Fish Pajamas and Blood-Curdling Screams

by Leighann on August 23, 2008

Our daughter had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just hours before. Rather than being treated locally, we headed for the children’s hospital in the adjacent state. After a long drive, including countless stops to go potty, a traffic jam above the Mighty Mississippi, and a wrong turn, we finally arrived at the Children’s Hospital.

***

We were ushered to the elevators, flanked by giant fuchsia columns, and taken to the eighth floor. By this time it was already past her bedtime. But she would not be able to fall asleep for a few more hours.

The nurse’s aid brought small scrubs, adorned with colorful fish, for her to change into. They were much too big and a hunt ensued to find some that wouldn’t slip off her emaciated body.

A woman in a white coat holding a clipboard, flanked by two others, came into the room. A dozen questions and a quick exam later and we were left alone in the room again.

We were told that the nurses would take care of us over night. They would be in shortly to retrieve us for blood work and begin round-the-clock monitoring and insulin injections to get her blood glucose levels under control. The endocrinologist would see us again in the morning.

***

My husband left the room, either to forage for a bite for us to eat or retrieve our hastily packed suitcases from the car.

A nurse came for my daughter and we walked with her down the hall and around the corner to a brightly lit sterile room with a tall white bed.

They were going to insert her IV and take blood samples.

I hoisted her onto the high table. Up until this point she had not been scared. Except for the blood draw earlier in the day, nothing had been invasive. But she became frightened as three nurses readied their supplies.

I was instructed to hold her down. Really hold her down. I lay my body across her torso and anchored myself across the bed. My head was next to hers and I told her it would be okay.

She let out the most blood-curdling scream, a scream worthy of a slasher movie. All I could do was lay across her holding her still, there was nothing I could do to take away her fright or the pain.

Her screams lasted for the length of the procedure and I thought my ear drum had burst. I honestly could not hear anything in that ear for at least a quarter of an hour. I consoled her as the nurses finished taping her IV in place.

***

We returned to our room and were met by my husband who had the good fortune to be absent during the painful ordeal.

The nurses went looking for a midnight snack for our girl. Cheese pizza from the Pizza Hut in the cafeteria that is open at all times.

We were able to settle in for the night.

***

My husband lay precariously on the window seat/bed. I climbed into the hospital bed with our daughter to keep her company over night.

She fell asleep watching piped in Disney sometime after midnight. I wish I could say I slept that night, but I didn’t.

The nurses came in every two hours to check her blood glucose level and then returned minutes later with an insulin injection as dosed by the physician. She stirred only briefly each time, exhausted from the long day before.

But she tossed in her sleep, rolling in big arcs from front to back and over again. Each time her IV line encircled her and I untangled the web of tubing. Each time I began to drift off, she turned again or it was time for the nurses to prick her finger or give an injection. But it’s my job as mother to sacrifice my sleep for her care and comfort.

In the wee hours she sat up in bed, dazed and foggy. A moment later she laid back down. She had urinated in her sleep, something she had not done in almost a year since potty training. The nurses and I changed the sheets and her scrubs while she continued her slumber, deep from exhaustion.

***

She awoke in good spirits as she does each morning.

Her glucose levels had been stabilized over night. They would continue to fluctuate wildly as the endocrinologist figured out the right concoction of short-acting and long-acting insulin. But the threat of ketoacidosis or convulsions or coma had seemed to pass.

We would soon find out that the hospital stay would include fun and games for her, a college-worthy short course in endocrinology and nutrition for us.

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