Thursday, June 11, 2009

Top 4 Worst Experiences of My Life: # 1 Near Death

There is a quote from Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul that I will never forget (don't judge me, lol).

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." ~Elizabeth Stone

This is so true. Your children are so susceptible to illness, so vulnerable to harm. You worry about them all the time, especially when they're not with you, especially when they're young.

This brings me to the worst experience of my life, almost losing one of my children. Rachel was born in January, and if you have a child at that time of year, you should not expose them to the outside world for at least six weeks to three months. There is just too many viruses floating around. I didn't know this at the time.

At five weeks old, I noticed she didn't seem to be breathing right. I took her to the doctor. He told me she was sick, that I should just watch her breathing and if it gets worse, to bring her back in. Never, never, never did he say she could die (which is why he wasn't our doctor for very much longer).

A couple days later, her breathing became more labored. I took her into the ER. I brought my dad with me because in his line of work as a personal injury attorney, he is familiar with medical terms, and I, being the worried mother, didn't think I was going to be able to comprehend anything anyway. The doctor explained that she had RSV, which is respiratory syncytial virus. Check it out here He said all the beds at the hospital were full, if they had any, he would have admitted her. He told me to watch her breathe and if her respirations got below a certain amount per minute, (I don't remember the exact number now, it was eleven years ago) I should bring her back in.

Oh my God. All I did for the next day or two was watch that girl breathe. Some time later, I can't tell you exactly, maybe a day, maybe two, her respirations came with an alarmingly long pause between, and it looked as if she were gasping for air, and it pained her to breathe. I called my dad to take us to the ER again. He nearly killed us trying to get there quickly.

They took us in immediately, but told me to wait outside the room because it would be too disturbing to watch. My dad went in with them. I could kind of see through the curtain, they were moving around quickly, working on her, Rachel was screaming, I would find out later they were clearing out her lungs. It happened very quickly. She was admitted and taken up to the ICU.

She looked so fragile hooked up to machines, with tubes sticking out of her every which way. The ICU doctor told me that RSV is deadly for infants. They attribute it to many SIDS cases. He also said if I had let it go that night and not brought her in, she would probably be dead. I stayed with her as long as I could stay awake, watched them work on her. There was a very nice attendant, Steve, who claimed her as his during her stay. He came in every so often and had to pound on her chest with this little pink mallet like thing to clear her lungs. He taught me how to do it, since I would have to once I brought her home.

They gave me a room to sleep in that night, and the next day she was taken out of the ICU. We were at the hospital for five days. I was there around the clock, except for a couple hours when my mother relieved me so I could see my husband, and 18 month old.

When she was released, I had to keep up with the chest pounding, and they gave us a nebulizer, which had to be used on her every few hours for months. I can't remember how long now, maybe up to a year or so. I guess many children with RSV develop asthma later, luckily Rachel was not one of them.

I will always be grateful to the wonderful staff at Mary Bridge Children's hospital for being so clear about Rachel's illness, and the care they have her during her stay. Rachel is now a happy, healthy child because of them.
Thanks for reading my top four worst experience. I appreciate the comments and questions I've received, and also thank you for sharing your own experiences. Next week the top four will not be so dismal. I haven't decided yet, let me know if you have ideas.
Tomorrow is a free for all, come back and check it out.
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My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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