It was a year ago that I was at our pediatrician’s office for the 3rd time in as many days. Henry picked up a nasty cold, we believe, from one of the many kiddos at our big family Christmas gathering, and then passed that cold onto everyone in our house, including 5-week-old Graham. I did everything I could to keep them separated in hopes that baby G wouldn’t get sick, but it happened anyway and I was scared. His breathing was labored and he was super congested. Our pediatrician told us Henry and Graham both had really bad colds, so we just needed to let it run its course. I wanted to know what I should be looking for – specific symptoms or signs that would indicate the cold had turned into something more serious in this tiny newborn. Every time I called or brought G in, I was made to feel like I was this overreacting crazy parent who just needed to go home and calm down.
On January 2nd, I pushed my way into yet another appointment with our pediatrician and this time my fears were confirmed. We needed to go to the ER for testing. I asked if we could of to the hospital that was just 15 minutes further away, because they are better equipped to handle children, especially babies. Our doctor assured us that it would be fine and that he just needed to have a few tests done and it would be faster to have them processed in the ER than in his office.
My husband and I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. Just a few tests. But once we got to the ER, we realized that it was a much more serious situation. His pulse-ox was alarmingly low and he needed help fast. What happened next was serious of moments when we should have spoken up and advocated for our child. We should have said “No, this is not acceptable. Stop.” But neither of us did because we were out of our element and afraid. We were doing what we were told, by people who knew better.
The group of young nurses attempting to get an IV into a tiny baby was clearly some kind of practice session. I had to leave the room after they asked my husband to help hold him down. After 20 minutes of failed attempts, they finally called in a specialist, who got it in the first try. It was then confirmed that he needed to be admitted and this hospital didn’t feel like they could offer him the best care, so they were sending us to the hospital we wanted to go to in the first place. After several hours, our baby was being loaded onto an ambulance. The whole thing seemed wrong – they put a 5-week-old on an adult stretcher, with 5 point harness adapter for a toddler. His head was completely unstable and the straps of the harness were up around his neck. We gave some pushback, but we were told we had no choice. They did allow me to take baby blankets from our diaper bag and roll them up to secure all around his little body and head (and to use as a barrier between his neck and the strangulation hazard that they called a harness).With the sirens in the background, the EMT proceeded to talk to me about the weather and the inconvenience of having to drive to his cousin’s wedding that weekend. I’m sorry – WHAT? Not a time for small talk. We arrived at the other hospital and the nurses in the PICU immediately asked questions about why this baby was transferred in such a manner and why he had adult leads (that left big welts) instead of the appropriate pediatric leads. The direct quote from the EMT to the nurse was, “Well, we weren’t really set up to handle a baby this small.” The nurse later explained to me that babies of G’s age are supposed to have a specialized team with specialized equipment for their ambulance transfers.
The next 5 days/4 nights at the hospital were grueling, but we have a perfectly healthy one year old today, so I can’t complain. I still feel angry about the whole experience, though. The hospital where G was admitted took absolutely excellent care of him, but I’m angry at myself for not insisting that we go there in the first place. I’m frustrated that my attempt to be a proactive parent was not met receptively by our pediatrician. I’m disappointed that the simple test for RSV wasn’t done on Henry, knowing that it was going around in our area, and then we would have known 5 days earlier what we were dealing with. I don’t doubt that we would have landed in the hospital regardless, but had I trusted my gut, getting there would likely have been a considerably less traumatic experience.
So, a year later I am beyond thankful that we have two healthy children and that all is well. However, that experience was nothing short of a nightmare at the time. Even if it means that you are labeled as an overbearing parent (I’m sure there is a red flag next to my name in the pediatrician’s system!), I strongly feel that we must value our intuition and be advocates for our children. Going into 2016, I look back on these lessons with a renewed sense of respect for my instincts and confidence that when faced with another such moment, I will speak up and not take a back seat when it comes to my children.
Cheers to health, happiness and love in spades in the New Year! xoxo