Since she started day care six weeks ago, my little girl hasn’t had an easy go of it. Having stayed at home with one parent or another the entire first year of her life, Reese’s immune system hasn’t built up much resistance, and she seems to pick up every bug, virus, flu and cold within a 5-mile radius.
Since May 1, we’ve had five doctor’s appointments. Reese has been on four different antibiotics and one prescription cough syrup. She’s suffered fever after fever and was diagnosed with one bacterial infection, bronchitis, two viral infections and two ear infections. Our lives are a never-ending routine of temperature-taking, infant Tylenol and Motrin, trips to the pharmacy and calls to the pediatrician’s after-hours line.
On Thursday night, though, the seriousness of the situation intensified quite a bit. Reese spiked a 105-degree fever that would not respond to medicine. She stopped reacting to my husband and me — no smiles, laughs, waves, babbling or other activity. She would not eat or drink. She was covered from head to toe in a bright-red, splotchy rash. I again phoned our pediatrician’s after-hours service and was told to take the baby to the emergency room.
We spent a long, restless, worrisome night at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, watching as technicians drew countless vials of blood for test after test after test. Doctors came and went, asking questions and tossing around possible diagnostic explanations. Nurses took Reese’s temperature, inserted an IV to hydrate her and administered medication to reduce her stubborn fever.
Even after a seemingly endless array of tests and evaluations, the ER staff still wasn’t able to tell us what was wrong with Reese. I felt helpless as I watched her doze in the hospital, a tube protruding from her tiny arm, dried tears streaking her rash-covered face.
Finally, the doctor who had been attending to us shed some light on the situation. One test showed Reese’s liver enzymes were out of whack, which might indicate the presence of an EBV or CBV virus — the strains that cause mononucleosis and hepatitis. At that point, in the wee morning hours on Friday, the doctor took more blood samples to definitively test for those strains, but told us the results wouldn’t be available until much later in the day. Reese was properly hydrated by then, and her fever was under control, so they sent us home and instructed us to make a follow-up appointment with our pediatrician for Friday afternoon, at which time we would get the results of the last blood test.
As I write this, we’re awaiting that appointment. It’s not for several more hours. We still don’t know for sure what’s causing Reese’s symptoms, but we will soon. And at least we’re finally closing in on some answers.
The whole experience has opened my eyes to what the parents of chronically ill children must go through. Other than a few weeks of unexplained viral infections and other minor illnesses, Reese has been a healthy baby, and I’m so grateful for that fact. I cannot imagine having to go through this day in and day out for months — or even years — on end. But there are families out there who have no choice. There are parents who, although they feel powerless and despondent, must put on a brave face and stay strong for the sake of the children who look to them for reassurance and comfort.
My hat is off to those courageous people. I’ve had a tiny taste of what they must deal with, and that was enough to make me realize I’ve taken my family’s good health for granted — something I’ll never make the mistake of doing again.
In fact, our experience made my husband and I want to help people who are struggling to care for and support sick children. In college, I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, and I asked my husband whether that’s something he’d consider doing with me. He said it is. As soon as Reese is well and things have settled down in our house, we plan to look into volunteer opportunities at the nonprofit facility.
The way I see it, getting involved is all-around beneficial. We help people in need, and we teach Reese the importance of giving to and assisting people who may not be as fortunate as we are. That’s a win-win situation if ever there was one.