The Mum Network

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare – When A Child Is Seriously Unwell


About 3 months ago my fourth and youngest child came down with a cold, it progressively got worse. We took him to the doctor a couple of times as we ere genuinely concerned but assured that it was simply a virus that he needed time to recover from. We figured after 4 kids, we knew how to get a little person over a common cold.

A mere 12 hours after the Doctor sent us home with orders of Panadol and rest he was so listless he couldn’t sit up alone. With hubby working interstate for the week, I rushed him to hospital and he was seen to immediately. The Doctors put him on an oxygen mask and a plethora of drugs to increase his ability to breathe. After an X-Ray the Doctors confirmed our beautiful little boy was in a serious condition with pneumonia.  With drips in his arms, monitors and nasal prongs pumping record amounts of oxygen into his lungs, it was hard to understand how serious the situation was as the nurses were so reassuring. That was until the second night, his oxygen saturation dropped quite dramatically. I had about 5 doctors around his bed at 4am one morning all consulting over the best treatment to give him as he wasn’t responding to venotlin or any of the usual methods of treatment for pneumonia.  Gradually over the next few days he regained enough strength to be weaned off oxygen and he was fortunately sent home having lost an incredible amount of weight.

It was obviously too early because within 36 hours of being at home, his rate of breathing increased again and  this time I knew what to look out for (it’s scary how familiar you become with beeping machines and the numbers on them when in hospital). With my Mum knocked out with the cold that he had, hubby was ordered to pick up the other three from school and kindy and I rushed him back to hospital. This time he was taken straight to the resuscitation unit (which is where highly critical patients are taken, it’s like uber-emergency). My little guy’s oxygen levels were lower than the first time he went in and he didn’t respond to any of the initial treatments he was given.

The resuscitation unit is far more serious than emergency, there are machines everywhere and it’s the type of place where your heart is in your mouth until you leave. Again I watched my lifeless 18 month old being propped up for an urgent x-ray whilst narcotics and steroids were pumped into his blood system and  lungs. A drip was put in and this time he was diagnosed with double pneumonia. The 7 doctors watching over him said it was incredibly serious. Within minutes of being administered copious amounts of drugs, he literally came back to life with a huge deep breath and a big beautiful smile when he saw my face. I cried.

What felt like seconds later, he grabbed for my iphone and pointed to the ipod icon on the phone. He wanted music and I was so grateful at that point he could have pointed to anything and I would have given it to him. The nurses later told me that it was the first time they’d ever heard music in that part of the hospital let alone an 18 month old rocking it our to “Black Eyed Peas and I Gotta Feeling”. He was moved to emergency and then admitted to the paediatric ward yet again. We were there for a week and the second time in wasn’t without its drama’s he was up and down all week and gave us some terrible scares but slowly progressed. This time there were no chances taken and he wasn’t allowed home until an entire team of Doctors gave him the all clear. By the time he came home our big robust 18 month old looked like a frail little baby and we knew he needed lots of cuddles, veges, love and time to heal. We were so grateful to the Doctors and the hospital and despite a routine check up, we thought that was the end of that.

Four weeks after this, hubby was in India for work. My Mum called me as I was going into a meeting, “He’s being admitted to hospital again, it’s only routine and I think it’s just to check that his oxygen saturation is ok, he’s just been wheezing a bit and I just want to make sure he’s ok”.  I promised Mum I would come to the hospital asap. Most healthy adults and children’s oxygen saturation sits between 95% & 100%. When our little one presented to emergency, his oxygen saturation was 75%. He was a sick little boy, again. This time he was only treated with ventolin and after three days we were sent home with an asthma plan.

The Doctors said they can’t  label a child under the age of two as asthmatic  when there’s no family history of asthma but he was showing the typical signs of being asthmatic. Seeing as how quickly our little one had gone downhill and how serious pneumonia or asthma or whatever it was can be, it made me remarkably paranoid. The slightest sign of a cough or cold and I’ve got the oxygen saturation kit out and I’m monitoring those numbers like a mother possessed.

After a rant on facebook last night about how I thought he may be going downhill yet again, I received a phone call from someone close to me. She’d been watching a few of my personal facebook updates from afar and in addition to an incredible tip two weeks ago (take him off cows milk, which worked and took away what seemed to be a perpetually sore tummy) she said she’d noticed something that perhaps none of us close to the situation had seen.

She asked me a very valid question “I don’t want to butt in but have you noticed that No 4 seems to go downhill whenever Mum, Dad or Nanny are away or on a plane to somewhere?”

Whilst I’m sure that the common cold, change in weather and general viruses that are bought home from his three siblings are also a contributing factor, what she just said has so much merit. My baby does seem to go downhill when his little community of Mum, Dad, Nanny and three siblings are disturbed. As the youngest of four, he’s the creature of routine and he knows when one of us is missing. Sure enough as I bought out the bags to pack for our holiday on Saturday, it’s highly likely that he saw them thinking that someone was going away again.

Whilst there’s no proof to the theory, there are two trains of thought here. 1. Little kids are WAY more perceptive than we give them credit for, we must always be mindful of that and 2. An opinion or thought from someone close who can see what we can’t can often provide clarity and reason.

One comment

  1. Anna

    As I was reading this I got really sad imagining what I would do if it was my precious little 22month old son. He saw my face and said ‘Kisses Mummy’ and came over and gave me cuddles and kisses. So I’d have to 100% agree. Little ones are amazing perceptive and incredibly precious.

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