The second week of April, the four of us flew to Chicago. I was attending the Midwest Political Science Association conference at the Palmer House Hilton downtown. Dave, Phoebe, and Benjamin didn’t have anything too concrete planned except for going to the planetarium. We arrived on Wednesday after a nice flight—the kids were terrific on the plane and in the airport. We set up the booth in the afternoon and then went to Cafe Iberico for dinner with my coworker Karen and ex-co-worker Claire, who lives in Chicago.
My parents arrived on Thursday afternoon; it was so fun to come back from a conversation with a potential author and see them standing next to the Lynne Rienner Publishers booth! They went to the planetarium with Dave and the kids, and Grandpa took Phoebe swimming. I spent the whole time working—and coughing. All four of us coughed during the whole trip.
On Saturday night we headed home. Phoebe enjoyed taking every possible conveyance: train to the airport, plane, bus to the parking lot, car to get home. A totally amazing thing happened on the airplane. I was half asleep when Phoebe asked me if the bag in the pocket was for throwing up. I assented. Apparently she asked Dave the same thing. As the plane descended into Denver, I woke up to the sound of vomiting. I looked over, assuming Dave was helping Phoebe. In fact, he was waking up too, and Phoebe was throwing up all by herself, right into the airsickness bag. Incredible!
Sunday was very pleasant. We attended church in Longmont because the Women’s Gospel Ensemble from our church was singing and Dave was accompanying them on his sax. Benjamin was coughing a lot and cried during the sermon, so I left Phoebe under the watchful eye of the singers from our church while I took him into the back. Then I left him sleeping on the pew while Phoebe went potty. She’s really got the hang of the potty; accidents, once frequent, have become much less so. Good job three-year-old! In the afternoon, I turned over all the dirt in my little community garden plot. I knew it was supposed to snow, so I was hoping to plant my cold-weather vegetables, but I ran out of time.
Monday morning I took the kids to daycare. I dropped Phoebe off and asked Benjamin’s teacher if she was comfortable having him, since he was still coughing and seemed very uncomfortable. As she held him, I could tell he was struggling a bit to breathe. I decided that if I left him, they’d just call me a few minutes after I got to work, and I’d have to drive all the way home again to take him to the doctor. Better to make the doctor’s appointment first, I thought, and then go into work. I called the doctor’s office, and they told me that they didn’t have any appointments available until 2:15 p.m., and, based on his symptoms, I couldn’t wait that long. I guess I already knew that he was headed back to the hospital when I saw his labored breathing, but I didn’t really believe it.
I called Dave to let him know that we were going over to Children’s Hospital, which has a north campus about 5 miles from our house. They’d taken good care of Benjamin there in January when he was hospitalized for RSV. I put a few things in the diaper bag for me, including my computer, but I didn’t run back upstairs to get the power cable, which was still lying on our bedroom floor after our trip to Chicago. The delusional (hopeful?) part of me thought that they would do a deep suction on Benjamin’s little sinuses and then we’d be able to go home. He definitely didn’t sound as bad as he had in January.
The hospital was déja vu all over again. They didn’t like his color when we arrived, so we were taken quickly to a room, and he was put on oxygen. Nurses and respiratory techs came in and out. He had deep suction to clear the sticky snot out of his nasal cavities. They gave him some Albuterol, which he’d responded to in the past. He had a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Then things started to spiral out of control. A doctor came in and got worried that he was dehydrated, even though I kept telling her that he was still having wet diapers. (It’s true that he couldn’t nurse as well as usual because he couldn’t breathe through his nose.) She put him on high-flow oxygen that was being bubbled through water, to give him some extra moisture. Then she told me that she wanted to send us—by ambulance—to the main campus in Denver. I wasn’t worried about the snowstorm outside; the roads still seemed clear. But I didn’t want to be so far from Dave, Phoebe, and home, for what seemed to me to be no reason.
