Our week after our week

Jack’s cold turned into RSV and all the horrible things that ensue because of it: fever, labored breathing, loss of appetite. Thursday night, he was breathing so fast and so hard and we could see his ribs. You still wouldn’t have known he was sick, he was rolling around on the floor, squealing, laughing. This boy.
We took him to the ER. It was hellish. We had to wait in line at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and despite it being 11pm on a Thursday night, it was packed. The only and last place you want to take your baby, surrounded by other sick, vomiting children with God knows what, but the only logical place on the planet at that moment.
We didn’t wait long to be seen. I think when they hear “baby, RSV, not breathing well” they short cut you to the front of the line. We were grateful. He was in his fox pjs, blue and gray stripes with a giant fox face on the chest. He was smiling at the ER techs, wiggling and kicking his feet as he does, making it hard to get an oxygen reading, but they counted his breaths in a minute. 60. Too high. Listened to his lungs and said “we’re admitting you.”

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They put him in an adult-sized bed, he looked tiny, wrapped his big toe with the O2 monitor and finally we got a reading in the high 80s. Not great. They taped an oxygen tube to his smooth little face and all the while he’s fighting like a fish, hooked to all these damn wires and tired and fevered. It felt so surreal that we were even there. It moved so quickly and so slow.
We didn’t sleep that night. Between the horror of being there, the catheters they had to stick down his nose to suction out the mucus, the albuterol treatment, Jack screaming through it all – we didn’t sleep. He was so tired. He slept, thank god, as well as he could. But all we had was his bed and two plastic chairs dwarfed in the corner by the immense size of the room. He’s just a baby. Everything was so big. And nothing worked really. His levels were still too low. At 3am, they decided to admit us. It took another 2 hours to get our room.
They wheeled a chair for us and I held him trying to untangle the cords. It reminded me of the day we took him home, better circumstances, but holding him sleeping in the wheel chair like that.
Because the hospital was seeing so many RSV babies we had to double up rooms. “Practically every baby in the Valley has RSV right now,” the doc said. They paired virus with virus and our neighbor was a 3 or 4 month old boy named Daniel. His mother spoke little English, if any. Daniel sounded horrible. Every breath was labored, sad, hard. I don’t know how long he had been there before us, but from what I gathered, he was moved from another hospital to Phoenix Children’s. He had two older brothers which is why his poor mother was all alone (children under 12 were not allowed to visit the hospital). And he was getting worse. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how that poor boy sounded. Dying cat, calf, lamb. He sounded like he was in so much pain. The nurses were in often, trying multiple procedures. The main nurse spoke in rushed spanish to the mother, assuring her things would be OK. No one slept. Except Jack. I was grateful he could rest through it.
We had the spot by the window. We had a lounge chair and a bench that turned into a cot. We had an old TV mounted to the wall that was too dark. Our neighbors had it on a channel rotating Disney movies: The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Cars, Finding Nemo. I’d look up to see a movie starting, look back up to see it ending. That’s how time passed. The hours seemed like minutes.
Pat went home at some point to get clothes, toothbrushes, coffee. I had him get Daniel’s mother coffee. She didn’t touch it, but it was there for her if she needed it. I kept offering to get her food, I hadn’t seen her eat anything. But I don’t think she understood me and by the time Pat and our cousin Kara went out to get dinner, Daniel had gotten worse and what mother can eat in that situation. Nurses rushed in and out. He was on oxygen, but he couldn’t breath. He was whimpering with every breath. It was terrifying to listen to. They tried more procedures and finally when nothing worked they decided to move him to the PICU. The mother was sobbing and as a new mother who has said over and over here that she can’t let her mind wander to the horrible places minds wander, this was all very very real. And this woman was all alone.

