Yesterday afternoon, Carter's fever started to spike again to about 101. When we first went in to get the boys checked out on Monday, I had been told by the nurse that if Carter's fever wasn't going back down by Friday then we needed to come back in. I gave Carter another dose of Tylenol and called to get him scheduled for the next morning.
This morning while I got Carter ready to go, he seemed pretty good. A little boogery and still congested, but not lethargic and miserable like he had been. I almost contemplated canceling his appointment, but thought it would be best to still go - just in case. Bill had already taken a vacation day since he will be busy all weekend at a tournament, so he and Logan hung back at the house to play.
We got there and our pediatrician checked him out instead of a nurse. She got the rundown of what went on all week after our appointment on Monday. I told her that I thought he might have an ear infection since he had been pulling at it. I guess he had a slight fever this morning while at the office (I didn't ask how high and nobody told me. I didn't even think of it at the time) and while she watched and listened to him breath the muscles on his back pulled tight, tight enough that his ribs became more defined. This was not a good sign.
"This isn't supposed to happen," she told me. She didn't seem overly concerned, like it was an emergency, but we had to do some tests. "It could be a few things and we need to narrow it down so we can find the best treatment plan. He could have RSV as it's still the tail end of the season. It could be a viral infection or it could be Pneumonia." I stood there staring at her with a straight face as my heart dropped into my stomach.
"We need to get him to the lab and get a nose collection done for the RSV test and then we need to do some blood work and check his white blood cells," she explained. She then went on about how we could give him antibiotics, but she doesn't feel comfortable treating patients without knowing the cause of the infection (this is one reason why I like her). Everything sounded simple enough and I took a deep breath as we got ready to head on over to the lab. My hopes for an ear infection now turned into hopes of RSV -which would be the easier infection to manage.
After a short wait in the waiting room, we were escorted into one of the back office rooms where two clinicians were decked out in blue paper gowns, safety goggles, gloves and face masks. I was a little taken aback as it looked like they were going to do surgery on my baby. The shorter, sweet girl explained what they were about to do while a taller younger guy stood back to assist her. Her explanation was invasive. "What test would you like us to do first?", she asked me. "I have no idea. You guys are the professionals. Whatever you think is best." I replied.
They decided to do the blood draw first. I sat in the phlebotomy chair with Carter in my lap. They strapped a rubber band around his small, chubby arm and worked very hard to find a vein. He cried and cried and cried. I tried my best to keep it together, to stay calm, stroke his hair reassuring him that it would be OK. After sanitizing his arm, the girl inserted the needle in Carter's arm. He screamed a hoarse, painful scream. Tears streamed down my face, wetting the top of his hair. "Are you OK, Mom?", the sweet nurse asked me. "Yeah," I lied. His vein wasn't giving them any blood and she dug around to get the sample they needed. Carter continued to cry, grasping for my hair to hold onto and I continued to sniffle and attempt to comfort him.
They decided to go to Plan B because they weren't getting any blood. Another nurse was brought in to see if she could find his vein on the other arm while the younger tall guy left. After much effort, she announced that she didn't feel comfortable and to call in another nurse. While waiting for this person, they decided to go ahead and get the sample collected from his nose.
I hugged him and cuddled him close to calm him down, his head resting on my shoulder in the crook of my neck and his sore little arm draped around my chest. I rubbed his back and rocked him back and forth telling him that it was OK. He had never hugged me so close before, usually too interested in all that is going on around him. But this time, this time he didn't want to know any more and preferred to stay in my arms.
After calming him down, I placed him on the exam table where the short, sweet nurse did the collection, the second taller replacement nurse held onto his head and I held his arms and legs down. He cried more, but this time was so exhausted that he didn't fight it. He just cried. While he cried, I turned my head to silently cry on my arm. The nurses were trying their best to comfort him, speaking softly and apologizing for all that he had to go through. Fortunately, this was an easy collection and very short lived.
I picked him up again to cuddle while we waited for the fourth nurse to come in. The short, sweet nurse left to work with another young boy about Logan's age, maybe a year older. The fourth nurse came in and we sat in the chair again while she looked for the vein in his other arm. They searched for quite some time, all the while Carter crying. The fourth nurse was very confident and quickly got the needle inserted as soon as she found the vein again after sanitizing his arm. He cried his hoarse, painful scream again - a scream a mother can feel in the core of her body and I continued to stroke his tear-stained hair telling him it was OK. For some reason, the blood was running slow and it was taking forever to get the sample. While Carter wailed on my lap, shrill, excruciating screams of intense pain came from the boy Logan's age in the next room. "Oh my God," I quietly gasped with my hand over my mouth as tears ran down my cheek.
After a few more minutes, the confident nurse thought that they collected the absolute minimum needed for testing and hoped for the best as she removed the needle from Carter's arm. They taped his puncture and I soothed him again. Both of his arms were sore - the left already bruising; his face red, spotty and blotchy from crying so hard and his body drained of all energy. It was finally over with and I just held him tight. "Are you OK, Mom?" one of the nurses asked me again. "Sort of," I replied more honestly as tears welled up in my eyes again.
The nurses began to clean up the room while I comforted Carter and got him strapped into his car seat. I thanked them, apologizing for crying. They were nice and hoped that Carter felt better soon.
On the drive home, Carter fell asleep, completely worn out. I pulled into the garage trying my best to keep everything in. I carefully took the seat out of the car, walked in the house and without saying much to Bill, walked right upstairs into our room and sobbed. The fear that Carter could be seriously ill, the trauma from seeing him in so much pain at the lab - it all came spilling out.
We got settled in at home and tried to recover while we waited for the call from our pediatrician. All of us were able to take much needed naps. The Doctor called with the results right in the middle of our deep slumber.
"The RSV is negative and his blood work came back fine. He must have some virus. Let's wait it out 24 hours and see what happens. If he has another spike in his fever or if he gets worse clinically - not eating, throwing up, difficulty breathing - bring him in. If he's not better by Monday, our next step is a chest x-ray."
I tried to go back to sleep after the call while Bill got ready to go to the course to practice. I got a bit more in before the kids woke up. Carter smiled as if nothing had happened, his bruised, taped arms reaching out for me to cuddle him. While Bill was gone, Carter smiled and played and coughed and sniffled. He seemed to be doing somewhat better and I obsessively took his temperate every half hour. It was normal.
I think he'll be OK. I think we just have to ride it out.