Friday, June 28, 2013

Tyler's Story, Part I: Devastation

The pictures in this post were taken throughout the week, not just the time written here.

No one ever expects things like this to happen to them.

This is a story of pain, heartache, shock, confusion, anxiety, sorrow.


But is also a story of God and His infinite grace and protection.  

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It all started around Christmas. I had noticed that 9-month-old Tyler had an excess of ear wax. Combining that, his low-grade fever, and that he wouldn't lean on that side to eat, I determined that he had an ear infection. We started to treat it like we've always treated ear infections - with a few drops of a garlic-goldenseal oil blend in the ear. It's always worked to clear up the infection by the next morning.

But when his ear started to stick out from the side of his head and the area behind the ear started to swell, I grabbed a single diaper and Leighton and I took him to Urgent Care down the road from my parents' house. 

The doctor there had no idea what was wrong, claiming he had never seen anything like this before. He looked in his ear and said there was no infection, no wax, nothing. He offered to write a script for an oral antibiotic, but skeptically suggested that we take Tyler to the ER if there was no improvement in 24 hours.

Hmm, you're very concerned . . . you're clueless . . . you're hesitant to believe that he will be better tomorrow, but you want us to wait it out??? Uh, thanks. "If it were your child, what would you do?" was answered with "Oh, I'd take him right to the ER now!" Yeah, we'll just head to the hospital tonight. He was relieved and wrote a transfer note.

Since we didn't want to take a chance with our baby and his "what-is-this?" infection, Leighton decided to go to Children's Hospital of Michigan, where we'd find better care for our child. We drove straight there, thinking that they'd give him an antibiotic shot and send us home with a script.

There are signs in the emergency room stating that patients will be seen based on the magnitude of the illness or injury, not on time of arrival. We came bearing a transfer paper from Urgent Care. Another doctor already saw him and deemed him ill enough to head to the ER. We were guaranteed a shorter wait-time, right? Wrong. We sat there watching child after child walk back through the doors. Most of these children looked like they should have gone to Urgent Care instead of the ER. Many were laughing and playing. A few were even running around. We kept listening for our son's name to be called. We sat and waited. For 2 hours. Two hours? After a transfer?

By this time, it was 10:30 pm. We followed the nurse to a room. My own baby-who-looked-too-happy-to-be-there was tired. And hungry. We called the nurse back and asked if I had time to feed the baby before the doctor came in. "Oh, you can't do that," she replied. "The doctor might want some tests done." Tests? What kind of tests and why? We just need something to make this swelling go away. That's what we thought. Tyler's crying prompted us to ask, "How long will it be before the doctor can see him?" She answered, "A new doctor comes in at 11:00 pm. and that's who'll see you," and walked away. We were not happy, Tyler even less so. He hadn't eaten in 5 hours and it was well past his bedtime. We called her back yet again and asked - over the cries of the baby - if it were possible for another doctor, one who was already there, to check him over really fast to see if he thought that the doctor that wasn't there yet might want some tests. Confusing? Yeah, it was to us too. She hurried off to find out.

I bounced and swayed and shhh-ed Tyler until 10:55 when the doctor walked in. (We never found out if he was the wait-for-him-to-come-in-doctor or the already-there-doctor.) He asked us a few questions - questions that we would answer many times over the next few days: did he recently have a cold, had he been pulling at his ears, when did we notice the swelling, did he have a fever, did he have a rash, how much did he weigh at birth, was he full-term. He looked in Tyler's ears with his otoscope and commented about how he couldn't see anything because of the amount of wax. (Remember the Urgent Care doctor said there was no wax.) He then proceeded to say how bad the mastoiditis was and that Tyler was going to need a CT scan and that the nurse would be in to hook up an IV soon. We were shocked and overwhelmed. He didn't explain anything to us. He just stated it like we already knew what the problem was.

Two nurses came in a little while later to take blood and start the IV. Leighton attempted to calm Tyler and keep him still. It was too much for me to watch them poke my baby with a needle. I sat there in a daze and stared foggy-eyed at the wall, as the cries of my little one penetrated the air. It seemed like an eternity before they found a vein they could use.

Poke . . . drip, drip, drip . . . drip . . . blown vein.

