As I pulled Keegan out of his car seat at the sitter’s, I heard one wheeze. He was fourteen months old and we’d already gone through so much in his first year, he couldn’t possibly also have breathing problems now. I brushed it off, telling myself it was just a squirrel. I kissed him goodbye and headed to work.
About three hours later, the sitter called, “Do you know Keegan is wheezing?”
“Yes, I heard ONE wheeze when I got him out of the car. Why, is it bad? How do you fix wheezing?”
“Well, if it were any other kid, I would say just take him home and keep an eye on him, but this is Keegan we’re talking about….I think you should take him to the doctor.” So, I picked him up and called the pediatrician to let them know we were on our way. I thought nothing of driving past the hospital on the way to the doctor’s office; surely this was no big deal.
When the doctor checked Keegan’s oxygen level, it was in the 70’s. “See, he’s fine!” I thought. That’s like a C, right? “C’s get degrees”, I reasoned, having no idea what that number meant. “Crud.” said the doctor. We gave him a breathing treatment, but still no increase in his oxygen. Second breathing treatment. Nothing. “I’m going to call another doctor in….” Second doctor arrives, “Sh*t”, she said. Third breathing treatment, and still not better. Then our doctor came into the room said, “Okay so….here’s the thing, he needs to go to the hospital….and, ummm, you can’t drive him. He has to go via ambulance. And, um, I’ve actually already called them. They’ll be here any minute.” Wait…what?!
The ambulance showed up and asked me to sit on the cot and hold Keegan. “I can walk” I say, “I’m fine, it’s he who is sick,” as if they didn’t know they had pulled up to a pediatrician’s office.
“No Mam, this is the safest way to travel…”
“Can I call Todd?” I ask. “Sure, but we need to go.” So, I called Todd who, unfortunately, wasn’t at his desk. I then called his colleague and told her to tell him that I had to take Keegan to the hospital. I remember the doctor saying, “Wow…you didn’t even mention the ambulance?”
“I need my husband to be calm when he shows up”, I told her.
Finally, we got outside into the ambulance and I overheard the paramedics discussing the best route to the hospital. I thought, “We go to the hospital frequently, here’s the route we take…”, but I decided to let them work it out while my boy got hooked up to machines and I filled out paperwork.
After a minute or so, Todd called. I answered and said, “Hey…so we’re going to the hospital. In an ambulance.”
“You’re WHAT?! What happened? Everything was fine when you left the house this morning.”
“Yup…hear the sirens? That’s us.”
We made it to the hospital and Todd and I both felt slightly relieved that while yes, we need to get Keegan’s airway working, at least we don’t have to think about what he will eat. This is a hospital, allergies are nothing to them, sick kids are their bread & butter (this idea will be funny later), right?.
However…after a few hours in the ER, it becomes clear that we would be staying overnight. We told the doctor that Keegan hadn’t eaten in about 6 hours and asked to please call down for some food. The doctor said, “Err….well….I actually don’t know if I would get him anything from here. I wouldn’t trust that our cafeteria is safe for him. You see, they have this thing, called the ‘butter wheel’, and pretty much everything takes a ride on the butter wheel before being served.”
You see, they have this thing, called the ‘butter wheel’, and pretty much everything takes a ride on the butter wheel before being served.”
WHAT?! A nurse walks in and confirms the butter wheel, but hands us a menu anyway. Todd calls down and asks for grapes. Just grapes. All the grapes they have, we want them. The woman on the other end of the phone says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, we are all out of grapes.” Feeling helpless, Todd says, “I have a $20 in my pocket, send somebody down three blocks to Schnucks to buy a bag of grapes, for goodness sake.” Surprisingly, they didn’t take him up on his offer.
My boss called to check on us and asked if there is anything he could do. I told him to ask our sitter (whom he also knew well) to bring Keegan some dinner when she comes to visit later, knowing she was intimately aware of his allergies. Praise God, she was already making vegetable soup for her family. Safe for Keegan & mushy enough for a barely one year old to eat. She brought it to the hospital and he ate it all up in about 45 seconds.
Todd had to leave early the next morning for a business trip, so I stayed at the hospital and spent most of the night trying to convince Keegan he was sleepy, despite all of the drugs running through his little body telling him otherwise. We all know that nobody sleeps well in a hospital.
Delighted to see the sun come up, I ordered breakfast. The nurse assured me that the cafeteria was then well aware of Keegan’s allergies and would tell me what was safe for him. “You’re sure waffles are a choice?” I asked. “I’ve never found waffles that were safe for him. You’re sure?”
“Yup, it’s a choice!” I was thrilled. I ordered waffles, three orders of bacon, and a bowl of fruit. Our food came and Keegan started eating.
Five minutes later a young nurse entered and said, “I’m so sorry…these waffles actually aren’t safe for him. I’m going to have to take them.” Crud. Is he going to have a reaction now?
By the grace of God, he didn’t have a big reaction and we could go home that afternoon.
A few days later, I was still thinking about our first ambulance ride and hospital stay. Knowing it would probably not be our last visit, I wanted to be better prepared for next time. What do I need to have packed next to the door, like a woman constantly prepared for labor? Who do I need to call? How can I eliminate as many hurdles as possible? It still didn’t feel right that we had to manage his food on our own, especially since Todd was away on a trip, leaving me to choose between leaving my one year old alone in a hospital room or finding him something safe to eat. It felt too primal and wild.
I decided to call the head of the dietetics department of the hospital to see if we could work something out or if there was anything I could order that skips a spin on the butter wheel. She was more than gracious, very understanding, apologetic, and accommodating. She assured me there is always a dietician on call, 24 hours a day. The minute we enter the hospital, we can ask for a consult. She explained that all of the patients’ food is prepared in a completely separate area of the hospital, far away from the so-called butter wheel, and that the utmost precautions would be taken. She even thanked me and took it as a good reminder to better inform the hospital staff.
I was so thankful for her willingness to talk with me. More than that, it was a wonderful reminder so early on, that it is God who ultimately cares for our children – not our doctors or ambulance drivers or hospitals… or me. Safety doesn’t always look the way I want it to look, but there is no safer place for Keegan than in the palm of God’s all-knowing hand, where he has always been.
God did not forget us that day. Over and over, I have witnessed God’s tender protection of Keegan, knowing God loves him more than I can even imagine. I have seen so clearly how God made Keegan, knowing every detail of his today and his tomorrows, knowing he would be allergic, and knowing Todd and I would get to raise him. Knowing we would all grow closer to God through the priviledge of having Keegan in our lives.
I am so thankful I get to be his Mama.
I’m married to my best friend and am a stay-at-home-mom to two great kids. I live in St. Louis, and spend my free-time running, baking, and learning how to send an allergic kid to school. All while loving Jesus. 🙂
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