Murphy’s Law: Week 1 – Line Infection

Brian says that our family has adopted a new law: Murphy’s Law.

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If you’re not familiar with this law, it’s simple. Simply, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Rewind to the end of January. January 29th, to be exact. A Sunday. When we got up for church on Sunday morning, Brian wasn’t feeling well. He was tired and a little warm. He’d worked really long hours all the week before, though, and it’s not uncommon for that to make him sick, so we just forged ahead anyway.

We went to church, took naps, and then decided to drop his car at the shop on the way to family dinner. We’d had it in the shop the week before and they’d implied that it had a broken head gasket, maybe worse, and may need a new engine… but repairing a car we own was still cheaper than replacing it, and so, to the shop it went.

I knew by then that Brian was really, truly getting sick and so we made a quick escape from dinner. About 8, we put Patrick down to bed. But he didn’t sleep. He just kept calling for me. So I went in and did my best to comfort him, but he still wouldn’t sleep. At 9:30, his temperature was 99.4 and he was not sleeping in my arms, so I decided to try putting him back to bed.

At 10, Brian went to check on him. He felt warm, so he checked his temperature again… 102.5. I had a good cry, then packed our bags, and we headed to the hospital.

Patrick was really doing well, considering.. His fever didn’t go much higher and he wasn’t having chills.. Still, he’d had an upset tummy all the week before and we knew odds were pretty good that he had an infection.

I tried calling the GI on call to let them know we were coming, but they didn’t respond to pages, and we knew Patrick needed the E.R. regardless, so we just went in.

Amazingly, the ER was fairly quiet, and it didn’t take long for them to show us to a room. Things started out as usual. They gave Patrick some Motrin, drew labs, took his history. However, the nurse practioner (NP) who was assigned to Patrick got all caught up in me saying that he had a tender tummy. They sent Patrick back for an X-ray, which was normal…

And then we waited. Especially with Motrin on board, Patrick wasn’t terrifyingly ill this time, and so they seemed to not know what to do with him. They paged the GI on call, too, and didn’t get an answer. And so we sat, and sat, and sat. They didn’t start fluids or antibiotics or even put on monitors. I was pretty upset at the lack of action, but turned my attention things in my control, and I did my best to get Patrick to sleep, which is a feat. Finally, around 3, I’d finally succeeded and even fit in a little nap myself…

Then Patrick’s Motrin wore off and his fever came back… full force this time… Quick rising temperature, chills, rigors (uncontrollable shaking). He was miserable, we were helpless… And the GI on call still wasn’t answering.

Finally, they called the on call liver doctor (who is also a GI) and he told them in no uncertain terms that Patrick always gets antibiotics and an admission with every fever. The fact that Patrick hit septic shock protocol almost simultaneously kind of sealed the deal.

So – they started antibiotics, gave some fever reducers, and finally got us to a room around 5 a.m.

The next day was rough. I told several of the doctors that Patrick’s last infection had been resistant to the usual drug cocktail and gave them the name of the antibiotic that had treated it… however, it wasn’t until the attending (who happened to be Dr. Jackson this time, hooray!) did patient rounds that they caught on and started an antibiotic that actually worked to treat the infection.

Until that point, Patrick was so miserable that he wouldn’t even sit up in bed. I could barely moving without him being in agony. And so, since we also had gotten no sleep, I just stayed in Patrick’s bed. All day. Thank goodness for a good friend who brought me a muffin and yogurt and some amazing chocolate drizzled popcorn… because that and some crackers, string cheese, and water provided by the nurses were all the nourishment I got all day. I couldn’t get out of bed for longer than a trip to the bathroom, and that only with support from the nurses.

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Finally, though, that afternoon, after the right antibiotic had been given, Patrick made a quick turn-around. By evening, he was willing to sit up and play in bed. By the next morning, we were begging child life for more toys.

However, we didn’t do too badly on our own for entertainment, either. First of all, once rested, Patrick started out the morning hiding in his blankets with me… which reminded me of someone telling me about how great blanket forts are in hospital rooms. So, by our 3rd morning, I took the bedding from my bed and a few safety pins and made us a fort.

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We also managed to steal a wagon that we filled with toys, got some markers and stickers from child life, and Patrick decorated pictures for the walls. (As well as some fine artwork on his hands and arms.)

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We made regular visits to visit Spiderman and the playroom, and on one outing, found a couple of volunteers with a guitar and some drums singing in the waiting area of the 3rd floor. We stopped to listen and before I knew it, they’d recruited Patrick and another boy into the band.

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We helped provide some hands on learning opportunities from some student nurses, created an upset with the nursing staff by telling the charge nurses that they were overtasking Patrick’s nurses, let and entire class of med students practice finding Patrick’s spleen (at least his splenomegaly is good for something), practiced walking up and down the hospital stairs, replaced Patrick’s worn out button, caught up with some of our favorite residents (who were first years when we met them and now are finishing their residencies and LEAVING US! With new first years to train, no less!), and last, but certainly not least…

…taught Patrick to ride his IV pole.

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With some prodding, we convinced them to send Patrick home on Thursday afternoon with IV antibiotics to give for the next 2 weeks and a new oral antibiotic regiment to try to wipe this particularly nasty, resistant bug out of his system once and for all.

While Patrick and I were at the hospital that week, Brian did his usual tricks of balancing home, work, and hospital visits (to feed me and keep me sane). But his fever didn’t go away. In fact… He ran a consistent fever all week.

And he did it all in my car, because his was in the shop. Turns out we needed a new engine, after all. But at least when you’re in the hospital, you don’t care much that you’re a one-car family.

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