Reagan vs the PICU

When I had my second child, I told my husband that we needed to cherish our time with her in the hospital because there would never be a time in our lives with just us 3. Recently, I proved myself wrong. Which normally I wouldn’t mind, but this is not how I wanted that to happen.

I’m starting off this blog post in a position that I would not wish upon my worst enemy – The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit – alongside my 4 month old daughter and my husband. It’s a Tuesday night at 6:30, and instead of listening to my 3.5 year old and my husband playing Superheros while I clean up dinner with my daughter in the baby carrier, I’m listening to the steady hum of an oxygen machine and the mumblings of The Food Network on a hospital room TV. My son is at my mom’s house. I am struggling to keep my eyes open and my poor little baby is struggling to keep up with her own breath.

To make a long story short, R had a nasty cough for a few days and we were instructed to keep her comfy because her breathing was fine. We moved on with her Baptism but when Monday morning rolled around, she was wheezy and her breathing was super fast. We went to the doctor as soon as they opened and were sent to the ER. The doctor actually asked me if I wanted an ambulance to take us, and while my son would’ve loved to ride in an ambulance, I opted against it because I didn’t want him to see his sister all hooked up to machines. My mom met us at the hospital to grab D and they decided to admit her. My husband met us there as well.

When we started to get her admitted, I was under the impression that it wasn’t that bad (by no fault of the doctors). Just a little supportive care, they said. We’re going to test her real quick for RSV and the flu, they said. They all assumed it was RSV and started treating it as such. Just hooked her up to an O2 monitor. I thought, I can handle this. Hang out in a hospital room with my baby girl while we watch HGTV and her oxygen level which was holding steady at 100%. You go girl! My husband had planned to go to work tomorrow, we were golden.

Then we started talking to the doctor.

RSV can get nasty.

Days 3-5 are the worst.

Her breathing is at 80 breaths per minute (steady normal rate is 40)

She’s working too hard.

Suddenly, my relaxing 24 hours didn’t seem so relaxing. It also seemed like it might last much longer than 24 hours.

I thought I would panic. I truly did. But I sort of just blanked. Blanked so much that I’m not even sure what to write happened next.

My first struggle was watching them use deep suction to get the junk out of her nose. They had to hold her arms down while she screamed.

I had a list of things I did not want to happen. I did not want her to have an IV. They said she would need one only if she was struggling so hard to breathe that she couldn’t eat. She got the IV. On the third attempt by 3 different nurses. It took almost an hour. This was my second struggle. Then I stopped keeping count.

I did not want her to be on the next level up oxygen machine. She got this oxygen machine.

I did not want to have to stop nursing her and need a pump. They brought me a pump.

By the third day, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. But then the doctor said she wanted to put a feeding tube in. But not down her throat because they didn’t want her to aspirate – They wanted to put it in her nose and down to her stomach. They had already been pumping her full of oxygen like a damn Las Vegas casino. I did not want it to get worse.

I wanted to avoid that. I would do anything to avoid it. They said that we could wait it out and see if she progressed. If they were able to lower her need for oxygen, then we could give her a bottle. If not, they needed to do a feeding tube the next morning because they didn’t want her going more than 3 days without eating.

Our options were: waiting it out that evening/night to see if she got better and then give her a bottle the next morning. If she didn’t get better, the feeding tube needed to go in the next morning. Or give her the feeding tube right away and she wouldn’t get hungry. We immediately decided to wait. Neither of us hesitated.

Then I started thinking: was that the selfish choice? Because I didn’t want to see her go through another procedure that would probably make her feel incredibly uncomfortable? That thought crossed my mind a lot that night. She was up most of the night crying (or her pathetic little excuse for a cry that had been becoming so incredibly familiar, unfortunately) and I knew it was because she was hungry. The pacifier wasn’t cutting it anymore. I came very very close to just telling the nurses to put in the feeding tube. I felt terrible. But the next morning, we gave her a bottle and she was a champ. Things started looking up for us.

That first time I finally broke out to go shower, it was like the hospital was birthing me and I hadn’t seen sun in 5 days. I wanted to see her progress before I ran home. When I got to my car, out of the parking garage and hit the main road, Adelle’s “Hello” was on the radio – how fitting. And you better believe I blasted that and belted it out to my heart’s content. Gosh that was cathartic.

But I felt SO GUILTY while I was gone. I knew her dad and Opa were there with her, but I just couldn’t help it.

When they finally ditched the oxygen, it felt amazing. I was no longer stressed (just bored) and my little baby wasn’t struggling to breathe anymore. She finally had no tape on her face – it was awesome! Then (like most things do), we went backwards. The nasal canula had to go back in. UGH! Every time that oxygen was turned back on, we knew we were buying ourselves at least 24 hours. Putting this dang thing back on happened 3 TIMES. 3 TIMES.

When we were finally told we could leave, I could not get out of there fast enough. Everyone kept telling me (via text) “run, don’t walk!” “Grab those papers fast!” “Don’t look back!” I couldn’t wait for our life to be back to “normal.” I couldn’t wait to get my arms around my little boy finally.

But in true Melanie fashion, I was scared. I was afraid to disconnect the oxygen monitor and I was afraid of losing my “staff” of knowledgeable nurses. It had been so long since she had been normal, what if I forgot what normal was? So I asked about 15 times what to look for and what would need medical attention. They said I could rent an oxygen monitor from Walgreen’s but I knew that was a recipe for disaster. 

Once we did get home, it was more than amazing to sleep in my own bed uninterrupted. We have been blessed with good sleepers so when we were in the hospital and she was woken up every 4 hours for respiratory therapy, she was PISSED. So we both went back to sleeping through the night and you know what? I actually didn’t worry every night about her oxygen levels like I thought I did.

As I’m finishing up this post, it’s a Thursday afternoon at 2:30 and D is playing with snow and colored water while R sits in her little Bumbo chair watching (and crying sometimes, which is pretty standard for her). “I Hope You Dance” is playing on my Pandora right now, and if the kids weren’t sitting here with me, you bet your ass there would be some ugly crying.

We’ve been home for 8 days and even though I’ve done about 8 loads of laundry, this is reality. And I am so happy to finally be back.

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