So on the morning of October 29, Penny’s school called me to let me know she was just inconsolable. It was just a “courtesy call,” they said, and they said that right up front, which I appreciated. We’d had some stuff going on at home over the previous few days, so I wasn’t totally surprised. I had to work later, though, and I had an appointment I didn’t want to miss, and kind of feeling like a dick, I asked them to give me an update in 15 minutes or so. That’s normal, right? Whatever, it’s what I did.
I hopped in the shower and before I even got out, my phone was ringing again. She just could not calm herself down. Ok, no big deal, she needs to be at home today. I got out and went and got her. Once I had her home on the couch, she settled a bit and fell asleep. I was chatting with my friends on base and with Jess while I sat on the couch with her, and fortunately managed to make arrangements for one of my friends to come over and sit with her for a couple of hours while I went to the appointment. In the midst of talking to Jess about suddenly inconsolable children, I reached out to re-cover Penny with her blanket and WHOA HOT. HOT HOT HOT. I felt like a giant idiot for not suspecting anything and got the thermometer. 105. Eep. Okay. Big dumb idiot me. I immediately called the doctors on base and they could not get her in. I debated waiting to get an appointment the next day, but by then Penny had woken up and was crying and crying that her neck hurt. Nope. Noooope. So we got loaded up in the car and headed to the ER on the ped’s recommendation.
We were at the ER all. day. Not because they were backed up or slow, that’s rarely a problem here. But just because they were so intent on getting her fever down and figuring out what was going on. I had medicated her before we left and they kept on rotating Tylenol and ibuprofen to bring her temperature down, but it never got under 101. They were fortunately able to determine it was not meningitis, though they had to call in another ped to do it. Despite the rapid strep test being negative and another test not back yet, that doctor determined she had strep and mono. We left with a prescription for antibiotics and instructions to work on keeping the fever down, etc.
Here is a picture of my sad baby that I took for Phil, because I should have mentioned that he was away at the time and was actually away for the entire duration of this story.
The next couple days were rough, as you might expect, because she developed a gastro thing as well and was up over and over all night, every night. Not once or twice, but running to the bathroom once or twice an hour all night. She was not getting any rest and it was just dragging the whole thing out, and she was so miserable.
In the middle of the fifth night of fever, I called the nurse advice line about the fact that her fever just would not go away. Continually above 103 unmedicated and only down to about 101 medicated. Penny didn’t get sick a lot in previous years so I don’t have a ton of experience here, but I do try to keep a reasonable head about fevers. It’s just the body doing what it does, medicate for comfort, all of that. But day five seemed like a long, long time.
So the reason I called the nurse line is a weird thing with our insurance and the way the clinic works on base. We only have one urgent care in town and it’s kind of terrible and I don’t like it, but there are others in Las Cruces that are good. We need a referral to go there. Which is ridiculous. Especially because our insurance is INCREDIBLY STINGY with referrals to urgent care. To get a same day appointment at the clinic, you need to call at exactly 7:00am and hope. Well, if you call the nurse line while the clinic is closed, they go through a series of questions and use their information or program or whatever to make a recommendation. Usually, it’s something like, “we recommend she been seen within the next X days or hours.” If you time your call right and they recommend something like, say, 12 hours, they’ll transfer you over to the appointment line and make you an appointment at the clinic on base if they can find one, and that’s if the recommended window of hours line up. Well, I timed it stupidly or at least expected they’d give us a big window, but they didn’t and said she needed to be seen within 4 hours. Which, no. It was the middle of the night. The only urgent care in town only works limited business hours. They said to take her to the ER. I said I’d already taken my sleeping pills, so I wasn’t going to do that. But they refused to make a next day appointment for me because it would have been outside their recommended 4 hours. So basically, take her to the ER or we can’t help.
NOPE. Come on. I’m not going to get into a whole thing about abuse of the ER, because you know what, that is what it is. But it would probably be HELPFUL if insurance would WORK. WITH. ME. There was a nights, evenings, and weekends urgent care in Las Cruces I could have taken her to if they’d authorize it, but flat refusal to do that.
So, 7am on the dot, I called in for an appointment. This was Monday morning, I think, and all they could get me was an appointment for Wednesday. But could I hold on? They talked to the ped team for a minute and then asked me to take her to the ER. FINE.
So we went up there and got seen quickly. We went over what they’d done the last time. This time, they claimed they never did a mono test, which was INFURIATING, because they’d come back to take extra blood from her for it and she was bruised up and down each arm. But whatever, I don’t care what she HAS, just fix it. This time, they said she had an upper respiratory infection and a stomach thing. They gave her some steroids to help with this insane cough that seriously, just developed on the way there. We went back home and she continued to lay around like a sad, miserable sack.
I had taken the appointment on Wednesday at the clinic anyway, because I was supposed to follow up with her regular doctor. She looked decent at that appointment. Her stomach was still gross, but the doctor advised me that it would probably be like that for up to two weeks, based on what was going around at the time. She passed it to me in the next day or so, so I have great sympathy for how miserable she must have been. Surprisingly, the doctor also had information on the tests that had come back – the long strep test was negative, and so was the mono test, which had miraculously been found. We decided to finish out her antibiotics anyway, and fortunately, she was back to school later that day.
