It's been two months since the events I'm about to describe and I'm just now feeling far enough away from it to write about it in a tone that won't sound like hysteria.
The week before we were to go away for a week long vacation with friends, Finn got sick. It started out with a low-grade fever and sniffles, so we thought it was teething. He'd had seven teeth for months and we were just waiting on that eighth one to pop through. The fever started on Tuesday night, and by Friday morning, it wasn't any better and we brought him to the medical center on the island.
Aside: We decided to wait the three days to see if it would work itself out and I've got faith in the human immune system, so I figured the longer his little one gets to work without antibiotics, the better it will be in the long run. I'm also trying not to be one of those hypochondriac moms who fly off the handle at the smallest sniffle.
At the medical center, we were told that Finn had an ear infection and were prescribed some antibiotics. I felt ever-so-proud of myself for having gotten it all sorted out before the weekend and looked forward to his fever going down within 24 hours.
But it didn't.
In fact, it got worse. Friday night was awful, Saturday night was worse, and by Sunday morning, he'd managed to get up to about 104. I had an itchy feeling in what I'm coming to recognize as my mother's intuition. We had already postponed our departure to the week long vacation we had planned and I was starting to think we'd be making an unrelated trip to the mainland when I realized that he wasn't moving his head. It's something I'll never forget looking down at Finn and realizing he couldn't look up at me. Instantly, I called the on-call doctor at the medical center fearing the worst - meningitis. We were in an examining room half an hour later and made the decision to go to the ER for blood tests and a possible spinal tap.
The next hour of my life is quite possibly the worst I've ever had. I left the medical center and had to drive to find Chad so we could get on the 1:00 ferry. Chad (of course) was working at the end of a dirt road about half an hour away. The drive there, alone with Finn in the car, was absolutely terrifying as I watched him in the rear view mirror, realizing how fragile he still is, even though he's no newborn. Realizing how much he counts on me and wondering how the hell I could deal with seeing him in the hospital, hooked up to machines with tubes, unable to hold him in my arms. More than one sob escaped my lips while I was en route to find Chad. By the time I got there, I was so far gone that all I could manage was "Come home. We have to go to the ER" before I was down the driveway and headed home to pack.
All I wanted to do was huddle in a corner and cry, but I had to find people to watch the dog and cat, I had to find a place to stay on the mainland, and I had to get our stuff together and get on the boat. Luckily, I have a great support network and managed to get all of the above without completely losing it...until I got to the ferry line and the images of Finn lying on a hospital bed came flooding back. I lost it. I'm not going to lie.
After what seemed like an epically long boat ride, we finally arrived in Rockland along with my sister, who was a total rock the whole time we were at the hospital (which was a long, long time).
The staff in the ER was awesome, his doctor was phenomenal, and we were super happy with Finn's care, but it was trying, exhausting, and completely draining. It was decided that my 12 month old son would have to have a spinal tap to test for meningitis, along with tests on both his blood and urine. Two blood getting attempts in each arm proved impossible and left me with completely frayed nerves. After declining the offer of a catheter, a sticky bag was attached to collect Finn's urine, which proceeded to leak all over my skirt when he did finally pee. By this point, I was completely beyond usefulness and Chad took over for the big event -the spinal tap.
I'm sorry, but really? A spinal tap on a 12 month old? I'VE never even had one. How the hell am I supposed to make that call, to stand by while someone sticks a needle in my kid's SPINE?
But stick a needle in his spine, they did, and when all the tests finally came back, all we knew was that he probably didn't have meningitis. Some blood had wound up in the spinal fluid sample, and they weren't able to do the appropriate white/red blood cell comparison. We still, however, had no idea what was going on.
In the meantime, though, the nurse at the ER gave Finn some ibuprofen and within about 20 minutes, his neck stiffness was gone, his fever all but disappeared, and he was perky and smiley. Ibuprofen. 20 minutes. All better. If I hadn't been so stressed out, I could have laughed.
The final word on the matter was that we were to administer some antibiotics to Finn for the next week in case it was viral and after a double injection (into both thighs) as a final insult to injury, we were free to go at about 11pm, 8 hours after we had arrived.
Thankfully, a friend has an apartment we could stay in overnight and my sister, in quite possibly one of her awesomest moves ever, left us dinner and a bottle of wine on the kitchen table, in addition to setting up Finn's pack & play and making the bed for us.
We finally did get to our vacation house and had several awesome days with some good friends, so all's well that ends well, I guess. Finn's fit as a fiddle now, playing contentedly with his toys as I type up this epic entry. Understandable if you don't read this whole thing. I think it's more a purging for me than anything else.
What I can't comprehend after all of this is how parents of terminally ill kids do it - having only had a taste of a possibility of a scary diagnosis, I absolutely can not imagine the guilt, terror, anger, and second guessing they go through. There have been a few families I've known who have had to endure that agony, and I really don't think I'm strong enough for it. I've never ever known love this strong, this complete, and to have it threatened was all it took for me to completely crack.
Sorry. I know this isn't all light hearted and smiles today. I just had to get it out.
There's a quote that I keep thinking of that I think encompasses this perfectly:
Being a mother "is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." (Elizabeth Stone)