This week was Matt's second week of training for a new job near our house. Unfortunately, the first three weeks of training are at a city an hour and a half away from our house. By Tuesday morning, one week after Naomi was discharged from the children's hospital, I was finally feeling rested and caught up enough on chores to take the kids to visit Matt. Naomi had continued to have a mild headache and backache and I had continued to give her prescription pain medication as needed, but I was confident she was nearly recovered.
Excitement built as I packed the kids' dinner and swimsuits for a fun family night at Matt's hotel. At 4:00pm I loaded all our bags in the car and strapped Toby securely in his car seat. I called back to the girls in the house to hurry out to the car. Naomi appeared in the doorway holding her head and mumbling to me. Leaving Toby, I walked to the door and asked her to repeat herself. "Mommy, my head aches really bad again," she complained. I paused a moment, then decided to give her another dose of pain medication and load her in the van. We'd been dealing with headaches for two weeks now and neither she nor I wanted it to spoil our evening.
Naomi's headache responded so well to the medication that neither she nor I remembered to tell Matt about it when we got to the hotel. The hugs and excitement swept us into the hotel room and carried us through the evening. Thinking back now, I realize that Naomi ate little dinner, and wasn't very active in the swimming pool, but her quiet smile hid her discomfort well. After changing everyone into pajamas I suggested that Matt take the kids to the lounge and pop some popcorn while I collected the wet towels and swimsuits.
"Mommy!" Naomi suddenly burst out, "My tummy hurts really bad now! I feel like I'm going to throw up, and my headache is back too!" She tried to follow Matt to the lounge, but quickly retreated to the bed and lay shivering under a pile of covers. "I feel really sick, Mommy. I'm so cold!" she whimpered. Matt and I felt helpless. I had no medication with me to give her and I was confident she'd vomit it back up anyway. She was clearly too sick to ride an hour and a half sitting up in a car seat on the way home. I briefly considered taking her to the local ER, but quickly realized that it would be impossible for Matt to watch the other three kids in his hotel room all night. Naomi did not want to move from the hotel bed, but staying there didn't help her at all. It was a difficult decision to make, but Matt finally carried Naomi to the van and we strapped her into the front passenger seat with the seat fully reclined. We tucked two blankets in around her and buckled her in as well as we could, then put the other three kids in their seats.
I called my parents for advice, then called Matt's Mom to ask if she could meet me at home. Thankfully, Naomi slept most of the way. I kept remembering as I drove how the doctors had said the previous week that they would be much more concerned about Naomi's back pain if she were running a fever. Matt's Mom was waiting when I pulled in our drive. I let her and the other kids into the house and ran back to the van with a thermometer. Naomi shivered while I took her temperature. It was 103 degrees. I quickly packed a few things, said good-bye to the others and drove Naomi to our local ER.
It was a long five hours in the ER from 10:00pm to 3:00am. Normally docile and compliant, Naomi was in no mood to be messed with that night. It took four nurses to hold her down while they drew blood and placed an IV. "It would have been better to stay at home!!" she screamed with all her might, and I knew that it was hopeless to try to convince her otherwise. She was beyond rationality. I just stroked her hair and sang quietly until the nurses left and she calmed down. I was depleted as well after hours of preparation, driving, swimming, and driving again. I ached to sleep, but that wasn't an option.
At 1:00am the ER doctor reported that the initial lab work didn't indicate infection. "It's most likely viral, so I'm comfortable sending her home. Do you have any questions?" he rattled off mindlessly. I knew viral illness was a possibility, but what in the world was I going to do with Naomi at home? Even on IV anti-nausea meds and morphine she was wide awake and miserable.
"Well," I stalled, trying to think clearly, "Naomi's had ongoing headache and back pain for two weeks now--long after she should have healed from the spinal tap. When we were at the children's hospital they told me that they'd be much more worried about her back pain if she had a fever. So, now that she has a fever I'm pretty concerned. I want to be sure she doesn't have an abscess or something in her spine."
The doctor's demeanor immediately changed. "Oh, I wasn't aware of that history," he quickly back-tracked, even though this history had been clearly given to at least two nurses. "Yes, I think we should order a CT scan then, I'll be right back."
...and now, I have to go to bed for the night...I'll continue this saga with part 2 tomorrow...