H is for holidays… or rather hospital visits!

As a parent, I always wondered how I will know when to take a child to the ER and when it just needs a doctor visit. I never knew how I would figure that one out. I have always had a healthy baby. Healthy in the sense of no hospital visits and does not regularly get sick. The difference is, when little Mi gets sick, it has almost always been bronchitis or on the verge of pneumonia. Once a year every year for the past 4 years. Oh, and the Covid once but that cleared in two days – thankfully. So, when we decided to go visit my mom-in-law in the Free State for the June long weekend, I was really looking forward to a fun, relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans for us.

From running around to heaving for breath

Mianke got sick about a month before our trip. She had bronchitis/start of pneumonia and recovered after about a week. She was totally fine for about 3 weeks thereafter. On the Tuesday she started with a runny nose. No cough, nothing else. On Thursday we left for the 5-hour trip to the Free State. It was freeeeezing there. We had a good time outside. I made sure she was super warm - jacket, boots, beanie, the works! She went from good to terrible overnight. Throughout the night she was making these strange sounds and was breathing fast. She also must have woken me up about 8 times, restless and unhappy. I couldn't understand as she was fine the previous evening. I lay awake wondering if we must take her to the ER, which was about 45 minutes away. When we woke up the next day, she was still breathing too fast and it looked like she needed air. I was still trying to figure out whether or not to make her a Dr's appointment in town or go straight to the ER, but we eventually decided ER it is. We weren't in a hurry as it looked under control but as we went on, I felt the need for oxygen more and more - and that is scary. Wondering if she is okay, wondering if those lungs are okay, working overtime.

Headed to the ER

We got there and checked in. We told the ER doctor we are here visiting family and brought her in because of her breathing. She took one listen to the lungs and said, “how long are you staying? because it just got 5 days longer. She needs to be admitted.” My nerves, my heart! The thought of my baby in hospital was too much and I couldn’t hold back the tears. In Mianke’s state she still asks, “pappa, why is mamma sad?”

Mianke’s oxygen stats were dropping. When we took her in, she was on 86 but at a stage in the ER it dropped to 78 and then it started getting scary. The doctor said she actually has to be in ICU and be given adrenalin but because she is a bit older, she will treat in the ER first. She was lovely and said because we were only visiting, she would give Mi 45 minutes to respond to treatment as sometimes they make a miraculous turnaround but if not, she needs to admit her. The next 2 hours was pure hell. For us as parents to see her like that, but mostly for her to be poked and prodded. Eventually the Dr said she has to admit her. There was no other way. They gave her a nebulizer which was a fight because she wasn’t feeling well. She got injected with adrenalin in the bum – what a scream. She had a swab in the nose to test for Covid and other infections. Didn’t realise this child’s strength. As the Lancet lady approached to insert the swab, Mianke grabbed it and bent it – it was unusable. Oops! Hubby and I had to restrain her which totally broke my heart. A drip was put in her tiny little hand. She had the oxygen pipe in her nose to help her breathe. This poor baby was so angry and so scared at the same time. She called me to hold her hand but when I did, pushed me away because she was angry. She couldn’t understand why we weren’t going home. Go back to ouma is all she wanted to do. It was extremely traumatic for her and at a stage all three of us were in tears – not even pappa could keep the emotions at bay.

Paeds here we come !

Eventually after a while, we received medical aid authorization and went up to the paediatric ward. Another fear I had was not being allowed to stay with her. Some of the hospitals were really strict during our hectic Covid waves and parents had to leave their children in the hospital. Luckily, I did not have to be dragged out there kicking and screaming; I was allowed to stay with her. Not how I pictured my long weekend going. Knowing we were going to be spending it in the hospital was not ideal, but I also knew she was at the best place to help her little lungs breathe properly. Our family brought clothes and supplies for us and we got settled in. Having to explain to Mianke that we have to sleep here wasn’t easy. She wanted to go. She didn’t want to sleep here. She was still very angry and didn’t want to talk to us but also didn’t want us to go far away. My mom heart was aching badly. Wishing we could be anywhere else but here. Eventually I told my husband to go back to his family. It was a long day and he still had 45 minutes to drive.