In the most anxious moments, I tried to go over and hug her. She was sobbing in Spanish. “Gordito. Gordito,” she kept saying. Just as they were about to move Daniel, I had my arms around her back telling her her son would be OK. I had to believe that he would. Phoenix Children’s is one of the best hospitals in the country. He was in the best place he could be. The nurse was not amused at me being there. Kept saying “thank you. Thank you” like we don’t need your help anymore. I got the hint. I went back to my sectioned area and quietly sobbed. I was so thankful when they took him away. So thankful for the quiet. So thankful it was just me and Jack and I couldn’t hear him breathing. He was breathing, of course. On his own. That morning the doctor took him off the oxygen to see how he would do and his levels stayed above 90. And that was enough to keep him off, but he was still monitored and their feet are so small that sometimes the sensors don’t read correctly and the alarm jolts. I wondered who had to come up with that sound. Jarring enough to alert you, but sweet enough not to scare the children. It made me think of a radio lab podcast about the inventors of the iPhone sound family. The clicking noise had to be just the right noise, it had to arouse the right feeling.

My boys

The nurses brought Jack toys: a set of keys, a plastic squishy firetruck, a fisher price jungle sleep soother with a swinging monkey, blue lights, a parrot and a fish bubbling water.

Jack slept a lot. He rarely cried, only when they had to suction out his nose. He smiled and flirted with the nurses. He was the perfect patient.

The second night we slept OK. He was only up twice. Pat took the chair the first round. I slept from 8-3 on the cot. After I fed Jack at 3, I gave Pat the cot and tried to curl myself into the chair.

The sunrise that morning was beautiful as only the desert can be: warm and promising.

We found a channel dedicated to super hero movies: The Hobbit, Captain America, Thor. It was stupid, but I liked them hovering over Jack. The flickering light, the strength of make-believe men bounding around saving the world. It made me feel better.

They started cleaning the adjoining room.

The night nurse took the monitor off Jack and slowly peeled the tape off his face where they attached the oxygen.
We got another neighbor at 5 am. That seemed to be their admitting time. It was a little girl, maybe 4 years old. Right away, the mother was pissed. She couldn’t be there, she kept saying. She couldn’t be there. She couldn’t possibly share a room. How would she be able to sleep? She had to leave. Meanwhile, her daughter (yeah, the sick one, the reason you’re in the hospital, the person you should have been concerned about) was whimpering. We could hear everything she was saying. How she wanted to move her daughter to another hospital so they could have their own room. Oh my god, they had to share a bathroom as well. And the staff explaining there were no rooms available in the hospital, they were all full and how we were probably being discharged that afternoon. She wanted none of it. She had to leave, she said.
Finally, a head nurse convinced her to stay.

“What the fuck?!” was the only thing going through my head during this whole time. This woman was willing to risk her child’s life for a private room?! Lady, this was not vacation, this was not a hotel room. We were in the hospital. We were in one of the best hospitals!
Later that morning, they started playing Disney shows on their iPad. Loudly.

I went to get coffee.

When they started playing techno, I lost it. I went to the nurses station. Our nurse was sitting there, so I asked politely if she could ask them to turn the music down. She said, “I’m so glad you said something. Did you hear what they were trying to do?!” “Yeah, about moving the girl to another hospital?!” And we guffawed at how absurd this woman was. “You guys are the perfect neighbors,” she said. “Your baby doesn’t cry, you’re super nice. I’m so so sorry you have to be next to them. We’re hoping to discharge you soon.”

She went in, asked how they were doing, asked if they could turn the music down.

“Who’s asking?” The lady barked. She was younger, I think. With her mother. At one point, I heard her ask if the oxygen was coming from the monitor on her daughter’s finger.

“Your neighbors as asking,” the nurse said.

They turned it down. Enough for us to start hearing her cussing me out. Suddenly I was a “fucking bitch.” “Why couldn’t she say it to my fucking face?” All the while her mother is telling her to be quiet.

