I have always been petrified
(inside... where I hide my inmost thoughts and don't much talk about 'em)
that this child, in particular,
will become medically fragile.
Friday, December 28th, his fever and energy level were both up and down all day (he had been feeling puny since Wednesday evening). About 2:45 in the afternoon, he awoke from a nap and told King and I that he was seeing double. His eyes were crossed.
He could look left and he could look right just fine, but when he looked straight ahead, his left eye turned inward. I immediately called to see if we could get into the pediatrician's after hours clinic. They told us to come right away.
Even though our doctor was gone for the day, a nurse practitioner saw him. She did a neurological exam and did not find anything alarming. She determined that it was pressure from a sinus infection. Ten days of Amoxicillin. She also prescribed eye drops in case he had a touch of conjunctivitis.
He slept through the night and awoke Saturday morning unchanged. His clever sister (the middle one) devised a make-shift patch and together they decided that he should switch it each hour. He had a great day playing and running around. A friend, who happens to be an ER doctor, decided she could "swing by" and check him out. Another friend shared the phone number of an ENT doctor she knew. He was expecting my call. We discussed all the scary options that it could be and the symptoms to watch for. But ultimately, were all equally stumped. He added, before we said goodbye, a story about his nephew (about the same age), who was playing quietly by himself in his room and came out to tell his mother that he saw two of everything. It lasted for 48 hours and went away just as mysteriously. I prayed that no 4 had something akin to that (or better).
We went to Mass Saturday evening. He was too embarrassed to wear his patch and decided to leave his toboggan hat, pulled down as far as he could so no one would notice his crossed eyes. He kept very close to my side. I encouraged him to go up with me at Communion to receive a blessing, but he chickened out at the last minute. He continued to our seat, keeping his head down.
After Mass, we talked to two doc friends of ours- one an ophthalmologist, one a general medicine physician. They were quite concerned (the nervous horror on their faces sort of gave that away) and encouraged us to keep close tabs on him. Our ophthalmologist friend even said he would go into his office early Sunday morning to give him an exam, to rule out a "yet-to-be-diagnosed" vision problem. We thanked our kind friends and started to make our way to the exit doors.
It was a very cold and windy evening, and the moment we stepped outside, no 4, who was still glued to my side, his hand clutched to mine, started shivering. Not just an "gee it's cold out here" kind of shiver, but a "I've been in forty-below-zero degree weather for three hours and even my body's core is frostbitten" kind of shivering.
Once in the car, everyone is reassuring him that the car will warm up soon. I had not planned dinner, so I cautiously asked King if he thought it would be a good idea to go out. I threw out an idea, "Mexican?" and no 4 asked for a bag. Quickly I handed him a plastic bag and he promptly threw up neatly inside it.
This raised the stakes for me. We texted our general medicine physician friend who suggested we take him straight to the ER at the children's hospital. I dropped King and the other kids and then couldn't get there fast enough.
The nurse weighed him, checked his height, and before hooking him up to the blood oxygen and blood pressure monitors, she made him tell her what letters he saw on the eye chart. "Cover your left eye and tell me the letters you see." He did great. "Cover your right eye and tell me the letters you see." Again, he did fantastic. He didn't get the very last row, but isn't that the row that tells you who manufactured the chart anyway? :)
"Now, uncover your eyes and tell me the letters you see." People turned and looked at me when they heard my heart hit the floor and splatter at my feet. My poor sweet babykins can't see those letters for heaven's sake - he told you he had double vision.
"Oh, dear! I'm not sure if I can do that!" he said in a pitiful, wee voice. But then he turned his head all the way to the right, and looking at those letters from the corner of his eyes, read that dreadful eye chart nearly as good as before. (So he cheated a little?! So what? It was dumb of her to ask him.)
The first doctor came in and gave him the Follow My Finger test and then left.
King arrived. We were glad to see him (prolly especially me though).
Another doctor came in and gave him the Follow My Finger test and then told us she wanted to order a CT scan, but needed to check with a third doctor about whether or not it would need to be with contrast.
My chipper little mockingbird asked,
"What do you think is gonna be next, Mommy?"
I don't know, sweetie. They might want to take pictures of your brain, but I'm not sure what they will decide to do.
"You don't know? Hm. Well, I guess it's gonna be a surprise then. I love surprises!" he said with a melt-year-heart kind of smile.
He got to ride to the CT scan in his hospital bed (his favorite part of the whole night) - complete with elevator ride to the next floor! He was very good and very still for the scan, which took about a minute. I would have been curious as to what the machine looked like when it was humming, but he kept his eyes closed and "thought about what the machine was doing."
We wait. He is extremely thirsty. And hungry. And tired. And getting more frustrated by the minute that they won't let him drink any water or eat any food.
We wait some more.
He falls asleep and we wait some more.
The very first doctor comes in and tells us that the CT scan looks clear (huge sigh of relief and "Praise be to God!"). Since there is a pediatric neurologist in the building seeing another patient, they want her to come take a look at no 4 before we go.
He is so sweet when he sleeps.
She finally comes into the room and we answer her questions before she wakes him to do her own Follow My Finger test. She has him turned toward her. He is sitting on the edge of the bed, legs from the knees down are dangling, his shoulders slump sleepily as he tries so hard to focus on her finger. Her exam is taking longer than all the others. He follows her finger, and follows it, and follows it. She checked the points at which he saw double. Over and over. Probably ten minutes.
"Do you notice that it is improving?" she asked. We ran around to the side of the bed so we could see. "His crossed eyes are barely noticeable to me," she added.
We had to admit, it did seem better. Within a few minutes, he was no longer seeing double. (Praise be to God!) I don't know if he was more thrilled or if we were, but there was much rejoicing (h/t Monty Python).
We shrugged our shoulders and decided he needed a little radiation and a nap in the ER. King and I agreed not to think about the nightmare of the upcoming ER trip bills that would have us seeing double!
And so just as mysteriously as it came on, it just as mysteriously went away. Prayer, we figured, works wonders.
It has happened just one other time. A couple of days afterward, New Year's Day, in fact. We were pulling up in front of my sister-in-law's house (she lives about an hour away) when no 4 awoke from a short nap in the car. "Oh nooooo," he moaned. "My eyes are crossed again." We were stunned. His patch-making sister got him to follow her finger, hoping it would be just as magical as the pediatric neurologist's finger test was. Within two or three minutes, his vision was back to normal. He has not had another episode.
Did I mention that I have always been petrified that this particular child would become medically fragile? Still am. Prolly moreso.