Suppose to be my bed
Physio time

Mi and I settled in. She was very tired. She also started crying every time a doctor or nurse entered the room. She fought every time they wanted to take her oxygen stats. She also had to get physio twice a day. They tapped on her back to loosen all the phlegm she had. The first session she cried but thereafter she lay there nicely. She had to be nebulized regularly and her drip hand was very sensitive so whenever the nurses wanted to put medicine in, she fought and cried. She also told us we weren’t allowed to touch her hand and the drip is staying in forever – gosh if only she knew. She had just fallen asleep when they woke her up for medicine and a nebulizer, again! That night she woke up often. We both did. The noises in the room and her not feeling well – not a good night sleep. I slept on the bed with her because no one told me the chair was actually a stretcher bed – oops! When I saw another mom pulling it out on day 2 (she had obviously been here before) I was quite surprised. But the hospital bed was way more comfortable than a hard stretcher so I continued to sleep at Mianke’s feet so there was enough space for both of us.

Test results & bathroom floors

When tests came back, it showed Mianke had to infamous RSV(Respiratory Syncytial Virus) – the very virus putting many babies in hospital every year. She also tested positive for Rhino virus and the x-rays showed she had pneumonia. Full blown pneumonia this time and not just bordering it. I guess it looked like she had recovered from the last time but maybe it was underlying all along. She also had elevated white blood cells so there was some sort of bacteria causing the pneumonia.

We spent the days watching her tablet, drawing pictures on her tablet, colouring in her book and playing dolls. Hubby came during the day and we also had my mom-in-law and brother-in-law visit. Luckily, we use to live in Bloemfontein and still have friends there. I was able to slip away for a coffee and a bath on day 2 and 3. It was nice to see something other than the 4 walls and nurses. The evening of day 3 while I was away, Mi threw up everywhere. All over her bedding and herself. I could see she was not feeling well. She then did that again after they changed her bedding. While she was lying in bed, I saw she was nauseous. She was rolling around and moaning. I thought I cannot have her do this again all over her bed so I took her to the bathroom. She has never vomited in a toilet, so I knew this would scare her but I had to try. She was crying and telling me she is fine and wants to go back to the room. Her stomach was also upset. I knew she was still nauseous so at 10pm at night we sat on the bathroom floor and waited and waited. Eventually it all came out again – well the little there was. Water and lots of phlegm – at least it was coming out. She managed to reach the toilet for most of it. I guessed it was all the medicine and the phlegm causing this upset stomach. Only after we were home did I realize it was probably a bug we picked up in the hospital because it hit hubby the day we left and it hit me the next day. I was man-down and realized how this poor baby must have felt on top of everything else.

Let's go home!

Slept all the way home

On day 4 the Doctor said we could go home. We were so relieved. This was Monday morning. We were originally suppose to go home on the Sunday, before we ended up at the hospital so it wasn’t extended by too long. We just had strict orders when we got home. Antibiotics, nebulize, keep her indoors and get her to a Dr the minute she doesn’t get any better. Little Mi slept almost the whole way back home. We weren’t even out of Bloemfontein and she was passed out. She slept for about 3.5 hours – she must have been exhausted. What a relief to be home!! My own bed, my own bath and just to lie on a couch. I stayed home with her at first and then got hit by the dreaded stomach bug so stayed home an extra day too. She recovered very well. I took her to our family doctor after a week just to check up. I needed to hear that she was okay. I didn’t want to risk missing something.

After the hospital

Madam going for a check up

We now have to give her antihistamine every night. I suspect this little one has allergies like her mom which are possibly affecting the airways. I am taking everything with every time we go away. Anything for blocked nose, chest, you name it. The nebulizer will be my best friend. In essence, we drove 5 hours that weekend just to go to the hospital.

I am extremely grateful our little Mi is perfectly fine now. I am also so grateful to our fabulous support system. From my mom-in-law & brother-in-law who came to visit us and bring us yummy goodies, to my friend who offered hubby a bed and me a coffee and bath, to my friends back home who looked after our house and cat a little longer than planned and left me a chocolate when I got home, to my sister-in-law who was also sick and booked off who came to look after Mianke so we could go to work, and to all the family who supported us from afar. Checking in daily with messages and prayers.

Also – trust your gut as a parent. If you feel your child has a shortage of oxygen, there is no harm in making a trip to the closest ER. Mianke’s oxygen improved so much just after a few hours with all that treatment – something she wouldn’t have been able to get right without being at the hospital. A friend also told me to look at the little “hole” by their voice box above their chest. If that moves up and down a lot, it is also a sign of oxygen shortage. 

To my wonderful husband who supported me through it all, THANK YOU! Mianke and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without you by our side. Asking me what 
I needed, taking over when I was just so tired. Your concern when we were in the ER, explaining to Mi why her mamma was sad and couldn’t talk – just all of it. You are our rock! 

One Comment

  • Mariska

    Phew, what a roller coaster of a read! What a strong baba, such a fighter! Happy she was so resilient.

    Glad I could be a part of your support system. Family first, always here when you need me.

    I love my Mi to death ♥️

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