I’m the biggest worrier as a mum. I think I’m a fairly relaxed person in other ways, its just with my kids I tend to imagine the worst case scenarios. This has led me to rush perfectly well babies to hospital – more than once – including two occasions where ambulances have been called, countless trips to doctors to “just have a quick look or listen” or to pharmacists to show them rashes or bites which in my mind could have been staff infections or deadly spider bites…. And in my sons first year I was pretty much on the phone to Health Direct at least once a fortnight!
I’ve accepted that its not worth turning myself in knots all day wondering “what if“, when simply taking them to a professional can set my mind at ease. More often than not – they’re absolutely fine. One of my fears has been that I’ve had so many “false alarms” – what if there is something wrong and I don’t act quickly enough, because I’ve been wrong so many times that I second guess myself.
About four months ago, when our baby girl was 10 months old, around 6:30am, after a particularly long night where she’d been awake for several hours through the night, but otherwise had a pretty usual morning – she suddenly started coughing and dribbling, she then gagged and heaved a bit but then only had a little spit up. It wasn’t normal for her, she didn’t seem overly distressed, she was very clearly breathing in and out, but my heart was pounding and my gut says something was wrong. Something is very wrong.
I asked myself – is the stress of waiting all day for something to happen worth it, or should we just pop up to the hospital now and risk being embarrassed, because it turns out she’s just teething or just has a cold. Odds are by the time we get to hospital she’ll have stopped coughing. I had one little voice saying “it’s nothing” the other was screaming “CALL TRIPLE ZERO!!!”
My partner took one look at me and knew the drill, this is not the first time I’ve requested we take a child of ours to the hospital for no particularly good reason, but I’m grateful at least he doesn’t make me feel silly – he understands. We piled the kids into the car, and off we went to hospital. Thankfully we were all already dressed! He dropped me and baby off, and then took our son off to preschool and returned.
I walked through the emergency doors with my breathing, healthy baby, and said to the man at reception – “this is probably nothing, but I think my daughter might have something stuck in her throat”
The nurses took us into a room, she checked her breathing, heart rate, had a look at her and they tell me she seems fine, take a seat a doctor will be with you soon. After a short wait, and my partner returned from dropping our son off, we were taken to see a doctor, who wasn’t terribly impressed by my explanation that she was just dribbling, she had coughed up some saliva and that she just doesn’t seem “right”. Seeing as I wasn’t even convinced there was anything wrong, it was difficult convincing someone else to take us seriously.
The doctor was abrupt, asked me over and over why I thought she had swallowed something, when she didn’t appear to be choking, nor can I identify any item she’s had access to that she could have shallowed. I just didn’t know. I just kept insisting this isn’t normal for her. The doctor asked if she could have had a cold, or be teething – I lied and said no way that could be it. (when they suspected she could have been). The doctor finally agreed that while she seemed fine they would do a chest x-ray, just in case.
So off we went for a chest x-ray, and back to wait in the curtained off area in the emergency room, listening to the sounds of actual emergencies taking place while I held a perfectly healthy – breathing – baby.
A little while later I noticed the doctor with a chest xray displayed on a screen, she was standing with her hands on her hips – then called over another doctor to take a took, they pointed at the screen. She then came back over to us, knelt down beside the chair I was sitting on and in a very calm voice (I knew it was going to be bad – whatever she said in that tone wasn’t going to be good) she explained there was definitely something in there, that someone would be coming down to talk to us very soon, as our daughter would need surgery to remove whatever it was she’d swallowed.
I have to admit at this point I actually felt relieved, up until that point I’d felt like I was totally bat-shit crazy. Though the relief lasted only a split second before the word “surgery” caught up with me. My baby was going to need surgery.
An “Ear Nose and Throat” Specialist (ENT Specialist) came down, and explained what would take place, she was going to need to be put under a general anaesthetic, and have a little tube put down her throat, followed by a camera to have a look at what is going on down there as the x-ray couldn’t identify exactly what was going on and retrieve the foreign object.
We went up to the surgery floor, and when the surgeon saw her, he looked shocked and said quite candidly “that wasn’t what I was expecting, she has one of the worst chest x-rays I’ve seen, but she looks great” (is that a good thing?) The surgery team started talking in front of me, sounded like they were changing their plans a little, as they realised they had more time for the procedure than they had thought based on her x-ray. All the while Katelyn was just snuggled in to me, holding on tight, but breathing fine, just dribbling like crazy. The surgeon told me the procedure should only take 15 or 20 minutes, but don’t panic if they aren’t done 30 minutes. At that point I had to hand my baby over. She screamed when I let her go – screaming and struggling all the way down the hallway. One of the most awful moments of my life was watching her go.
Then we waited. We went downstairs to get a drink from the café, then back up. We took the stairs because standing still waiting for an elevator was unbearable. 15 minutes passed. I announced I needed to pace, I couldn’t sit still and started walking up and down the hall. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. I walked back to the surgery nurses desk and asked about Katelyn, the nurse said she didn’t know how long it would be, but not hearing anything is good, if anything was wrong we’d know.
Finally someone came out and told us to follow him.
I could hear my baby girl screaming from half way down the hallway, but it was such a relief to hear her. I held her, she stopped crying, just whimpering, her cry voice was so raspy and croaky, but she was fine. One of the ENT specialists came in with a specimen container and inside the container was *drum roll* the little had swallowed – a valve from the Avent Breast pump. She’d pulled it out of the cupboard while I was making breakfast and had been fiddling with it; it hadn’t occurred to me that there was a small part in it – I’d had so little sleep that night and I took my eyes off her for a moment while I was making her brother toast.
We stayed in overnight as her chest x-ray had still had a shadow over her left lung and they just wanted to be sure that there wasn’t anything to worry about there, overnight Katelyn’s breathing was very noisy and at one point the nurses hooked her up to a monitor to be sure. She was supposed to sleep in the hospital cot, but my nearly full-time co-sleeping baby, in an unfamiliar place, with an understandably sore throat, she just wanted to sleep on me and feed all night. Eventually we both fell asleep around 3am with her on my chest and the nurses keeping a close eye on us.
In the morning Katelyn was up and about, back to trying to put anything and everything in her mouth, including attempting to eat the leg of her hospital cot. She had another x-ray and her chest looked much better. The paediatrician explained she had some fluid in her chest but that’s fine, and that crawling around in a paediatric ward was more at risk of infection if she stayed any longer, and we were sent home. It was still disconcerting taking her home when she was still breathing so noisily, but the doctors assured me it was because of the procedure she had undergone yesterday as it was normal and would clear up after a few days.
I’ll admit still every time she’s a bit dribbly I start to worry, but she’s 14 months now and has had no other incidents, she’s a very healthy robust little girl, and thankfully less and less interested in shoving absolutely anything into her mouth.
I won’t say it was “mothers intuition” that made me want to take her to hospital that day and demand an x-ray, but my willingness to be wrong, because I’d rather any day to be wrong, than to have been right and done nothing. It was because I am a “Worrier”, but I’m prepared to be a “Warrior” for my baby.