106 Degrees of Separation Anxiety

When I got a call Friday from my wife, who was caring for not only 3.5 year old twins, but her own very bad cold, I was more than willing to make an effort to help out by coming home as early as possible. But the cards dealt us once I got there had been shuffled without our knowing it, and the hand played out in a way neither of us could have anticipated. Within a matter of minutes of my arrival, just after my son had awoken from his nap, my daughter started to stir as well. She’s never one to rise from afternoon naps in the best of moods, and this was no exception. But it quickly became apparent that something was not quite right.

Both of the kids have been coughing during the last week. He’s been on the mend while she’s been getting a bit worse. So when I was carrying her out from her room and she was coughing heavily, and deeply, it was no surprise. What was a surprise, however, and not to be gross or graphic, was that it was only a few moments or so later that she was bringing up a great deal of phlegm and mucus. So much so that I ended up taking her to the bathroom so she had a place to, well, ‘expel’ into.

Now, as any parent will tell you, these moments are a paradox. The last thing you want to deal with is your child throwing up. But the truth is that it’s really the second to last thing, because the absolute last thing you want is for your child to be throwing up without you there to help them. It’s gotta be scary being sick, and even more so to be in a situation like that without mom or dad there to help and comfort. So as unpleasant as it was, there was something deeply rewarding about being there to help and to comfort, as were my own parents there for me so many years ago.

Once things seemed to subside, I instructed her to lean back in my arms and catch her breath as I sat with her. I wanted her to relax, as the worst seemed to be over and my wife was still hoping to retreat into the back room for some much needed recuperation of her own.

As she lay back in my arms, her breathing became short and shallow. Her eyes were semi-closed, and her body was slowly becoming heavier and heavier as she began to go limp. At that point, I touched her forehead and she was burning up.

I told my wife, and she got the ear thermometer and took her temperature as I held her prone in my arms.

Her temperature was 106.5.

If anybody out there knows of a single ear-thermometer that can actually, consistently, acquire an accurate temperature every time, please send me one, because they totally suck and are completely unreliable. I’ve taken a temperature 4 times in each ear on more then one occasion and gotten 8 completely different results that range over three to four complete degrees. Therefore, when we use these, I do so with great reservation and very little faith in their accuracy, but more as a general ‘ballpark’ measuring tool, from which to gauge the potential severity of a situation. Even I know that allowing for a couple degrees of error, 106.5 still ends up being too high for comfort. My wife was quite adamant about the immediate need to take her directly to the hospital. And I’m glad I did. In ratty sweatpants that don’t stay up, a musty shirt, socks without shoes, in the rain. I was off to the car, buckling her in, and speeding to a nearby emergency room.

It’s so damned close but that drive took forever, and I would reach back at the stoplight to feel her forehead, which was still quite hot to the touch. She’d answer my occasional question as we drove, but barely audible when she did so. Her breath remained shallow and she continued to cough sporadically as well. All I could do was try and reassure her, and in some ways, myself, that everything would be alright.

Upon arrival, I scooped her out of the car and quickly walked across the rain soaked parking lot in my stocking feet while holding her against my chest with one hand and holding up my slipping sweatpants with the other. When I got to the window, the attending nurse immediately knew who we were, because my wife had proactively called them after I left so they knew I was on my way, how high her temperature was, and to be ready for us.

As we stood waiting for them to take her in, my phone rang. I’d been asked to call home as soon as I got there but I’d not had a chance yet, and this was my wife calling to check in. But the walls were lined with signs specifically instructing visitors to turn off their cellphones, and I wanted to comply. Even though this seems like something that was implemented back in the early 90’s, along with airline bans, when cellphones were about the size of a carton of cigarettes. The research and advancements in technology seems to have reduced the the number of planes suddenly dropping out of the sky to zero, from the inconceivable earlier figures of, uh… zero. Right along side the radio frequency of an incoming cell phone call in an emergency room to suddenly causing defibrillator voltages to double, craftmatic beds to tri-fold patients and pacemakers to adopt the rhythmic back-beat of a Justin Timberlake ringtone.

Lame. So I took the call. You can’t expect a mother to not feel anxious about the state of a daughter just rushed to the hospital with a very high fever. Signs be damned. Just then, we got the ‘green light’ to go into triage, so I cut things short and took her back for an examination. They took her temperature and even though she was still very very hot, the reading was about 102.5, far from the earlier testing, but still something to attend to. After getting some children’s tylenol, the physician came in and after examining her, said he wanted to do some blood work and and x-ray. This seemed a bit excessive to me, as it was looking pretty much like this was just a cold or minor infection, but they wanted to rule out more severe issues like pneumonia and such.

My daughter was a trooper. She did wonderfully. They took blood and she didn’t wince. She even said it did not hurt [it was a very small needle]. She sat properly and patiently for a couple of x-rays as well, and handled the long wait to get through all of this like a trooper, thanks in part to some apple juice and inflated glove distractions. Of course this all took place over at least a two + hour span of time, during which I was sure to keep my wife informed by, yes, using my cell phone. Just about the time my daughter was starting to appear to be more then ready for this all to be over, the doctor returned with the results of the test.


Yep. The tests i’d scoffed at the need for actually did reveal an infection in her lungs, and that she has Pneumonia. So we’ll be semi-quaranteed for a few days and she’ll be on antibiotics. And once they conveyed that message they also gave her a pretty serious shot, and it was probably one of the most difficult things to do, because it really did hurt her and she cried a cry I’ve not heard often, one of true pain. But once it was over, she was feeling better about it, yet just as we were driving away in the car, she made it clear that she did not want to come to this doctor’s office any more.


Written by gsm

02/12/2007 at 8:08 am

Posted in  Journal 

2 Responses

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  1. Wow. The only things I have to say are:
    1. Doctors are often smarter about some things than we are, in spite of our broad expertise in important areas like technology and, uh, er, …technology. They’re more like QA than Development in their concern for the outcome, and are similarly careful to look for possibilities where risks are greatest. I would assume that you and/or Linda voiced concern about the deep coughing and the description of laying her back and having her go semi-comatose are consistent with a loss of oxygen as the lungs press in on themselves. The doctor must have either heard the cough or the story and decided that caution should prevail. Lesson I’ve Learned: If a doctor says ‘run a test’, you ask about the risks and consequences, but eventually you run the test.

    I’ve only heard that absolute cry of pain from my daughter once; as they reset her broken wrist without benefit of pain meds (no time, needed to be able to verify with her that it suddenly felt better after it was reset). I held her in my arms as they set it, with her head turned away on my shoulder so that she wouldn’t see it as it happened. I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life, and neither has she. Now I know what my dad menat when he said “This’ll hurt me as much as it hurts you”.

    Jon Fuelleman

    02/12/2007 at 1:11 pm

  2. Just reading about sick kids gets my stomach in knots remembering a few late night runs to the ER with one of the boys. Fortunately it was never anything serious. Hope the little is one is feeling better – and tell her brother that he has to be nice to her – at least until she off the meds.


    02/12/2007 at 1:29 pm

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