Sunday, May 15, 2005

Little girls, gas bubbles, and pediatric physicians

Last night was very long. The day was going great - I was having a day off while my husband took care of all things kid-related, and he even insisted on taking me out to dinner. We decided to try a brand-new restaurant that just opened near our house. That's when things started to go bad.

Our youngest, 27-month old Kate, wouldn't eat. Instead, she kept pointing to her left side and saying there was an owie in there. I've never heard a two year old complain of a stomach ache before, so that was odd. Then she said she wanted to go back in the car, and insisted on being held. We rushed through our dinner and my husband took her out to the car while I paid the bill. When I got out there, he said Kate felt hot.

Long story short, we ended up first at the local Immediate Care center, where Kate was the very last patient to be seen. Unfortunately, she has a terrible fear of doctors and the instant the nurse called us back she began pitching the worst tantrum, screaming and flailing and kicking. The doctor who looked at her panicked a bit, I think because of the tantrum (which is perfectly normal for Kate at a doctor's office) and sent us to the hospital to have her checked there. She mentioned something I'd never heard of - intussusception - and suggested Kate might need to be sedated in order to figure out what was wrong with her. I couldn't catch all she said, thanks to Kate's screaming, but I caught enough to understand this woman was worried and we needed to get to the ER immediately.

Our pediatrician refers all her patients to a specific hospital in north Portland that has an entire ER just for kids, so we had to drive all the way into town. We then spent about 2 1/2 hours in the waiting room of the children's ER watching Kate run around, skip, laugh, and have a generally grand time. She seemed perfectly fine and didn't complain about the pain anymore. When we were finally seen by a doctor, she was pretty good (for her), with only moderate flailing and crying. The diagnosis: gas bubbles.

As it turns out, major abdominal problems like intussusception and appendicitis are almost always on the right side. Kate consistently pointed to her left. Her pain was sporadic, coming and going suddenly, but it was not intense enough to make her cry or double over. When I looked up intussusception later, it was described as something that makes children (usually infants) pull their legs up to their chest and cry and scream. Clearly, it did not really fit her symptoms in other than a very superficial manner. I understand that the Immediate Care doctor was just being cautious, because it could potentially have been something serious, but I also suspect that, not being a pediatrician, she was really not well qualified to diagnose a toddler's abdominal pain.

We finally got home about 10:15, well past the kids' bedtime, exhausted and stressed, but greatly relieved. Nothing puts the world into perspective better than getting a glimpse of how quickly it might change. Today, I've hugged and kissed both of my kids many times. Have you hugged yours?


bevjackson said...

Terrifying. Just the thought of having kids makes my knees quake which is probably why I don't. You are a brave woman. Thank goodness she's fine.

Katie said...

I'm glad little Kate is better!

P. A. Moed said...

Yes, we've been in those frightening situations too with my son, who's now 16 and still likes a hug from his mother!

When I see my friend whose son was diagnosed as bipolar when he was 5, I understand a little bit better the terror of not being able to protect your children from harm and the frustration as a parent of not being able to do much of anything to "make it better."

You're moments like that in the ER we just have to give our humble thanks to Gods.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Thanks ladies! Not only is Kate doing fine, but she also has a sudden interest in doctors and has been playing doctor every day with her big sister. Maybe she's starting to realize they're not so bad after all?