Pat stormed to the nurses station the moment I yelled “Ma’am, I can hear you!” I had Jack in my arms. My chest was pumping. Fuck this woman. “WE’RE ALL DOING OUR BEST HERE,” I yelled. “NO ONE WANTS TO BE HERE. YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S CLOSED YOURSELF OFF IN THERE.”

“Why didn’t you say it to my face?!” she yelled back from behind the rainbow curtain.

“OK! I will!” But as I moved towards their section, Pat had returned and held me back. “No way,” he said, putting his hand on my chest. “They are discharging us.”

Apparently, while this woman was being a fucking toddler, imbecile, Pat went to the nurses and said “one of us is leaving. This woman is using profanity. Someone is leaving.”

They pulled the doctor out of his rounds for us. I was fuming. Pat was packing. After the doctor gave us the OK, the nurse came in and apologized profusely. Of course, it was not her fault. And thank you for everything. And get me the fuck out of here.

Heading home

Heading home

No where else I'd rather be

No where else I’d rather be

He’s doing OK. He still has a cough which kept him up most of the night last night, but that’s to be expected. They said the cough could last a few weeks. I’m fucking over it. I’m sick along with him. The same cough. Same congestion. We’ve been sick together for over a month. Enough already.

We took him to the doctor on Monday to follow up. He’s on the mend. But RSV is a bastard and he could catch it again. Please, God. I don’t really pray, but please, God.

Rollie Pollie

Swings

Jack is Jack. He’s been a little sad, a little grumpy, but he’s laughing and rolling over and we went on the swings yesterday. I’m still trying to recover. I don’t exactly know what hit me. Two nights ago, I grabbed a skillet on the stove that had just been in the oven. I’m fine. We’re fine. I’m grateful to have such a wonderful hospital here. I hope to God we never have to go back.

This entry was posted in Jack, Photos, Sigh, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Our week after our week

  1. Ms. Moon says:

    I read this with my heart in my throat. I am so sorry you had to go through that. It’s too scary, too hard to bear. And your neighbors- first the profound sadness for one, then the anger at the other. Both intense. Both so understandable.
    May you both get well. You and your precious boy.
    And may you and your man heal from the experience. I have been in those hospital rooms. I know how it feels.
    You are home. You are home.

    • rachelvb says:

      Thank you, Mary. Jack has already recovered, sweet boy. Well, from the experience, I think. He still has a wicked cough. I think Pat has recovered too. It’s lingering in me, which seems about right, things tend to. I’m still not far enough removed from it. We are home. We are home. Thank God. xoxo

  2. Martha says:

    My heart is full and I am without words. You must have felt battered, black and blue. Take your time, love.

    • rachelvb says:

      It definitely felt weird coming in to work yesterday – like I had been in a cave the past few weeks. I sort of have, that spare bedroom doesn’t let in much light haha. Glad it’s all over. Looking forward to seeing you guys next week. Jack is too, he just doesn’t know it yet =)

  3. Angella says:

    Oh Rachel, what an awful experience! I’m am so glad Jack is on the mend. Take care if yourself, too. I know Jack has the best most loving care and attention from you and Pat but give yourselves that, too. Much much love.

    (And this is such powerful writing by the way.)

    • rachelvb says:

      Thank you so much, Angella. I’m so grateful he’s OK and we weren’t there longer. What an ordeal. I’m trying to take care of myself. Pat and I are headed to Florida next week, so I’m going to take advantage of that for sure. It’s hard these days to think about myself! But you know all about that. xoxo

  4. Angella says:

    Just looked at the videos. What a happy beautiful boy!

  5. Julia says:

    Just read this and I hope Jack and you are okay! What an experience. Hospitals are not fun but I’m glad you guys got the treatment you needed. Hope all is well. x

    • rachelvb says:

      Thank you, Julia! Yes, we are better. He got broncholitis last week, so we were dealing with that and sick again, but he finally seems to be on the mend and I can’t wait until this flu season is over. Holy cow!

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