Ahhhhhh. That was a deep breath. Like a really, big, super-ginormous ridiculously huge deep breath. What a 10 days. First “seizure week” then “stomach bug week.” What a doozer. I feel absolutely wiped. But feel awake again after getting this novel, this pain, off my chest. Now, I can move on. Until Monday.
We entered the hospital last Thursday morning and all was going well.
Little man wasn’t thrilled to have 25+ wires attached to his head to measure for seizure activity, but he, we were managing. We had dance parties, read books, played with blocks and threw hospital food (can you blame him?) Friday morning came fast even after a rather crappy night of hospital sleep (he didn’t want to sleep, I couldn’t sleep) and I geared up for the harder day – a day of not eating so that little man could have an MRI at 3:30. An MRI to rule out brain tumor, brain damage, or a brain abnormality. While the previous tests were important, this was the test most important to me. This was the test that SCARED me. This was the test that I wanted done and over with. Not just because it meant sedating my sweet, young son, but because the unknown results were keeping me from feeling calm.
Somehow the day turned out to be very easy. After a few attempts by little man to find food in my bag, he settled down and actually was rather quiet all day, even laying down on the floor numerous times to rest. I just assumed he was lethargic from no food and drink. I kept mentioning it to the nurses because I thought it was odd but no one thought it mattered. Let’s just say that mother’s instinct that he was OFF was RIGHT.
3:00 came and little man ever so gracefully let the nurse insert his IV. Not. One. Tear. That of course made me tear up like mad as I was so proud of him for being such a trooper. The wheelchair rolled in and I hopped in with little man in my lap (held perhaps more tightly than ever before), and we began our trek to the dreaded MRI. Even though blood tests and the EEG (test for seizure activity) were good to date and I should be relieved I still feared the MRI.
A rather unpleasant nurse greeted us and felt it necessary to keep trying to make little man smile. Instead, she just made him cry every time she talked and put her face in his, practicallytouching it. And she DIDN’T. GET. THE. HINT.
Just leave him alone, please!! Let him be in peace. Leave us in peace. We are nervous and tired, let us be.
The more pleasant anesthesiologist entered and peppered me with questions.
“When is the last time he ate?”
“9:00” I answered.
“What! He shouldn’t have eaten past 7!” barked the nurse.
“It’s okay. It will be okay.” replied the anesthesiologist politely.
He then proceeded to have me sign my name on a form stating that x,y,z, and vomit are risks of anesthesia. And then just as I got up to place little man on the stretcher for sedation he VOMITED all over me, all over himself, all over the nasty nurse.
“Oh my god. What a mess!“ the nurse, who works in a hospital, a place where people go when they are SICK, said in my direction.
“I just followed my doctor’s instructions. Please get me a towel.” I replied quietly, shocked by what she had said, sad for my little man, discouraged that the test would be delayed, that we would have to repeat the nerves, again.
The anesthesiologist returned and I looked at him and immediately the stress hit me. I burst into tears and mumbled “please, please just tell me that he didn’t throw up because of a brain tumor or something in his brain. Please. I beg you.”
“I can’t answer that. We’ll get answers soon though. Let’s clean you guys up.”
We then had the pleasure of the nasty nurse pushing us back upstairs, had the pleasure of listening to her continue to talk about how little man shouldn’t have eaten all morning. Really. Really??? Was she blaming me? Didn’t she know that babies sometimes get sick? That perhaps the stress of the situation got to him? Who did she think she was? She was luckily then interrupted by the booming voice on the intercom.
“CODE WHITE. CODE WHITE. CODE WHITE Room 621.”
I had heard a lot of Code Reds and Code Blues the last 24 hours. Being in a hospital is as unnerving as it is, then hearing code colors called out left and right is just enough to put you over the edge. I nervously asked the nurse what a code white was. Get this.
“It’s code that a parent is losing control. That they are yelling, throwing things, hitting doctors. When you hear code white you just get out of the way immediately.”
I then had a nice conversation, with me, myself, and I.
“You mean, a parent is feeling what I am starting to feel inside because of you? Oh I feel for them. It’s a good thing you are pushing faster to get us out of the way as I might be the next Code White.”
We arrived at the Pediatrics floor and the nurse laid into my doctor about how this was everyone’s fault. After she left I tried desperately to find out if the test would be re-scheduled and for when? Could I finally feed my baby? Give him fluids?
SOMEONE PLEASE ANSWER ME!
It took an hour. An hour before I was given the green light to give him food as we were re-scheduled for 8:00 the next morning. One sip of water, thrown up, 5 cheerios thrown up, I discovered the reason for the delay.
The nurse REFUSED to answer the phone to re-schedule him since it was “our fault.”
WAIT. It gets better.
As little man hadn’t eaten all day and couldn’t keep anything down we hooked him up to IV fluids. My sweet boy fell asleep in my arms immediately; only to toss and turn and be up ALL night as every time he moved he set off the IV machine alarm.
We didn’t sleep a wink Friday night. Not. A. Wink. Which made me a really cheery site Saturday morning.
The wheelchair came again, and again the fear of putting my young baby under anesthesia gripped my body. I stayed as calm as I could, even sang a few lullabyes as we were rolled down the long, cold, start hallways to calm us both. Little man snuggled tight, gripping me. He knew what was up.
We were greeted by HER. The nurse who really, well, perhaps shouldn’t be a nurse.
A new young anesthesiologist came out and began questioning me, again. His conclusion?
“It is too risky to put him under anesthesia. Should he throw up while in the MRI there is no way to tell until a few minutes too late. The vomit might go in his lungs and he could choke and well, it wouldn’t be good. The other hospital has better equipment for sedating young kids.”
“Okay” I said. “I trust your judgment and certainly don’t want to take that risk. What a shame though. It means going home and then waiting weeks for an appointment and then having to experience this stress all over again and pricking my son with another needle. I get it. Just disappointed.”
No tears fell. But my heart fell. Way down deep and discouragement stepped up. When will I get answers I thought? What if he has another seizure? When will I stop worrying? My deep thoughts were interrupted by the nurse.
She wanted to be empathetic. I know she did. I could tell by the fact that she sat down next to me and started with “I know you are disappointed.” She should have stopped there. IMMEDIATELY. What she said next still haunts me. And will probably bring me to tears for years.
“You know, I was up at 5 am this morning booking this. I am as annoyed as you are.” (Yeah? I was up at 5 too. Because my BABY who is in the hospital couldn’t sleep and PS that’s your job.)
“And well, I have been picking pieces of vomit out of my clothes and shoes and even in my lab jacket since yesterday.” (Yeah? This is a hospital. People throw up. You went home to a shower and clean clothes. I went to a sink and scrubs.)
And then the kicker. Which maybe to most people is fine, but to me, a mom, under major stress and fear and all sorts of emotions, it didn’t sit well at all.
“You know, they called to re-schedule yesterday but I was too angry to answer. I refused to for an hour. And now, well, now I just keep saying how lucky we were that he threw up when he did. You know 30 seconds later and he would have been sedated and he would have choked on his vomited and wouldn’t have been able to breathe and we wouldn’t have known and it would have been minutes if not longer before we knew and just WOW it would have been beyond awful. Your guy could have been so unsafe. We were 30 seconds from being in a really dangerous situation, a grave situation.”
Thank you nurse. Thank you for telling me, what I knew. I knew it was a miracle. I knew how lucky we were, how dangerous it could have been. But guess what? I didn’t need to relive it step by step. I don’t need to know that my son was 30 seconds away from well, something I can’t write. I am stressed enough and sick to my stomach with fear that he has something in his brain. Because even though 2 tests were fine, my mommy gut isn’t. So no, no I don’t want to hear about how close we were to what, potentially causing brain damage or harming him. So thank you, please, BE QUIET. I thank exhaustion and shock and disappointment for keeping these thoughts IN my head.
