Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hospital Diaries: Part I

Part II here. Part III here.

On a Sunday evening in late September, at the close of a whirlwind weekend of family, fun, and travel, I noticed Baby Jayne felt toasty in my arms. I rested my cheek against her hot little head and chalked up her heater status to being sleepy and swaddled. Monday morning we left my parents' house and drove home. We dropped Jay off at work, and after a brief milky meal at home, Jayne slipped into sleep. It was a long, albeit fitful, nap, and I took advantage of the respite by grinding wheat, making bread, doing laundry, and taking care of Kate. Once Kate was down for a nap, I cozied up with Jayne on the couch. She was fussy, and her cries were guttural. Heat radiated from her little body.

{At the Boulder cabin on Sunday afternoon. I didn't know it yet, but Jayne was a very ill little baby.}

I got our temporal thermometer from Kate's bathroom and, with trepidation, swiped it across Jayne's tiny forehead. 


I took her temperature again and again as I nursed her.

100.6. 100.1. 100.5. 100.4.

I grabbed our axillary thermometer and, for the first time in my life, took a rectal temperature.


Jayne's pediatrician and the nurses at the hospital after her birth had drilled into us that any temperature 100.4 or higher in an infant is serious and should be evaluated immediately in the emergency room. Her doctor had also told us that when an infant is seen in the ER, they require a full workup of tests, including a lumbar puncture.

I called a nurse friend, my mom, and my pediatrician's office, but the twisting feeling in my gut told me I already knew what we had to do. My fraying emotions completely unraveled, not just because of the possibility that Jayne was seriously ill, but because I didn't want to put her through painful, potentially unnecessary tests.

At my somewhat hysterical request, Jay canceled the rest of his day and came home early. We dropped Kate off at a wonderful friend's house, my mom began the two hour drive to Las Vegas, and we drove Jayne to the children's ER 20 minutes away. 

Minutes before leaving, I checked Jayne's temp again: 99.5. I desperately hoped we were overreacting and that when we arrived at the hospital they would laugh at the neurotic mother and send us home with a patronizing pat on the head.

The emergency room at the Summerlin hospital was hopping that day: people in gowns dotted the waiting room, their postures slumped and faces taut from pain or malaise, as harried nurses rushed others through triage. We stood at the reception desk for a good 15 minutes before a worn nurse broke away from her patient to help us. We had barely given her our names, reason for visiting, and a $100 copay when a man came out and called our name. I was surprised at how fast we were taken back when so many others waited outside.

Jayne fussed a little as she was weighed and measured. The CNA took a rectal temp, and my hopes of leaving were dashed and fears were validated when the thermometer read 101.4. 

For the next five hours, we sat in our own room in the pediatric ER wing as doctors and nurses came in and out. Jay and I took turns snuggling our feverish baby. They wouldn't allow me to nurse her until after she had the lumbar puncture, so I waited, my breasts full and aching as my body craved to comfort my child in desperate, primal instinct. Jayne took her pacifier but did not root for food as she dozed restlessly in our arms.

{Jayne in her hospital room. We didn't put clothes on her for the first couple days to keep her fever down.}

Those hours in that room are a blur now, but writing about it brings back flashes of the emotion and panic I felt as I subjected my tiny baby to a horrific array of painful experiences. I remember helping hold her down, dipping her pacifier in sugar water again and again to help ease her discomfort as the pediatric nurses poked her over and over to start an IV (God bless the NICU nurse they finally called down. She was warm and funny and reminded me of my friend and got it placed on her second try.). I didn't harbor any ill will toward the nurses--they were competent and doing their best--but I remember the words "Surely this must be Hell" scrolled through my mind on repeat like a looping marquee. I was quiet about it, but tears dripped from my nose to the papery sheets on the hospital bed as Jayne writhed and the nurses poked.

We had to watch her back arch and her fingers clench and her legs jerk through multiple attempts of the litany of tests: blood draw, catheter, nose swabs, IV. When the pediatrician finally came in to do the lumbar puncture, we had been there for over four hours. She told us  Jayne's urine had markers of infection in it and that it appeared she had a UTI. "I recommend you step outside," she said before starting the LP. "You don't want to be in here for this. But it won't take long--just 5-10 minutes."

Jay and I walked to the end of the hall and stood with our arms around each other. The corridor was a noisy place, but Jayne's screams cut through the ambient sound. They were wrenching, and I paced in nauseous nervousness. A PA from pediatrics came down and asked us myriad questions. Behind her, I saw nurses going in and out of Jayne's room as the minutes ticked by. I heard one ask another nurse for yet another LP kit. We'd been in the hall for half an hour. Jayne was still screaming. 

It finally ended, as all horrible moments eventually do. I nursed Jayne--at last--as the PA continued her questions and explanations, and even had a moment of mad hilarity when the sweet PA, after hearing that Jayne often slept for 6-8 hour stretches at night, expressed solemn concern and said that babies who sleep so long and don't eat often enough are at risk for failure to thrive. "Excuse me, but have you looked at this baby?" I asked in a shocked half-laugh as I felt the rolls on Jayne's thighs through her blankets. 

When Jay peeled the band aid off Jayne's back the next day, there were six small puncture scabs dotted in a small line. The back of my knees cringed at the suffering she had gone through, but later I was very grateful the doctor had persisted.


  1. Ugh. Your poor. sweet angel. Thank goodness it wasn't anything more serious.

    1. Thanks, Riss. We are so grateful she's okay.

  2. This sounds so terrifying for you and her! You have a way with words Lindsay, I love reading this blog and I fully support you in trying to blog more :)

    1. Court, you are the best. Thanks for making my day.

  3. What an ordeal for you, Jay, and most of all baby Jayne.

    I'm sorry that you had to go through something so traumatic.

    Love you guys!

    (Glad someone there reminded you of me, wish I could have been there!).

  4. This horrifyingly reminds me of our stay at the NICU with Livvy and Mason! So awful!

    1. So glad Asher didn't put you through a NICU stay this time around!

  5. My baby was born very early (25 weeks; she weighed 1 lb. 3 oz.) in July and spent 5 1/2 months in the NICU. The first few months especially were terrifying and so hard emotionally. She had so many painful procedures, multiple blood draws a day, etc. And of course we were constantly afraid we'd lose her. As a mama, watching our babies when they're in pain and sick is so hard. I'm sorry your little Jayne had to experience that!

    1. So hard--life with micro preemies is a long journey! I'm glad you all made it through.

  6. Oh, and my Lucy contracted E. coli from her breathing tube when she was 2 months old, and continues to have hydronephrosis. So I know how those go!