can get dressed!" "Quick, wipe down the pee from his legs!" (To our daughter) "Change your clothes and start getting ready to go!" "We have to leave now!"
I had my son on his bed and was changing his clothes and I had to lean him against the wall because he kept falling to his side. As he was sitting there he was twitching and started coughing. I carried him to the bathroom and held him over the toilet as he started to vomit again. As my son was throwing up, I could feel his heart beating rapidly and his body shaking. For a brief moment, I thought my son was going to leave me. I felt my eyes well up with tears and I looked to my right and saw my daughter standing there with tears in her eyes saying her brother's name. The tears started going down her cheeks when it hit me that I needed to be brave right now.
I am not going to say that I got all macho and "manned up" but I did realize that it was ok to be scared at that moment, but also I had to be brave for my children. I know a few parents have seen this situation before. Your child is running around and suddenly falls down. Depending on your reaction to their fall, they will either stand up like nothing or start crying if they see you react in a scared manner. I knew that I had to quell my fears for the moment so my children would not start to panic by everything that was going on.
Getting dressed I asked my daughter to take our dog to the front because with all the activity in our house our dog was getting antsy and needed to use the bathroom. I was so proud of my daughter for taking our dog outside so she could do her business. This was the first time that she had ever done it on her own and definitely not the last time. We were all ready to go and as we were buckling my son to his car seat he threw up again. My wife sat in the back with him and caught whatever vomit came out of him on the drive to the hospital. He started being a little more responsive in the car, but that did not stop me from driving a little faster than usual to the hospital.
When we pulled up to the emergency room we were lost. We have been to the hospital countless of times for check-ups, but being that this was our first time to the ER, we did not know what to do when we arrived at the emergency room driveway. Do we pull up to the driveway and have someone help us take our son up? Do I carry my son inside and leave the car there? It was a mystery to us. You would figure that with my wife being a nurse and the many seasons of St. Elsewhere, ER, Grey's Anatomy and Chicago Med that we have seen, we would know our way around a hospital. I pulled up and ran inside to ask the security guard while my wife unbuckled our son from his carseat and started to make her way in with him.
I parked the car and called the command center of my job, seriously that's what is called, and marked my absence. I ran to catch up with my family and walked in just in time as my wife was checking my son in. I grabbed him from my wife as she gave the nurse his information and my son just lay limp on my shoulder. He was slowly responding to our questions and when the nurse asked him his name it was reassuring to hear him say it to the nurse.
It was surreal standing there and listening to my wife retell the incidents from the morning. Listening to her tell the nurse about his vomiting and his altered mental state, made it all feel like it was a dream. When we sat down to remove his jacket and sweater, he threw up one more time. I rushed him to the bathroom and to clean him up, while my wife notified the nurse that he threw up again.
The area in the emergency room was slowly filling up with parents and their children. The flu has been hitting hard this winter season and my wife made sure to have my children wear face masks while we sat awaiting our turn. My wife took our daughter to the bathroom as I called my job again to talk to someone about my absence when my son's name was called. I carried my son into the examination room, leaving our coats behind while talking to my job on the phone and answering questions from the nurse. It was a strange and funny sight at the moment. I sat there with my son on my lap and noticed my wife walking by with my daughter. I asked the nurse to call to them and once inside we were assigned a room.
If the few minutes at home seemed frantic, as we walked to the room, the nurse told us that due to his symptoms, the room was going to be full of doctors and nurses, to not be alarmed. Imagine walking to a hospital room with two nurses and three doctors asking you questions about what happened while you are helping undress your son and watching as the nurses take blood from him and connect a monitor to his chest and set up an IV in his hand. As much as I was trying to pay attention to what was happening, I was also asking and answering questions from the doctors with my wife. Every now and then I heard a "poof" sound from what sounded like an air gun. Later my wife told me it was Lidocaine, to numb the area where they needed to poke him and get blood and set up his IV.
I have never felt so helpless in all my life than at that moment. There was nothing that I could do except stand back and let the staff do their job. I don't know if I should attribute it to his tired state or his braveness, but my son was the perfect patient as the nurses poked and prodded him. Not once did he yell or complain about what was going on, he just laid there and answered the doctors to the best of his ability. I noticed that as the doctors were talking to us on the bed sheet they wrote the letters "CBC, CMP, CT, US, XR" These letters turned out to be the tests that they were going to run on him. After they did the blood work, they were going to take my son in to do a CT scan.
When the CT tech came in the room, she asked my son if he was ready to go for a ride. My son uttered a "yes" and then he was wheeled away with my wife in tow. According to my wife, it was like being under the sea. A bright yellow submarine adorned the wall, and the table itself looked like a submarine with pictures of fun sea creatures and sea bubbles on the walls and ceiling to keep a nervous child (or parent) distracted. The whole process took around fifteen minutes, but like with the blood tests, we had to wait an hour for the results.
