Ben’s Birthday and an Unexpected Hospital Visit

The first time I held Ben. I think his face hasn't changed all that much. I still see the same little guy.

The first time I held Ben. I think his face hasn’t changed all that much. I still see the same little guy.

I haven’t had a chance to post last week’s learning notes yet, but they’re almost ready to go. I wanted to do a what’s happening now post, though, instead of trying to play catch up first.

First, today Ben turned six. I am sort of in shock that he’s that old. Old enough to be a first grader come September.

Ben is very happy to be six. And quite relieved to have Mama and Lucy home this morning.

Ben is very happy to be six. And quite relieved to have Mama and Lucy home this morning.

How did that happen? Maybe it’s because he’s so close to Sophie in age but I was sort of unconsciously expecting the same gap between her and him that I had between Bella and Sophie. Yeah, I think I was expecting that I’d have two years to get used to having two school age kids before adding a third to the mix. So totally unprepared.

Ben is a great kid, though. And I think we’re going to take it nice and slow this year.

He had a very hard time for a couple of years what with undiagnosed asthma that led to terrible sleep and constant crankiness. Now that the asthma is under control he sleeps much better, though still wakes more often than I’d like. But the constant crankiness is a thing of the past and he’s become the sweet and affectionate boy I always knew he could be.

He’s still my most introverted kid. The quiet one. The mysterious deep waters kind of guy. He loves books. His bed looks like a library exploded. He’s not all that avid about learning to read yet, but I am sure it will come one of these days.

Ben measures all the things with his new tape measure.

Ben measures all the things with his new tape measure.

Ben opens a present from Grandma and Grandad Scott.

Ben opens a present from Grandma and Grandad Scott.

For his birthday he got a Hot Wheels race track, a set of real tools, and a heap of books. Plus some Star Wars figures and more books from Grandma and Grandad. We had dinner at Chili’s and a chocolate cake, even though he wanted lemon, he was very understanding that this has been a crazy week and I had no lemons. And not even enough candles. Only four ancient things that have seen better days.

Ben's birthday cake.

Ben’s birthday cake.

So about the crazy week. There aren’t going to be any learning notes because there’s been almost nothing in the way of school happening. We’ve all had a summer cold. And for Lucy that turned into a rather scary breathing exacerbation that had me rushing for the nebulizer when she woke up limp and gasping for breath on Tuesday morning. Oh I was so very glad to have it on hand. But by mid morning it was clear that the nebulizer wasn’t going to cut it. She didn’t even manage to make it to the four hour mark before needing another treatment. So after treating her I rounded up all the kids and we took her to the pediatrician who listened to her chest and immediately sent us across the street to the ER. Where her chest did not sound good and her oxygen levels were terribly frighteningly low. And they put her on oxygen, gave her more albuterol, and then did chest x-rays and some iv steroids and fluids and antibiotics. And then finally told me they were sending her to Children’s Hospital in Boston.

The pediatric ER staff was awesome and within no time they had a movie on for the kids to watch–Madagascar, a favorite. So they were never too terribly restless. Which was good because all my attention was pretty much focused on Lu.

Sick, listless Lucy stares into space in the emergency room while the other kids watch Madagascar.

Sick, listless Lucy stares into space in the emergency room while the other kids watch Madagascar.

So Dom left work early and took the other kids home while Lucy and I had an ambulance ride into Boston. She fell asleep right after the paramedics had put her on the stretcher and slept through most of the ride. I had a very lovely chat with the paramedic while we drove in. He totally distracted me. A nice, third generation Boston Irish whose grandparents came from Cork. His other job is fireman, actually in our town. We talked about kids and school and his job and his girlfriend and his daughter and my education and family and it passed the time very nicely.

Lucy getting ready for her ambulance ride. The carseat straps were interesting.

Lucy getting ready for her ambulance ride. The carseat straps were interesting.

Rolling to the ambulance.

Rolling to the ambulance.

Then Lucy and I spent another four hours or so in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital waiting for them to assign us to a bed. It was a very, very long wait and I had nothing on me to entertain us but my cell phone. (Oh why hadn’t I listened to the instinct which yelled to grab the iPad and my book? I quashed it because usually we aren’t at the pediatrician’s office long enough to need a distraction, there’s almost never any wait to speak of.)

