It was a long weekend around here. And not of the holiday variety.
Saturday we had planned to have some friends over to share Ethiopian food, lively conversation and good wine. So, we spent the better part of Saturday cleaning, baking, chopping, preparing, as one does. And later Saturday afternoon, our friends showed up and we ate and laughed and had a most excellent time.
This was the high point of our weekend.
Saturday around mid-day, Stinkerbelle started showing signs of the sniffles. I had already emailed everyone to say our plans were a go, but Stinkerbelle did not seem very sick, so I figured as long as everyone took due precautions not to lick anything she has or let her sneeze on them or anything, they’d be fine. So that was good. But around 7 pm, That Baby began to cough.
Now, I’ve mentioned here before, that Stinkerbelle got sick about a week before Christmas, and while she shook that cold soon enough, she’s had a lingering cough. Normally, she seems to be 100% fine each day, but after she exercises or at nighttime, she begins to cough. We’ve been treating it as best we can with honey and lemon, and homeopathic cough meds, and the like. We haven’t gotten more than one night’s uninterrupted sleep since Christmas, but it’s been fine. We waffled on taking her to the doctor, but it just never seemed to be worth the trouble. Kids get lingering coughs all the time.
But last week it was getting a little rougher, so I booked an appointment with Stinkerbelle’s family doctor. The soonest he could get her in was Tuesday (so, tomorrow) morning. Fine.
And then, this coughing began Saturday evening.
We put That Baby to bed, and said our goodbyes to our friends, and went upstairs to unwind. We noticed it was taking Stinkerbelle a long time to settle. She was coughing a lot. So we got her back up, gave her the usual stuff to treat it, and put her back to bed.
10:30 rolled around, and she was still coughing. Continuous, non-stop coughing. So we added Tylenol to the mix to help her relax and get to sleep.
An hour later, and That Baby was coughing so hard she threw up. I was holding her in a comfy chair in her room, settling her down so she could fall asleep a little more upright, in the hope it could help her breathe. BDH was in the other room on the phone, on hold with Ontario Telehealth until somebody was available.
After 45 minutes, the nurse began to try to help Stinkerbelle, asking questions, listening to her cough, and giving us advice. She told us she thought it was probably not an emergency, but to get Stinkerbelle to a doctor within 24 hours. With no walk-in clinics in the area open on Sundays, that meant going to Emergency. We set in our mind that we’d likely have to take Stinkerbelle in to the hospital in the morning, but at least with the Telehealth nurse’s recommendations we could maybe get her a decent night’s rest before doing so, so that spending hours there would be a little easier for That Baby to put up with.
But the coughing and gagging did not stop. So at 2:30 am, we were getting Stinkerbelle dressed and into Emergency.
Now, Saturday night in a university town is the ABSOLUTE WORST time to go to Emergency. The place is usually jam-packed with drunks, and homeless, and students who have had too much to drink and/or have gotten themselves into fights or car accidents. Some nights, it can be 12 hours before you see a doctor.
Saturday night was no exception. There were loud, drunk, trashy, obnoxious people a-plenty.
Still Stinkerbelle coughed.
We got through triage and began to wait. We found ourselves a quiet little nook away from everyone and waited. People mercifully gave us a wide berth, some because they were sympathetic to us having a small child, and others because she was coughing like crazy and what she had, they didn’t want. That was fine with us.
We kept her as busy and content as possible. She was as good as gold. She did not cry once. But neither could she sleep. She kept coughing. People were called in to see a doctor. We waited. Mercifully, some of the drunk students began to sober up and get bored and decided to leave. Things began to get quieter as taxis were called and people filed out, and as an added bonus, the queue began to get shorter.
Finally, around 5:30 or so, the exhaustion got to her, and she fell asleep in BDH’s arms. And about 15 minutes later, we were called in to see a doctor.
There was still a wait, as there was only ONE DOCTOR ON CALL OMGWTF ARE YOU KIDDING ME GUELPH GEN? REALLY??? ONE DOCTOR ON A SATURDAY NIGHT?? But at least Stinkerbelle got a bed.
We put her in her bed. She was so tired, and so tiny there in her bed. And as we had been waiting, a fever had developed, and she was really flushed, so the nurse came by and gave her some Tylenol. He was very sympathetic, and thought that even though it might be nothing, we were wise to bring her in. He has two girls and that’s what he would have done, he said.
So we waited. And at least Stinkerbelle was getting some rest.
At 7 am there was a shift change, which meant that another doctor was coming on duty. We saw him fairly soon afterwards, maybe 7:30 or 7:45, and he was concerned. It was not so much what he could hear, when he listened to her breathing (which was lots of crying from That Baby who does not appreciate doctoring very much) but rather what he DIDN’T hear. He said he wanted to put a mask on her and give her some Ventolin, and then afterwards, get an x-ray of her chest.
And now we come to the part of the story where grown adults cry.
Because to give her the Ventolin, BDH had to sit on the bed with her, and wrap her in a bear hug, pinning her arms down and holding her still, while I had to hold a mask on her face. She was TERRIFIED. She sobbed huge tears and cried “ALL DONE! ALL DONE! TAKE IT OFF! PLEEEEEEZ! TAKE IT OFF!! TAKE IT OFF! PLEEEEEZ MOMMY! ALL DONE!” for about 5 minutes while both my heart and BDH’s broke into a million tiny pieces. It wasn’t hurting her; in fact, her crying meant that with each inhale she was actually getting MORE meds into her lungs. But it was heartbreaking to NOT help your crying, pleading child. And, in fact, to be the ones causing her torment.
Once it was done, we snuggled her close and tried to make it all better. And then it was time for the chest X-ray.
If you’ve not given a toddler a chest X-ray before, let me tell you that it involves a large, bastardized high chair, and your child is strapped down in the chair so she does not move, and then her arms are strapped up above her head. It is terrifying. Necessary, of course, but scary as hell. I was not there, and good thing. BDH did it and still feels horribly guilty about it. But it had to be done.
After that, it was back in the bed in Emerg to wait and hold That Baby close. Around 9:30 the doctor came by and said the X-ray came out clear, nothing to worry about, and wrote us a prescription for an aerochamber and some Ventolin. His concern is that she may have asthma. As an asthmatic, I was happy and relieved. Asthma exacerbated by a cold was familiar territory, and something easy to deal with.
And with that, he said we were free to go home, and to follow up with our family doctor on Tuesday as planned.
But the hardest part of the morning was hearing my baby say “Thank you doctor” as she broke into sobs of relief and happiness at being allowed to go home. It was all I could do not to break down crying myself.
So we were home by 10, and spent the rest of the day napping, giving That Baby anything she asked for, and snuggling her close as much as was humanly possible. And crashed into our respective beds shortly after dinner for as much sleep as the night would allow.
So our first of probably many trips to the Emergency Room with our child is done and dusted. Yeah, I am exhausted. We all are. But on the other side of the coin, I am grateful that it was nothing more serious that brought us there. I know some parents are not so lucky. And I will remember what it was like to look at my tiny girl, sleeping in that big hospital bed, and be thankful that we are fortunate enough that we have a healthy child for whom this was a one-time, short-lived, routine visit.