Three years ago, we had a really hot streak of weather here in Seattle – the sort of weather where a parent with a small baby opts to do errands in air conditioned stores instead of going for the standard walk to the playground. My husband went to take our year old girl out of her carseat after I had been with her for the better part of the day and noticed that she was really warm. Too warm.
We got her inside, took her temperature, and proceeded to panic as she hovered at 101-102. My husband started to fill a cool bath….which is exactly what one shouldn’t do with a feverish child. If we actually put her in, it couldn’t have been for long. We decided it was time to take her to the emergency room.
One cannot get his child to the emergency room soon enough when that is deemed to be the plan of action. Every stoplight is torture. Lack of parking is taken as a subversive plot. Even worse is the slow plod through paper work and the soul-sucking wait as you sit completely adrenalated holding a child who is suffering.
The nurses at the hospital were nice enough, but my daughter had never had a hospital visit before. Our pediatrician goes to great lengths to build a good association with the well visits, and always opts for someone else to do injections or blood withdrawals. My daughter was permissive, allowing the nurses to take her heart rate and temperature without too much fuss. My husband and I wondered what exactly staff were planning to do next.
This is where I need to telescope out and remind you all that three years ago there was a big buzz about the swine flu. It must have been standard procedure at the time to rule this out. This would mean the nurses would need a blood draw and a urine sample. The only way they would take a urine sample is via a catheter.
Fortunately my daughter was still breastfeeding so I offered to nurse her while the nurse attempted to draw blood. I had concerns because my daughter had thin veins on previous draws. After several attempts, the nurse went to go get another nurse from the Intensive Care Unit to step in. I was glad to see the change of hands, but this nurse couldn’t get a draw either. After five attempts, my daughter was really uncomfortable. She didn’t want to be touched by anyone else other than my husband and I.
The nurses decided it was best to shift gears and gather the urine sample first. I am terrified at the prospect of having a catheter inserted, so I can only imagine the discomfort my baby felt. My husband helped hold her down while I held her gaze. She was crying so hard. These are the moments when you and your partner go telepathic. Be strong for our child. Hold her hand and let her know we are right here. The catheter was inserted rapidly and removed quickly.
But this blood draw was traumatic. Finally the attending doctor deemed it necessary to get the blood sample from an artery. I am pretty sure she finished the hour long misadventure by taking the draw from our daughter’s neck.
I asked my daughter today if she remembered having a fever in the hospital. Thankfully she said no. A stranger’s suffering can seem distant. Even the hardship of a friend can be intangible if it does not affect us directly. But witnessing your child suffer creates an acute pain on a different level – an ache of helplessness. What a blessing it is when these are rare moments in a parent and child’s experience.