It was only a few minutes after he came back from the CT that an X-ray tech came in to take him away again to take x-rays of his stomach. This time I went with him and watched as he lay still as the x-ray machine took a picture of his stomach. I wanted to take a picture of the room because like the CT room, it was themed. The ceiling had hundreds of twinkling lights that I told my son to look at as he lay there. Next, my son had to stand up and have another photo taken of him. He just stood there and when it was done, I carried him back to the room.
The entire time that we were waiting for results and the doctors to give us updates, my daughter and son were watching movies on the room television. I think we started with Cars, then Moana, then Inside Out, then Descendants 2 and Smurfs: The Lost Village. Yeah, it was a long day. During the movies, my son had an ultrasound done on his stomach and threw up a few more times. Since he was not able to hold anything down another ultrasound was ordered and this time they were looking to see how his appendix looked. During this ultrasound, my son fell asleep and was out for a little bit. We were told that his bloodwork came back normal and the X-ray was normal. His CT came back normal with a real small incidental finding that did not have anything do to with his episode. They told us it was of no concern, but someone from neurology came to talk to us to reassure us that it was nothing.
My daughter was a trooper the entire time, sitting next to her brother, helping him drink his apple juice and just talking to him to get his mind off of things. These two little humans who spend most of the days arguing about something or chasing each other around the house seemed to forget all of that as they talked about the movie they were watching. It filled my heart with joy because I could picture them in the future just talking about everything and then one of them bringing up this episode in their lives. This will be one of their shared memories that they will never forget.
During our stay at Chez ER, we contacted our immediate family to let them know what was going on and that we would keep them updated as soon as we found out anything. My daughter was picked up by my sister-in-law and she brought some food for us to eat while we waited. By this time, my son's color had come back and he was talking more and asking for food. We had to limit him to liquids because they wanted to see if he would be able to hold them down. Plus, we were also waiting for the results from the second ultrasound.
The doctor came in and told us that his appendix looked normal and that he would be cleared for discharge soon. They could not really tell us why he had the episode, but one theory was that he might have had a nosebleed in his sleep and ended up swallowing blood that caused a vasovagal reaction that lead to this. My son has been having some nosebleeds every now and then, but nothing too concerning. Most of them have to do with the dryness in the air from this strange winter season we have been having.
At the end of our 9 hour day we left with this*:
"name was admitted with vomiting and altered mental status. He was given fluids through an IV. He had a head CT, abdominal X-ray, and abodominal ultrasound which were all reasurring. His head CT showed a borderline Chiari Malformation that is an incidental finding and does not require follow-up. Diagnosed with Hematemesis and altered mental status."
*I removed my son's name and the name of the finding from the hospital's summary. The last thing I want is people googling it and trying to give me medical advice. I understand that we are all parents, but having children does not make us experts automatically. Plus, don't you hate when other people try to tell you how to take care of your children?
When we left the hospital my son was walking on his own. He said goodbye to the nurses and was telling my wife and me what he wanted to eat, "Chicken nuggets and chocolate milk". As we walked out of the emergency room it looked like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. It was filled with parents and children all wearing masks and a few of them crying as if they did not want to be there. When we first arrived in the morning, the room was practically empty, but now there was nowhere to sit. My son was talkative the entire ride home and it was just strange to see him like this knowing how he was this morning.
At home, my son was running around, dancing to music and you wouldn't have known that earlier in the morning he was not able to stand on his own. The entire night we kept talking to him and his sister and asking him if he remembered anything that happened in the morning. He would answer a few questions but was more interested in playing around with his sister. We were being cautious with him, but we were not being overly protective of him. We were letting him be himself.
The following day he had his follow up visit and everything checked out normal. It's a mystery that we hope would get solved soon. It was recommended to get another follow-up with neurology just to be on the safe side, so that will be our next plan of action.
As a parent, you know that there are going to be days that just pull the carpet out from under your feet, but the thing you do not know is when that day is going to happen and how you are going to react. Sunday morning was one of the scariest days in my life as a parent, but I am glad I have a partner that knew, like me, that the way we react to the situation can make all the difference in our children's lives. If we show our children not to panic and to keep a cool head, they will hopefully be level headed whenever they are faced with an emergency situation.
That reminds me of one time when I was getting my hair cut. There was a father there with his son and they were talking about the father's grandmother who recently passed away. He told us a story about how during World War II she was on a boat, I can't remember what kind he said, but they were being shot at and she was calm while it was happening. Someone asked her why she was not screaming or panicking and she responded and I paraphrase, "What good is screaming going to do? It's not going to stop the bullets from hitting us." Your children are going to get hurt every now and then, panicking and crying is not how you should react in front of them.
Thank you for reading. Hug your children and remember just because we have a blog does not make us parenting experts. We just like writing about our adventures with our children and hope that you can relate to what we write.
Special thank you goes to my Dadblogger brothers who sent me their positive vibes and helped me get through this situation. I owe you all big time!