The night of November 16th, she had still been up all night every night coughing, and finally, at that point, had started coughing until she threw up. Okay, gross, but I can handle it. It’s just that she was getting NO SLEEP AT ALL during this whole thing, and I felt like it was making it difficult for her to get her feet under her in terms of finally recovering. The cough had been going on for two weeks at that point, so I was sitting in my bed debating waking up to call and fight for an appointment the next morning when she came in crying about her eye hurting and leaking. She kept getting out of bed all night to wash her leaky eye.
So, next morning, back to the clinic we go. I felt like her doctor must be sick of my stupid face by then, and got that weird paranoia about looking like a crazy paranoid parent, but ever since my paranoia about my infant CRYING TOO MUCH lead to us discovering her raging infection and kidney defect that ended up requiring surgery to repair, I kind of go with that feeling. I mean, I try not to let it get out of control, but that kind of paranoia only needs to pay off once for an already slightly crazy parent to decide she has supernatural sick-deciding powers.
Fortunately, her doctor said I did the right thing. A cough that goes on that long needs to be checked out. He looked at her and decided at this point, we were dealing with a new infection – probably a sinus infection – since she’d already done a full course of antibiotics. Oh, and also, pink eye. So we got another round of antibiotics for the new infection. If she was still coughing in ten more days, he wanted to see her again to see if maybe it’s allergies. She already takes Zyrtec, but I guess you never know.
And she went back to school again. (Her doctor did say it was viral pinkeye and she was free to go to school as long as it wasn’t weeping all over.)
All went fine. For a bit.
On the 23rd, at about FOUR OH FIVE PM. right after the clinic closed, she tells me she has a mosquito bite that is itchy.
OH, DO YOU NOW?
She’s never had a rash, so I called the nurse line to ask what to give her. Take her to the ER, they said. There was no lead up to that because I’m sure you’re not surprised. I was furiously consulting over text with all the other parents I know and it just didn’t seem very ER-y. But they refuse to give any advice other than what their thing says. So I called the clinic, hoping MAYBE someone was there? And they connected me to the after hours doctor, who was actually my doctor. He agreed that it didn’t sound emergent, but if it suddenly got worse than what it was, I should take her, but bring her in to the clinic the next day. Good. That’s what I like to hear.
OMG PENELOPE THURSA WORK WITH ME.
And it continued to worsen from there. When it started crawling up her throat and onto her face, I decided to take her in. Now having seen it, I probably wouldn’t make the same choice again, but at the time, I was freaked out that it was going to crawl down her throat in the night and choke her.
Fortunately, we were in and out very quickly again, and the doctor kept coming back in the room to tell me that if I couldn’t get her an appointment with her doctor the next day, he wanted to see her back there to take a look at her again. He gave me a card with when he’d be there and all of that. I appreciate the reassurance that I’m doing the right thing, but these doctors are totally encouraging my belief in my own spidey-penny sense and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
She got a lot of Benadryl and some more steroids and once she was asleep, she looked like this.
We saw a ped the next day and it was mostly down to just some red bumps, but we were only part way through the most recent course of antibiotics and she was still coughing, so we had to determine if she was going to keep taking them, assuming the rash was viral, since a newly developed allergy to penicillin was a possibly culprit here, or move on to trying to treat the allergies, since she’d finished half the course with little improvement in the cough.
During this appointment, Penelope was INSANE. IN. SANE. Even the doctor was like, can I please just talk to your mother for a second? She was flinging herself off the walls. I assured the doctor that she’s kind of crazy, but not like THIS. Steroids, the doctor reminded me. STEROIDS. She was HULKING OUT.
Anyway, we decided to go with a nose spray and ditch the rest of the antibiotics. When was this? I’ve lost track. Penny started finally sleeping through the night again right before Phil came back home December 1, which was so convenient for him. Then she threw up the other night so I just. You guys.
I was talking to Jess because apparently that’s what I do when everything is terrible, because she has more kids than me and knows more things and is very calm in a crisis, especially one that is not her own and not actually so much a crisis as a parental breakdown in sanity, really, and she told me that there’s some research that most kids get the same amount of illnesses between birth and five, and since Penny just started daycare/pre-k, she was finally getting her share.
It seems weird to say this, since she was in the NICU and hospitalized several other times and has had kidney surgery and has a digestive condition and allergies and reflux, but she’s really been a very healthy kid her whole life. So I am kind of bowled over by all of this, but I do understand that it’s totally normal childhood stuff. She’s just getting hers in a pile and I was not conditioned to know what to do with a sick kid through her earlier years. And I get that it’s not all been anything major. But we’re going into the winter now, her first winter in day care, and she just cannot seem to get her feet under her, health-wise, for a gottdanged second, and I’m concerned that it’s just going to be one thing after another while her immune system gets kicked around by all the other germ balls in the germ aquarium where she spends her days.
I’ve been trying to make sure she gets a lot of sleep, since it’s still broken up and restless most nights and has been since the end of October. Making sure she’s eating well, too. But what else can I do to kind of give her a boost through the rest of the winter. Vitamins? Do they work or just create expensive pee? What do probiotics do? Can they help here? Should I make her wear a blanket and eat soup? She already washes her hands until they chap. Should I just perform a full hose down when she comes in the door from school? I know she’s going to get sick more, but if I could just cut her a little break, that would be great, and any ideas you have or ways you help your own children through snot season would be helpful.
IN OTHER NEWS, I’ve recently taken to onesie pajamas and I encourage you to get on board, and look who is being delivered to Penny on Christmas Eve: