(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
Beth’s first health crisis arrived suddenly on a brittle January morning, about eight months after her injury. The nurse at our pediatrician’s office took one look at her and led the way to the doctor. After chest x-rays at the hospital, we waited while they called our pediatrician. He told me on the phone that Beth had pneumonia and I interrupted his plan to admit her to the Tiffin hospital. With his consent, I immediately called Dr. Miller, who sent us to Toledo. I focused on the icy roads to keep my breathing steady.
Admitted to intensive care at the Toledo Hospital, Beth had never been so sick before. Her childhood asthma returned stronger than it had ever been. Extreme, relentless, uncomfortable symptoms alarmed us. Every labored breath ended in a wheeze. Her weak cough could not clear her partially paralyzed lungs. Her fever spiked too high repeatedly despite strong IV medicine. Her blood pressure, consistently low since the injury, fluctuated.
With breathing treatments around the clock, a team of lung doctors for children closely supervised Beth’s care during the days. At night, a nurse checked on her frequently and called a doctor more than once to increase medication or add another.
Four bad days and nights melted together with no improvement and little rest.
I fixed pillows, offered fluids, and held Beth’s hand, unnerved at how little I could do to help. A nurse carried a few get-well flower bouquets out of the room to remove possible allergens. A doctor talked about surgery to dislodge the mass in a lower lung. He also showed me how to do physiotherapy by pounding her chest and back with a cupped hand.
On the fifth day, Beth could breathe a bit easier, and asked to look at her pile of schoolwork for the first time that week. The sixth day, a technician in a gown and mask wheeled in a portable x-ray machine, which showed a smaller pocket of pneumonia. A PICC line for IV antibiotics was scheduled before discharge on the seventh day.
An intern started to thread a tiny tube through a vein in my daughter’s right arm to her heart—with no pain medication first. Beth’s left hand suddenly touched mine, her eyes wide. With limited sensation in her arm, the pain had to be significant. When I questioned the intern, she said the procedure was almost over. I hugged half of Beth through TEN more minutes while she wiped away silent tears with her left hand.
Our first evening back home, a nurse arrived to connect the IV antibiotics to the PICC line, and left before it finished draining. Beth’s upper right arm swelled, hot and red. I called Dr. Miller in a panic and couldn’t stop myself from crying on the phone. She told me to disconnect the IV. If the swelling went down, we should drive to the hospital in the morning to have the PICC line taken out. If it didn’t, Beth would need an emergency room that night.
I turned on the nebulizer for another breathing treatment, and lay down on the hospital bed beside Beth, hugging the arm with the PICC line. I checked her arm through the night. Would she be admitted to the hospital again? Would the leaking vein cause other problems? Would her lungs clear without IV antibiotics?
Dr. Miller met us in Toledo on a Saturday morning to take out the line and prescribe strong oral antibiotics. I apologized for my emotional phone call the night before. I asked her how to avoid respiratory problems in the future, a futile attempt to ease my relentless anxiety. I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the lung doctors, the first of many. Beth found an upside to the scary week in intensive care.
“I tired easily and fought infections and a bout of pneumonia the first year after my injury, but through it I learned how to take care of myself and reduce health risks.”
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