The nurse pulled the line out of his arm, squirting blood all over the table. They moved the tourniquet and started the process of looking for another worthy spot. They commented that his veins were so small, that none of them seemed good. They eventually settled on a vein in his right hand.

Poke . . . drip, drip . . . blown vein.

They apologized profusely. They just didn't know what to do. And though they felt awful, it didn't help the situation. They left the room and called in the IV team.

Leighton picked up our baby boy from that blood-stained table and tried to comfort him. Tyler looked at me and cried. He reached out his chubby, little arms. Leighton asked if I wanted to hold him. And though my greatest desire was to squeeze him and make it all better, I felt conflicted. I was trying my hardest not to sob like a baby myself. I had shed a few tears, but was able to keep my composure. I couldn't let my emotions distract me from the most important thing - getting my baby better. I needed to be alert to make decisions. I feared that I wasn't strong enough, especially if I had him in my arms.

I returned his reach and let my precious boy fall into my arms. I held my baby close. His sweet, wet face dampened my cheek. His tears dripped on my shirt. And we both were comforted.

There was a quick knock on the door before it opened again. My heart sank, and I handed Tyler back to his daddy. I returned to my post in the chair and stared again at the white wall.

The two nurses from the IV team were sympathetic and friendly. They got right to work. One leaned over Tyler both to hold him down and comfort him. She rubbed his leg and spoke soothingly to him, while the other began searching for a spot to poke him again.

The needle pierced his skin the same moment his scream pierced the air.


I sat there struggling with many emotions. Fear. Confusion. Anguish.



I knew they were doing their best. I knew this was where he needed to be. I knew he was in capable hands.


But these hands were hurting my child. 

dri-- nothing.

They could get no more blood to flow through the line. They had to look for another spot. Again.

And again, for the fourth time, they search all over his tiny body. They examined each vein, trying to find one that would cooperate.

They settled on his left hand. They poked; he continued crying; the blood flowed.


They inserted the IV and removed the needle. They immediately began giving him saline fluids and cleaned up the mess of blood, wrappers, towels, and needles from the table. Then they were gone.

It was 2:30 in the morning. The three of us were alone and exhausted. Leighton lay back on the emergency room bed, Tyler resting across his chest. I turned off the light and watched my guys as they drifted off to sleep. The two of them can sleep anywhere, even when it's not the middle of the night. I can sleep anywhere, too. As long as there's a bed involved. And I'm not worried about my child.

I sat in the padded metal chair, thinking. This was not how we anticipated this evening to go. I had already called my mom, multiple times, to keep them updated. They had decided, when we called to let them know we were traveling to the hospital, that the other kids were spending the night with them. Now, in the darkness of the room, I was reminded again how blessed we are with such willing parents. I don't know what we would have done had we had the whole family there in the hospital.

The nurse came in and hooked up antibiotics to the IV. They hadn't done any tests yet and did not know what the infection was, but they did know it was severe. (We did not understand the magnitude of it all yet, though.) They were treating him with Vancomycin, possibly the strongest antibiotic and is considered a drug of last resort.

I asked when we'd be moved to a real room. She informed me that the order was just put in to be admitted, even though we had been given the news hours before.  

Then the room was silent once again.

Occasionally, one of my guys would stir, which would cause the other to awaken as well. An hour passed.


I jumped as the silence was broken.


The sound seemed deafening in the noiseless building.


Everyone was awake when the nurse returned a little while later and explained that the antibiotic had finished. She started the flush to empty the line and said she'd be back when that was done.  

Fifteen minutes later, the scene repeated itself.

Eventually, Leighton and  and I traded places. He slept in the chair, while I dozed with Tyler on the emergency room bed.

At 5:30 in the morning, the nurse came to take us to our room. We grabbed everything we had - Tyler, iPad, the IV cart, my purse - and walked the empty halls up to the third floor. Our portion of the shared room was small. There was room only for Tyler's crib and a lounge chair. He was exhausted and quickly fell back asleep. Leighton and I reclined the chair and wedged ourselves in it.

Little did we know, in an hour and a half, we would start a very trying day.

To be continued . . .
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  1. Hugs.

    I'm looking forward to the next post ...

  2. It's hard reliving this for me and I know it brakes your heart once again to read and post it.