They say that parenthood comes with a level of stress that you can't really understand until you become one. We've certainly found that out the hard way this week, as we've stayed with Lucy during her first visit to the hospital.
It all started innocently enough; This past Monday, January noticed that Lucy had a bit of a cough and wheeze in her breathing. We knew that I had been dealing with a cough for a few days, so we decided to get her into the pediatrician's office immediately to make sure everything was ok. The doctor's appointment went fine, and she said there was nothing going on that concerned her. She recommended that we keep a vaporizer going in the bedroom with her and just keep an eye on her breathing to make sure things didn't progress in a bad direction. By Thursday, we were starting to get a little more concerned. Her breathing was increasingly labored and up close to the 100 breaths per minute level that our doctor told us to look out for. We had her weekly pediatrician's appointment scheduled for the next day, so we decided to wait it out and see what she had to say. Turns out that she was a bit concerned as well, and suggested that we take her to the emergency room at Children's Hospital.
We got to the hospital Friday afternoon, and the waiting room was pretty packed. As we approached the registration desk, we prepared ourselves for the possibility that we would have to wait several hours before getting in. However, Lucy's condition was concerning enough that they admitted us immediately, taking us into an initial evaluation area where they took her temperature, weighted her, and measured her blood oxygen levels. Most adults' oxygen levels, the level at which the body makes use of they oxygen we breathe in, are in the 95-100% range. Lucy's was in the lower 80's. At this point, they wheeled her around into a larger room where a team of doctors and nurses started the process of hooking her up to a dozen different machines. Poor little lucy had two IVs, an oxygen mask, blood pressure cuff, and heart monitor all stuck to her while they started their barrage of tests. The doctor in charge, who I swear couldn't have been more than 14 years old, explained the situation. Most likely scenario was that she had an RSV virus, which is about as serious as a cold in most people but a bit more serious in a newborn. However, even if it was just a virus that she needed some help riding out, her immune system could have been compromised to the point where any number of bacterial infections could have slipped into her system. On a lesser level, they were also a bit concerned about the possibility of her having meningitis, although her lack of a fever made this somewhat unlikely.
After an hour and a half of tests, including three attempted spinal taps, Doogie informed us that Lucy was in fact RSV+. The process of ruling out the bacterial infections would take more than a day, though, so they decided that the best course of action would be to help support her system in fighting off the RSV, and introduce a round of antibiotics in the event that she did have a bacterial infection as well.
We were wheeled up to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where we were put in the room that would be ours for the next 36 hours. Because they weren't sure what she had, they required everyone in the room to wear clean gowns and face masks at all times. Leaving the room and reentering required getting a brand new gown and mask and scrubbing up our hands. Every single time. All the while, poor little Lucy is in an infant warmer with a dozen wires connecting her to pumps and monitors. These first two hours were hands down the scariest.
I want to take a minute to talk about how awesome Children's Hospital is. I grew up in Columbus and have always been aware of Children's, but you really don't appreciate it until you have a loved one being taken care of by the staff here. Everyone we have come into contact with during our time here has been so great to us. In the PICU, we had a steady stream of nurses taking care of us who really seemed to care for little Lucy. And although we didn't see the doctors very often -- I'm sure they were tending to patients in worse condition than Lucy -- the times we did see them they took their time explaining their diagnoses and taking our questions so that we felt comfortable with how our daughter was being treated. Apart from the way the hospital staff treated us, the facilities themselves are really quite great. Complementary beverages and the on-site cafeteria and grill make it much easier for a parent to not worry about the logistics of living at the hospital so they can focus on keeping their kid as comfortable as possible. During that first day in the PICU, January and I both really gained a much better appreciation for everything Children's Hospital offers parents in central Ohio.
Fortunately, the news did get continuously better after that first day. We found out shortly thereafter that we could hold her -- she didn't have to stay in the warmer all the time -- so even though she had cords coming off of every appendage, we were able to comfort her at least a little bit.
Over the next 36 hours, she was kept on CPAP air forced into her lungs along with supplemental oxygen. While this was going on we were unable to feed her, so they gave her nutrients via her IV line along with the antibiotics. She did really well during this time. The doctor told us early on in the process that they estimated she would spend several days like this to build the strength back up in her lungs. Several times over the first night, though, she managed to get the nasal mask off her face and continued to do well anyway. By late afternoon on Saturday they decided that she may not even need the CPAP mask, and we were able to get if off of her and start bottle feeding again, avoiding the need for a feeding tube.
One thing we noticed almost immediately when we got into the PICU was how crowded it was. The rooms were really nice, and I'm not trying to imply that we were cramped, but every room was full and the unit was constantly buzzing with nurses and doctors. By yesterday evening they decided that Lucy had improved enough to warrant moving her out of the main PICU and into an overflow area on the next floor up so they could free up our room for more critical patients.
Since last night, the focus has really just been about Lucy's further improvement; She's still off of the CPAC machine, eating on her own, and they're continuing to lower the amount of oxygen that she is being supplemented with. When we were first admitted to the PICU she was being given 2 liters of oxygen, and now she is down to 0.1 liters. The goal, of course, is to get her off the supplemental oxygen entirely so that her oxygen blood saturation level is in the 98-100 range all on her own. She's making such progress, actually, that they've discharged her from the PICU extension into the infectious diseases wing. They're hopeful that her progress will continue so that, optimistically, she can be discharged tomorrow. We're trying to maintain a practical outlook on the situation, so we would just be happy to get to go home with a healthy little girl by the middle of the week.
It's been a somewhat unexpected way to spend the last half of my paternity leave, but I'm really glad I was able to spend this time with January and Lucy through this little rough patch. Assuming all goes well, we'll be home in a couple of days and can just look back at this as a little speed bump in learning how to take care of our little girl.