“Well, yes, it was a miracle and I am glad it worked out” I said softly and started singing to little man who was falling asleep hoping that maybe, maybe she would leave me alone. She got the hint. Another miracle.
We arrived back at our floor and the nurses looked at me with shock, question, confusion.
“Denied.” I said. Denied an MRI. Denied respect. Denied support. Denied empathy. Denied. Denied. Denied. Granted FEAR. Lots of it. Tears rolled down my cheeks as we were rolled back into our room.
No. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t going to stay silent. She shouldn’t have told me all she did. She shouldn’t have complained about the vomit, or the job, the situation, her anger and she certainly crossed the line telling me not once, not twice, but three times that my son was so close to being harmed.
I went straight out to the hallway and asked the staff who I share a complaint with, immediately.
I told my story and the tears fell. And fell and fell. They fell from relief that he was safe. They fell from deep sadness that he might not have been. They fell from stress that I would be back. The fell from physical and emotional exhaustion. They fell from anger.
Code “ORANGE RHINO”.
No code white, but code “Orange Rhino.” I didn’t raise my voice. I didn’t yell. I didn’t scream. I even went so far as to say that I know the nurse meant well but that perhaps communicating wasn’t her strength and that perhaps she didn’t need reprimand, just teaching. I didn’t lose it, I didn’t hit Code White. And I am so grateful. Because code ORANGE RHINO – handling anger with warmth, feels so much better and actually made people want to help me.
The nurses kept checking on me the rest of the day and bringing me tissues. They offered support and true empathy. They said thank you for staying calm. You see, using kind words when angry, it has a much better chance of helping you. Yelling, mean words, it does you no good. Sure it might get your point made, but does it inspire positive action? Does it inspire people to WANT to help you? No. Nice words though, or words delivered with respect, they at least stand a chance. Sure, they might not get you an immediate response, but over time, there is much greater upside.
I got a call today from the manager of the Children’s Hospital. Apparently my kind words had made quite an impact. The manager called to hear my story of what happened and ultimately apologized profusely saying that there is no way she would accept or tolerate one her staff treating her patients that way. I again said that I know that nurse meant well but that well, it SCARED ME. It scared the sh*t out of me to hear someone verbally talk about what bad could have been. And with all the stress, I just didn’t need it. I went on to say on top of it all, now I have to wait one month, ONE MONTH, to get an MRI. One month to know that my son is okay. Because he will be okay. That is the only answer.
“Oh that is frustrating. I am going to call right now and see if we can’t change that. You’ve been through enough. You don’t need to be waiting a month” she said sweetly. I liked her. She was sincere, empathetic, calm, and caring. She made me feel okay to be anger and scared. She made it safe.
I got a call at 2:43 today. Little Man’s MRI has been moved up to Monday. Monday folks. This is GREAT news. It is 24 days earlier. It means no waiting until January 3rd. It means by the middle of next week I will have the answers I need to sleep a little better. It means we can move on sooner than later.
I TRULY owe this to my code Orange Rhino, to the Orange Rhino Challenge. If I had lost it and yelled, do you think the nurses would have been inclined to share my story? If I had lost it and been rude with the Manager, do you think she would have been moved to make the calls on my behalf? Maybe, maybe not. But I am going to say, YES.
Kind words matter. Nasty ones, they just do no good. They don’t get you anywhere. Well, they do. They get you nowhere, fast. So choose kind words. I can’t imagine you will ever regret it. I know I don’t.
* I don’t hold anyone responsible for what happened except maybe the Stomach Bug. While this experience was frustrating and disheartening, all the other care I received was great and again, the nurse had good intentions just perhaps needs some teaching. You know. Kind of like my boys who I often get frustrated with And while the situation isn’t what I would have chose, I am grateful for yet another opportunity to put The Orange Rhino Challenge benefits to the test.
* * * Discover all the ways taking The Orange Rhino Challenge has changed my life beyond how I handled this situation in my just released book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at her Kids–and How You Can Too!” available at many bookstores and online stores like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Qbookshop, IndieBound, Indigo Canada, Bookish