Gut Instinct- Part One

When you work as a registered nurse in a busy NYC emergency department for over a decade, you tend to have pretty well tuned instincts about certain things. When you’re a MOM, those instincts are intensified. When you combine the two… those instincts grow exponentially.

  • My pregnancy with my son was mostly uneventful. My delivery however, was anything but. Being this was my second child, I KNEW something was going very wrong right from the induction. I was a week past my due date and my OB decided to induce me. He discovered meconium in the amniotic fluid when he broke my water. Not a lot…but it was present. Instead of immediately doing a c-section, they hydrated me to the point of nearly TEN liters of IV fluid. (I counted). My son’s heart rate decellerated with each contraction. I again asked why they weren’t doing a c-section. At that point – his head was already crowning. He was sideways. His shoulders were stuck. I had a resident pushing on my stomach with all she had (as in her feet were off the floor and ALL of her weight was on my abdomen AND my baby) to get his shoulder under my pubic bone because not only was he trapped there, but his umbilical cord was wrapped TWICE around his neck. Before this party began, I had to insist that because I was group B strep positive, I demanded to be treated with prophylactic antibiotics to protect my baby. THAT was the moment that I became his advocate. I haven’t looked back since…

From the first time I held my son, my gut instincts started buzzing. I felt it. I knew something was not quite right. Sure, Nick had ten wrinkly fingers and toes and looked perfectly normal on the outside (with the exception of the mottled purplish full head bruise that was present from his neck up thanks to the umbilical cord). I was told by the “experts” that he was fine.

I knew better. My gut told me they were wrong. I felt it.

Fast forward three weeks and the cough and congestion began. As did the daily trips to the pediatrician. Literally. We went daily. For nearly two weeks. Since I was an RN, the pediatrician knew I could be relied upon to administer meds and observe my sick infant so we kept him out of the hospital for that time. In the meanwhile, we saw a pediatric cardiologist to evaluate the new onset of a heart murmur (thankfully it was benign and he has since outgrown it). We saw a pediatric orthopod for the shoulder dystocia thanks to the resident who nearly broke his shoulder so that we could get him out. Did I mention that I also had a two year old in tow for every single visit? Yeah. Good times. Except not.

After two weeks of daily doctor visits, Nick’s condition worsened. At week 5, he developed a fever. I lost it. I knew fever in infants meant spinal tap and hospital admission. It meant needle sticks and pain. It meant exposure to godknowswhat and possibilities of a nosocomial infection. But parenting isn’t about taking the easy way out. It’s about doing whatever you HAVE TO DO to help your child. No matter how hard it is to watch. So…I threw a set of clothes and my toothbrush into a bag and left for the emergency room.

Right one cue…needle sticks, IV access (not fluid), x-ray, blood tests, urinary catheter, and then the dreaded spinal tap. They tried to kick me out for that one but I told them I wasn’t going anywhere. The nurse protested – she literally stomped her foot and scolded me like a child. I laughed in her face. I wasn’t leaving. Needle stick after needle stick after needle stick after needle stick after needle stick (yes FIVE TIMES) they MISSED. I demanded they stop immediately. The attending physician tried to explain how important it was that they get a sample of spinal fluid. Fine. I stuck a deal. ONE more try by a neurologist ONLY and I hold my son during the procedure. Not that idiot nurse who stomped her foot at me. Mission accomplished. Sample obtained. Antibiotics started. As did the diarrhea. Cue dehydration and admission to hospital room.

Intravenous fluid started after I stomped MY foot because my baby with diarrhea was now not nursing either. He was becoming paler and looking sicker and yet NOTHING more was being done. I gave him drop by drop of formula in hopes of getting SOME nutrients into his tiny little body. (Oh yeah – forgot to mention… that diarrhea he had… that took care of the first set of clothes that I had on. I was very happy that I remembered to toss an extra set in a bag). I awoke the next morning just in time to see my child stop breathing and turn grey. I did what any parent would do. I screamed for help. LOUDLY. The floor nurse managed to stimulate him enough to get his breathing started again and his color returned. They tried to give him oxygen but nobody could find the regulator to stick into the wall to even attach the oxygen. Nice. I then insisted on a device called a pulse oxcimeter to be attached to my son for the duration of his hospital stay. A pulse ox takes constant recordings of heart rate and oxygen level in the blood and alarms if the level goes below a certain number. I insisted on a pulmonology consultation. I was a walking, breathing pain in the ass until I felt that my son was receiving the proper care in that hospital and I refused to leave until I was given oxygen and a pulse oxcimiter for my home. We left after a five day admission…

To be continued…