July 27, 2011


Tuesday morning we returned from an unexpected three day, two night vacation to the lovely AI Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington. While I would rate the stay as five stars across the board, I would not like to return…ever really.

It was all fun and games during a visit with my family until H started gagging on a raw carrot at lunch on Sunday. She gagged quite a bit, turned really red, and was much more agitated than I’ve ever seen her when she’s gagged on something. The way she was crying and her raspy breathing, plus a confirmation from our super awesome RN neighbor, sent us to the emergency room locally. When we showed up H didn’t have shoes; we didn’t take a diaper bag. We just went.

Kent General, the local hospital, is not always spoken of highly, but in this case, I was very impressed. They took us back immediately and an hour after we had arrived we’d had a chest x-ray, looked at it, and the doctor had a team from AI Dupont on the way to transfer us up there. Kent has a pediatric unit, but AI Dupont is a very highly rated children’s hospital, and it’s only an hour away.

That is the second time in my life I’ve ever ridden in an ambulance. Much more comfortable this time, as I had not just stupidly said my neck kind of hurt after a car accident and was riding with my head taped to a back board. (For the record, I was totally fine.) H had to ride in the back on her own, but through the wonder of technology she got to watch a movie and didn’t mind one bit. She knew I was nearby.

We got to hang out in a second emergency room (this time in a private room instead of a hallway). A second chest x-ray was taken and H got two breathing treatments to help her breathe better. She was getting really tired at this point and coughing clearly hurt her. If she coughed, she cried. She was also falling asleep every time she was left alone for more than 30 seconds. Josh said she fell asleep in the x-ray room while they were taking the x-rays. The doctors decided to admit her, but it was really just for observation. They weren’t positive that there was anything in her lungs, but seeing that breathing is pretty important, they were being conservative.

Everyone was so kind the entire time we were there, including the nurse who brought us an entire folder of food menus of places that would deliver to the emergency room. The cafeteria was already closed for the night. Then there was the nurse that chased down a potty seat for us because H refused to sit on the big potty.

H slept pretty comfortably on Sunday night. She was so exhausted she couldn’t even keep her eyes open to watch TV anymore. Josh and I were not as comfortable. They had a pull out chair. Not couch—chair. We got to spoon on a twin pull out all night, in our clothes, without getting to brush our teeth. My very kind father had packed a few essentials for us to bring up to the hospital. We had both our tooth brushes, but no toothpaste. Josh tells me these experiences are character building.

My friend, Kate, who is a nurse, had told me in the past that it’s impossible to sleep in hospitals because someone is always coming in to bother you. She was right. Every time H fell asleep from the first emergency room until we left this morning, something happened to try and wake her. Or wake me. Also, did I mention that I was sharing a twin pull out with my husband? Also, the shades in there suck. H woke up at 6:45am on Monday. It was a good thing because the doctors and nurses started rolling in at 7am, but extremely bad because they decided to schedule her for a bronchoscopy to look inside her lungs, and she wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything. She didn’t end up going to surgery until about 2pm.

We have watched a lot of movies the past few days. Or really, we’ve watched WALL-E about six times in those three days and a small sampling of other movies. They had a personalized TV for each patient with a touch screen. You could watch probably 50 different movies, watch TV, use the internet, or play games. It was quite cool. They also had an activity room for the kids with tons of toys and games. We happened to be there during Christmas in July. The whole room was decorated for Christmas, they had crafts for the kids, and Santa came around in his off-season Hawaiian shirt and scruffy beard to deliver stuffed doggies. There was also a parents’ lounge room with free coffee, cheap vending machines, free computers, sleeping rooms, showers, and free laundry machines.

H playing in the activity room. Check out the IV on her right arm with so much bandaging if looks like she has a cast.

I spent a lot of time while I was there feeling almost ashamed of the attention being lavished on us. There were so many really sick kids there, whose families had to be at that hospital day after day. Here we were with a possible carrot lodged where no carrot should go, in for two days, and I felt like we were poaching. I was mildly embarrassed to accept the stuffed dog. Weren’t there sicker kids who needed it more? But at the same time, I knew how rude it would be to not accept the dog. And H did have something wrong with her, and for whatever reason, we were there. I am just thankful that so many kind staff members and volunteers work so hard for sick, stressed out families. It shows you how much you have to be thankful for.

By the time we took her down to surgery I had convinced myself that she had probably coughed up the carrot if there was indeed anything in there. Some of the doctors seemed to think it was nothing. Others thought there was something down there. Going to take a look was really the only way to be sure. Better anesthesia now then pneumonia and anesthesia later.

Watching them wheel that tiny child away in a stretcher was one of the worst moments of my life. Like every mother in that situation, I wished that there was a way that I could take on all the ill and hurt and leave her spotless. Instead, I had to go wait.

They told us that it would be anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half. After about 40 minutes the surgeons came out. The best part was they brought pictures. This is the swelling and mucus around the carrot, which was lodged at the entrance to her right lung.

This is after they took the carrot out.

This is after they suctioned out the gross stuff.

And this, my friends, is the approximately 2cm-long piece of carrot my sweet little girl inhaled. Josh thinks the surgeon probably ate it.

I was relieved to know that she had done splendidly and that if she had to go under anesthesia, it was for a very good reason. Had the carrot stayed in, she could have been very sick. As it is, she shouldn’t suffer any long term problems, and I very much doubt that she’ll remember this whole experience.

The downer was that they had to keep her a second night to make sure that she was doing ok. She woke up royally pissed off from the anesthesia. It’s a pretty common side effect in very small children. Never in her life has she thrown a tantrum that was anywhere in the same universe as this one. She screamed, kicked, hit, and arched. She wanted up, down, Mom, Dad, rocking, standing, sitting, and walking. It took close to 45 minutes to calm her down. Reason enough to never want to repeat this experience.

We were thrilled that she could finally eat. Then the rush of blood sugar kept her up until midnight. And on the second night we had room mates. They were a special, special case that really deserves an entirely separate blog post entitled, “Yes, You do Need to Feed Your Newborn to Avoid Severe Dehydration, Morons.” We thought the little baby would keep us up. But it was our toddler, who also asked for a bath and then pooped in the hospital’s tub. Awesome.

Needless to say, being released on Tuesday morning was music to our ears. I cannot thank the staff at AI Dupont enough for being so kind and professional. I also hope that I never see any of them ever again. And no, carrots are not off the menu entirely. But maybe we’ll skip them for the next few weeks at least.

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