Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A 'Never Again' Moment

Before we take a trip, I familiarize myself with the location of the local hospital. With two kids with shunts, one of whom also has seizure disorder, I figure that its a good idea. When we're traveling farther than a couple of hours from home, I go so far as to find the closest major medical center. Preferably one that is ranked nationally in quality of their neurosurgery department.

As I prepared for the trip to central Virginia this past weekend, I did my research and found the closest community hospital in Farmville, roughly a 25 minute drive from the park where we were staying. I figured that if I needed to get there, I'd use the GPS on my phone to get actual directions.

Never again.

Shortly past midnight on Sunday, Matt woke up with very labored breathing. Screaming when he could take a breath. He was having a really hard time and Nate and I weren't sure what to do. We tried to calm him, get him to cough... anything. But nothing was changing the situation. We decided that I'd take him to the ER in Farmville. I was happy I knew there was a hospital there... but definitely didn't think it was Matt who was going to need it!

We loaded Matt into the van. The cool weather outside didn't have any effect on the terrible sounds coming from his chest. I knew it wasn't croup. I turned on my phone for the GPS.

No signal.

Same thing with Nate's phone. I tried to find our location on the outdated Rand McNally map in my car. It didn't show the hospital. I started to panic. Thankfully Matt had fallen asleep in his car seat, so the screaming had stopped. But that terrible rattly, labored sound was still there.

Nate went to wake up my dad, and thankfully his phone was getting a signal. We loaded the hospital into the GPS program, and I was on my way.

We arrived at the hospital in about 25 minutes. The moon was bright and the night was cool. We were the only ones in the waiting room of the ER. After so many years of major medical center ERs, I had forgotten what the middle of the night in a community hospital could be like. It was almost peaceful.

They took Matt's vitals quickly and efficiently. We saw the triage nurse, then the charge nurse, and then the ER doctor in a matter of 5 minutes. They were gushing over how cute they thought Matt was. He woke up when they put a pulse-ox on his toe and looked so confused. He sat in the hospital bed like a little skeptical man, with his sippie cup of water and his blanket. Staring down everyone who walked by. No smiles. Every once in a while he would reach for me and want some comfort. He only cried twice. Once when they took his ::ahem:: temperature, and then when they took a nasal swab for flu and RSV testing.

We went for a chest x-ray within 20 minutes of walking through the front door. That certainly doesn't happen regularly for us. Matt amazed the x-ray tech by sitting still for his x-rays. She got the 2 shots she needed in 2 tries. Matt's mood changed when we were waiting for the radiologist to read the x-rays. All of a sudden he realized that he was the only kid around, and that he was getting a LOT of attention. It didn't matter that it was 3am.

As we settled back into our curtain area, Matt made it obvious that he didn't want to sit still anymore. In his doggie pajamas and sneakers, with blanket in hand, he lead me on a tour of the ER. We saw the Hampden-Sydney student down the hall sleeping off his hangover, an end-stage cancer patient surrounded by his three doting sons, someone else with a broken leg getting fit with a cast and crutches. They all smiled when they saw Matt, and he smiled back. Attention hog!

The x-ray indicated that the Matt had bronchitis. The doctor called it "acute onset bacterial bronchitis" which explains to me why Matt was fine during the day on Saturday and terrible later that night. The flu and RSV tests were negative. They ordered a steroid to open up his lungs, and a breathing treatment similar to what Luke does sometimes at home (albuterol in a nebulizer).

As the doctor is explaining this to me, Matt is running away, trying to sneak into someone else's room and play with their sink. He's laughing and smiling, but still the breathing sounds terrible. As I chase after him, I hear her say that she wants to admit him. I stopped in my tracks, totally perplexed.

Me: He has bronchitis. Why does he need to be admitted?

Doctor: His breathing sounds terrible.

Me: His pulse-ox is 100%. He has no chest retractions. He conscious, lucid, and his behavior is totally consistent with a healthy 17 month old. If he was acting any other way, I would agree with you. But I think admitting him is an over reaction.

Doctor: Wow.

Me: What?

Doctor: You might not be one, but you certainly do sound like a doctor. Ok, I trust you. I'll give you a prescription for an antibiotic and a steriod, and he'll need more breathing treatments. If anything changes, come back.

It was still cool and the moon was bright as we left the hospital with our prescriptions. Matt quickly fell asleep in the car, and I had a silent drive back to the park. Everything in the cabin was still. I climbed back into bed, and it was like nothing had changed and no time had past.

But one thing certainly had changed... I will never again go on a trip without printed directions of how to get from where we're staying to the local hospital. Say what you want about Mapquest directions... but they don't tell me they've got no signal when I need them most.

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