Finally Dom came and brought me an overnight bag and let me go run and get dinner. Then he went back home. (His brother and sister-in-law an their daughters came over to help get the kids into bed while he was gone and to help get his car back from the hospital where he’d had to leave it. Of course by the time Dom came Lucy was wide awake and needing all my attention to keep her occupied. So the book I’d have loved to have earlier didn’t get read much.

Feeling much better at Children's Hospital.

Feeling much better at Children’s Hospital.

When Lucy and I finally got to her room– I think it was almost midnight– we still had to meet the nurses and the doctors and then she decided she didn’t want the crib and so we had to wait for them to wheel it out and bring in a big bed, which I shared with her. I groaned when the nurse assured me they were going to let us get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I have been in enough hospitals not to believe that assurance at all. And indeed we had a very restless night with nurses in and out both for Lu and her roommate, a little boy with pneumonia. The boy’s nurse had to work at a computer that was positioned right in front of Lucy’s bed so that every time she moved away from it the light flashed onto our faces and woke us up. And she kept going back and forth back and forth. Flash. Flash. Flash. So aggravating.

Once we did finally fall into a deeper sleep, Lucy was sleeping fairly well and then of course they wanted to give her nebulizer treatments while she was sleeping. Right, she slept through those. Not. Then she woke up and screamed bloody murder at them and kicked and thrashed and writhed. And who could blame her?

So we slept in late and missed ordering breakfast. Because no one thought that was important. Fortunately I’m used to hospital food by now and had squirreled away a fruit cup and some potato chips and a bottle of juice so Lucy and I were able to brake our fast before her tray got there at 11. But of course I’d ordered breakfast foods and they had to double as lunch. Bacon and three kinds of fruit.* It’s a good thing toddlers are light eaters. I had some illicit nibbles on her bacon and then when we got hungry later we shared the other half of my salad from the previous night.

Lucy was captivated by the buildings out her 9th story window.

Lucy was captivated by the buildings out her 9th story window.

After a night's sleep, as interrupted as it was, a real smile.

After a night’s sleep, as interrupted as it was, a real smile.

Don't take my picture.

Don’t take my picture.

On her feet and eating a late breakfast.

On her feet and eating a late breakfast.

Lucy was really feeling great and keeping her entertained was a challenge. The hospital provided some board books and stickers and I had an iPad with games and videos, but her attention span is short enough that I could never really veg out and read the book Dom had brought me. At least not until Lucy’s nap time when I read while she nursed.

Then of course they had to wake her up not twenty minutes after she’d fallen asleep. Because breathing treatments must happen every four hours.

Playing on the iPad

Playing on the iPad

But after she had her final breathing treatment at 3 they discharged her. At 4 I signed the paperwork. Then Dom and the kids set off from home to get there around 5.

After we found out she was going home, we had some celebratory potato chips. Was the smile for the chips or for going home? Or both?

After we found out she was going home, we had some celebratory potato chips. Was the smile for the chips or for going home? Or both?

Lucy walked out of the hospital on her own two feet, sporting her favorite Lightning McQueen rain boots and a huge smile. It was hard to believe that 24 hours before Lucy had been a little limp rag doll in the emergency room. We stopped for BBQ on the way home and she gobbled it up. Such a well deserved feast.

Lucy enjoys her BBQ dinner.

Lucy enjoys her BBQ dinner.

Lucy has still not taken off her hospital bracelets.

Thursday afternoon: Lucy has still not taken off her hospital bracelets.

*(Can I rant about how the allergy menu at one of the premier children’s hospitals in the world had not a single special item on it but was just the regular menu with all the allergens listed for each menu item? No gluten free breads or muffins. There were a scant handful of things on it Lucy could eat. Bacon and pot roast were the only proteins. Everything else was fruit and vegetables. The only not-wheat, not-corn grain was plain rice. If we’d been there more than a day or two it would have got very monotonous very fast. Even the sausage and potatoes had corn next to them. Why? Why? I was furious and if we’d had to stay longer, I’d have been having some serious conversations with people about it.)

