Sunday, September 25, 2016

In sickness and health

You might have remembered all the posts I wrote earlier in the year about Biscuit being sick. 

And now that we're on the back side of it (fingers crossed, knock on wood and any other lucky things you can think of), I can fill in some details. It was a rough time for all of us!

From February through late July, Biscuit got sick every 18 to 21 days (a couple of episodes came even quicker than that). It always started with a fever, and it got to a point that Biscuit could tell us when he had a fever. He knew how it felt well enough to be able to tell his teacher or me and Jeff or whoever he was with.

He missed 23 days of school because of it. Luckily, we had doctor's notes for almost all of them which made them count as excused absences. And Biscuit's teacher was so, so helpful. She made sure that he didn't get behind, and she kept an eye on him. When he would tell her he felt feverish, she would get him to the office and call us in no time. We gave her a nice gift card for a restaurant she likes at the end of the school year because we just couldn't have asked for anyone any better to be watching over our Biscuit baby.

He also missed several piano lessons, baseball practices and games, play dates and more.

I don't remember which illness tipped us off that we should start tracking, but we kept a list of high temperatures, the diagnosis (if there was one) and of course, the date. Jeff actually created a spreadsheet, so it would be easy for the doctor to read.

I kept this shorthand list with me all the time. He had three or four more episodes after this list ended.

June 10 was the scariest. His fever went up to 106.2 and we ended up in the emergency room!

Waiting to be seen by a doctor at the emergency room.

And as you can see, the diagnoses were varied - flu, strep throat, virus, tonsillitis. There was just no answer for it.

There was one early-June trip to the pediatricians' office where Biscuit's doctor wasn't available. So we hesitantly saw someone else. And the guy was a real jerk! He said it was just a virus and basically accused of us trying to make something out of nothing. He even questioned why I was keeping track of it all. I was so stunned that I couldn't respond. And of course, when I was telling my mama about it, I thought of a million things I wish I had said to the man, including, "You can question it if you want, but we'll be right back here in 18-21 days."

Sometimes he would only sleep if I was holding him.

For the next trip, later in June, we were able to see Biscuit's doctor. And he had gotten worried, but didn't want to freak us out. So he said we could just wait it out like we usually do or we could have some blood taken and do some tests. Without much thought at all, I told him we'd like to do some tests.

Between my own brain and other people's questions, I had convinced myself that Biscuit had some terrible, awful disease, and the blood tests were going to prove it. I can't explain to you how scared I was to see the results.

I had a job as a phlebotomist to pay my way through college, so I was very familiar with the whole blood-drawing process. I was torn about whether to share the details with Biscuit in advance or just explain it as we went along. But of course, Biscuit immediately realized that taking blood meant at least one needle. He was petrified!

We had to go to a lab because the doctor's office didn't have some of the tubes they would need for certain tests. And if you're not familiar with the process, each of the tubes has a different chemical in it. The chemical mixes with the blood and allows the techs to run the appropriate tests. People used to freak out all the time, saying, "You're gonna take all my blood!" And I would have to explain to them that even if I took six tubes of blood, it was less than the Red Cross would suck out at a blood drive.

We got to the lab, and the tech saw Biscuit curled up in my lap and said, "Is he really sick?" And I explained that he was more scared than anything else.

So poor Biscuit was dehydrated and cold, two of the worst possible things for an easy and good blood drawing!

As the tech tied the tourniquet around his arm and started feeling for veins, I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't finding anything worth sticking.

I waited until he had checked both arms, then I said, "I used to be a phlebotomist, and I could tell by the look on your face that you didn't find any good veins. If you need to use his hand, he can take it."

Biscuit and the guy both looked at me with surprise.

Then I explained to Biscuit what was going to happen.

"It's going to hurt when the needle first goes in," I explained, "but if you hold perfectly still, it won't hurt after that. But you HAVE to hold completely still, even if it hurts, okay?"

Biscuit nodded, and the tech got Biscuit's hand ready.

When he put the needle in, Biscuit said, "Ow! Ow! Ow!" but he didn't move a single millimeter. I was hugging him and telling him what was going on and that everything was going to be okay.

The blood was coming slowly, which added even more drama to the situation. And at one point, Biscuit said in a tiny little voice, "I can't take this anymore, Mom."

"Yes, you can," I told him. "You can do this. I know you can."

I started telling Biscuit about some of the patients I had stuck in the past.

"Do you know that some of the biggest babies were these big ol' men with gigantic muscles?" I asked Biscuit.

"Really?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "They would suck in their breath and make all these noises like I was chopping their arms off with a chainsaw! But YOU ... you are being super brave. WAY braver than any of those guys. I can't wait to call Dad when we get finished and tell him how brave you were."

I was so impressed with how well Biscuit handled the whole thing. I thanked the tech when he was done, and he said, "You're welcome."

But then I reached out and put my hand on his arm, made eye contact and said, "No, seriously. Thank you. I know how hard that was."

He pointed at Biscuit and said, "You should thank him. He did a great job, better than some adults."

The good news and bad news was that the blood test results came back perfectly normal. Knowing just enough to be dangerous about the tests the doctor ordered, I immediately looked at the ones that would hint at things like leukemia or lupus. But everything was completely within normal range.

Poor Biscuit would toss and turn so much when he
was feverish. He'd try to sleep in his bed, on the couch, in
mine and Jeff's bed, in my lap, wherever he could think of.
Sometimes, it took hours before he would finally crash.

After that appointment, Biscuit had three more episodes, then it just went away. We counted days and were prepared for the next fever. Even Biscuit knew when it was supposed to happen and noticed that he was still doing okay.

I kept count of the days for a while. At one point in August, it was up to 48 days. I realized that I was going to drive myself crazy if I didn't stop counting, so now I just know that it's been 48 days plus a whole bunch of other days since Biscuit was sick.

We have no idea how the whole thing started, and we have no idea how the whole thing went away. But we're just going to enjoy the fact that our boy is healthy and continue to keep our fingers crossed!

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