While this was all happening, a team of nurses was trying to start an IV to hydrate Benjamin. I told them that I’m a bit squeamish, so they put me in charge of the lights in the room (they were using a red light to light up his little hand so they could see the veins better). Meanwhile, I asked to see the doctor again. The nurses eventually gave up on the IV, deciding to let the ambulance drivers do it. Benjamin had at least four prick marks in his chubby little hands. The doctor came back. I asked when the ambulance was coming. “12:15,” she said. It was noon. I tried to explain the complexity of having only one car, five miles from our house, with Dave in Boulder and Phoebe at school in Lafayette. In a snowstorm. Nobody seemed to care. And, certainly, if Benjamin’s health had been in grave danger, I wouldn’t have cared. But the oxygen and deep suction were the only remedy for his illness, and they could handle those fine at the north campus. How do I know? Because he’d been well cared for there two months ago!
I told the doctor that we weren’t happy about this. That I felt that Benjamin was only being sent to Denver because she was the doctor that happened to show up. She told me that they didn’t have the high-flow oxygen bubbler available in their overnight rooms at North. I said we’d be happy to stay in our room as long as necessary. She said she wanted him to be near the ICU if his condition got worse. I asked if she was saying that was likely because he’d had bronchiolitis in the past. She said no. (Remember that detail.) As I was talking to her, the phone rang. I had left a slightly panicky message on our friends Brenda and Michael’s answering machine, saying that I was trying to reach them but would try a different method. After seeing Children’s Hospital pop up on their caller ID, Brenda called the hospital looking for me! Boy, was I glad to hear from them. Especially because they could go pick up our car and drive it to Take-A-Break, so Dave could easily get Phoebe after school.
The ambulance drivers arrived. They were very nice but also failed to start an IV. They loaded tiny little Benjamin onto an enormous gurney and put him in the truck. I sat in the front and declined to change the radio station. The ride to Denver was uneventful, despite the snow. The driver had just gotten engaged the day before. They took us the back way up to our room and we got settled with a variety of nurses. First, they declined to start an IV…they didn’t think he needed it. Then, they decided not to put him on the high-flow bubbler (which was on a wheely pole. Surely the North campus could have a wheely pole bubbler or two?). When a third person said “wait, you were at North? Why are you here?” I felt equal parts vindication and fury.
Our two-night stay was uneventful. I’d brought a bunch of snacks left over from the conference in Chicago, so I had something to eat. I even had the curried chickpeas I was going to eat at work before I decided not to go in. There was abundant decaf coffee at the family nourishment station. If only I’d brought my computer power cable! The charge on my Kindle lasts forever, so I could read and read and read, but I wanted to check my e-mail and work on the Parish Visitor. On Tuesday, Dave stopped by in the evening with some clothes and other useful things, including the cable. Benjamin was probably happy to put on something less poop-stained!
On Wednesday, they discharged us in the morning with a canister of oxygen. We knew the drill. The kids happened to have their 3-year and 6-month doctor’s appointment scheduled for Thursday, so I took Benjamin into work with me Thursday morning, and then Dave and I took the kiddos to see Dr. Terpenning in the afternoon. Phoebe is hearty and healthy and can do every single thing on her thirty-six-month checklist. She’s exactly three feet tall and weighs thirty-five pounds. Benjamin is still delayed, but he’s making progress, and it’s all the sweeter because he’s had such a tough time. He’s exactly two feet tall and weighs fourteen pounds. (For the record, I’m exactly five feet tall!)
Oh, that detail you’ve been remembering? After logging a complaint with the person who called to ask about our hospital stay and follow-up care, my concerns were sent two people higher up the chain. The patient representative in charge decided that the care was appropriate because it’s dangerous to have a bronchial virus so quickly after having another one. Huh.
The rest of April was uneventful, thank goodness! It actually felt good to spend a couple of weeks at work. Benjamin stayed on oxygen for two weeks, but on Friday the 26th, his lungs sounded good. His ears, on the other hand, still looked crummy after two rounds of antibiotics. His doctor prescribed two sets of antibiotic shots and sent us back to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Benjamin will almost certainly need ear tubes…but we’ll be pleased to keep his ears as clear as possible so that we can be sure he’s hearing as well as he can.
May has started out on an exciting note…Benjamin is summoning his energy to learn to sit. He’s concentrating so hard he’s not sleeping, but he’s really enjoying being pulled into a sitting position and then using his arms to balance a bit. Phoebe is entertained by watching him. She’s having symptoms of being three—stubbornness, excessive chattiness, willfullness, flights of fancy. It’s really fun to hang out with her!