9 Responses to Ben’s Birthday and an Unexpected Hospital Visit

  1. scotch meg July 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Oh my goodness!

    I have spent more time than I’d like to remember at the Children’s ER. I’m so glad you were able to leave quickly – like most large hospitals, it’s a machine. It has to be in order to allow for staff shift changes and preventing mishaps, but it does feel mighty impersonal sometimes.

    Glad Lucy got the care she needed, and glad it didn’t take very long.

  2. Ellie July 10, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    Oh how scary. Three kids with asthma, and me too so I can relate very well to this. Gosh, so scary. So glad to hear all is well!

    Regarding the menu: you have GOT to be kidding (I know you’re not). That’s genuinely unbelievable.

    But also, it’s not too late to give them some customer feedback!

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 12, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Thank you, Ellie. I’m actually glad I’d had so much experience with asthma in the past. It made it a known quantity and thus much less scary. I knew she was in good hands and that it was just a matter of how long it would be before we could go home.

      Hopefully not too late for feedback. I’m looking forward to giving them a piece of my mind.

  3. scotch meg July 11, 2015 at 12:51 am #

    Customer feedback is important.

    One of the things I never did understand about Children’s is the way they make it difficult or impossible for caring parents to eat, unless both parents are there full time.

    I remember walking out of the cardiac ICU one evening after my nine month old son had fallen asleep (finally!) and finding that there was literally nowhere open to get food. I could not get into Brigham & Women’s (around the corner), which had an open restaurant, and there was nowhere at Children’s. My husband was a resident at the Brigham, and even so I could not get in. I was so hungry and so angry!

    I am glad this was not your experience… but oh my yes, I believe the “allergy” menu.

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

      Oh yes. I had the same thought. If we had still been there at dinner time on Wednesday, I’d have had to choose between skipping dinner or leaving a hysterical sick Lucy with a stranger while I went to get food. The nurses are very nice and well-meaning, but really, most two year olds don’t respond well to strangers even when they’re feeling perky. She would have screamed the whole time. She is a typical two year old with acute separation anxiety. You’d think they could maybe offer a service for parents by which you could order food for yourself and even maybe pay a small delivery fee to have it brought up to the room. You’d think. Since surely most parents of sick kids aren’t overeager to leave their child alone in a strange scary hospital.

      I’m so glad Dom did drive up or I don’t think I’d have got any dinner that night and I’d have definitely been hungry and angry. As it was I’m glad Au Bon Pain was open, but so frustrated with the lack of real choice. A place that focuses on bread products is not so friendly to those with wheat allergies. The cashier even asked me if I wasn’t going to get any bread in a very surprised way.

      I also know how busy nurses are and hate to send them fetching water and drinks for me. It would be nice if there were simply a caretaker hospitality service that could fetch drinks and pillows and food and books, things to make your stay more comfortable in a way that doesn’t add another burden to the nurses.

      I’m looking forward to giving feedback, I hope they follow up. Curiously I had two surveys to fill out while I was there– one the night we checked in and the other the first thing the next morning– but neither asked the right questions nor was there really room to write in nor leisure to give good feedback while in the moment. I wish I were confident that giving feedback would actually lead to changes.

      • scotch meg July 15, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

        The Au Bon Pain wasn’t there when my son was in the ICU, but miraculously appeared within a few years of that stay. I’m sorry it wasn’t much good for you, but it was a huge improvement over … Nothing. Which was used to be there.

        Hopefully feedback does make a difference.

        Your idea about a supportive service is a good one, but I don’t know whether they would have trouble finding volunteers. It’s not exactly an easy-to-reach location for volunteers who are willing to give up evening time.

  4. Valerie July 11, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    I hope you’re all restored to good health again quickly!

    • Melanie Bettinelli July 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

      Thank you. Lucy is doing great and we’re all feeling better. Just at the annoying lingering cough stage.

  5. Melanie Bettinelli July 12, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Oh and Lucy finally let me take off her hospital band last night when I gave her a bath.

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