And again, with feeling: the ER

I guess I still have some smugness that needs to be beat out of me. For all of that talk about cavalierly choosing to accept risk, not an hour after I wrote that blog post, Whit went to the ER in an ambulance.

Grace and I had picked out two tiny chocolate Easter eggs at Bread & Circus this morning. The eggs were wrapped in foil and in a basket right by the checkout. I assumed they were solid chocolate. There was no ingredient information or label. After giving them the eggs after lunch today, I skipped off to the gym.

I was there only 30 minutes. Walking out I checked my phone and saw texts from Anastasia: gone to the ER. Whit is having nut reaction. I drove as fast as I could (why are there so many sloooowwww drivers on the streets? i made zero friends with my horn today) and walked in about 5 minutes after they had arrived. Whit was quiet, clearly scared, and hoarse. He barely spoke. I handled insurance paperwork and watched him with concern. It became clear that he was actually getting worse. Anastasia explained that she had done the epi pen at home but that he had moved – he had a huge gash on his leg and probably not enough epinephrine in his system.

After about 30 minutes of watching a rash spread across his face and chest and listening to his increasing wheezing, a team of doctors and nurses descended. This happened fast. They asked me to hold his face while other adults held him down, administered another epipen, four different kinds of oral medications, put a nebulizer mask on his face, covered him with little sticky heart monitors, and inserted an IV. My poor boy. He visibly cowered in fear when he saw the epipen coming and then, after it was done, with tears streaming down his face, choked out:

“Please, only one epipen? Please?”

I was crying, struck by both his pain and his manners.

I was too busy holding him down and cupping his tear-wet cheeks to take pictures when he was really hooked up to everything. It was scary. His eyes were wild above the nebulizer mask, looking for me, full of questions and fear.

Epinephrine is some amazing stuff. Shortly, his rash started to clear and his breathing began to calm a bit. Matt took Grace home, and Anastasia and I settled in for what we had been told would be a lengthy waiting period. The IV dripped silently into him, and he kept having to pee in a bottle as it dripped out of him. I told Anastasia about how stupid and guilty I felt for having given him a chocolate without knowing precisely what was in it. I was so angry at myself for that – and also for not being there when this happened. As she and I talked, Whit was lying on the bed in between us, staring at the ceiling, almost falling asleep. Suddenly he spoke:

“Mummy, it’s okay.”

“Oh, but Whit, I am so sorry – I was so stupid and I feel so terrible for doing this to you. It was such a mistake. I am sorry.” I cried back to him.

“No, Mummy, it’s okay. It was an ackident.”

I started bawling then. I hadn’t realized he was even listening, but not only had he heard me, but he wanted to make me feel better. It was a humbling moment: when your four year old is parenting you, it’s time to grow up.

I could tell he didn’t feel great still because he was so docile. He just sat, listened, watched, eyes occasionally fluttering shut. After a while Anastasia went home and I sat next to him, rubbing his white back, feeling the regular bumps of his spine, looking at the little jutting shoulder bones that I always think of as his wings. Oh, my baby boy. My fragile, fragile boy.

When they finally took off all of the monitors and removed the IV, I picked Whit up in my arms and almost twirled him around, so grateful was I to be able to do so. It was so nice to have the wires gone. Again with the manners: I said,

“Whit, please say thank you to Jane for taking such good care of you” (Jane the nurse who had wielded several big needles and scary smoke-emitting masks)

“Jane, thank you for taking such good care of me,” he said without hesitation. Jane gave me a huge grin and told him he was a great pediatric patient.

“What’s a ped-atkrick patient?” he asked.

“Pediatric means child. Which word do you like better?” Jane asked him.

“Oh, ped-akrick.” he smiled.

I stayed home tonight from C’s birthday celebration to check on him every 30 minutes, and to assuage Grace who has already come out of her room crying once that she is having nightmares about what happened today. She was genuinely afraid of what happened. Anastasia told me that within 3 minutes of her calling 911 there were nine male EMTs in our living room. When I got home there was a towel striped with blood thrown in one corner and Whit’s jeans cast across the couch. I shudder to think about what Grace saw.

I guess this was a gentle reminder from the universe that the risk really is real, really is close, and that it doesn’t behoove me to be so careless about it.

Message heard.

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One Comment

  1. Jeri Herman
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Oh Lindsay how scary that must have been for all of you. I write this note in tears. We missed you last night, and somehow I feel guilty for enjoying Amy and Julie’s company while you were dealing with this. We must set our April date soon so we can give you a group hug.