A not-so-friendly reminder with a side of reality

Last week was a great reminder about how life can change from one second to the next. Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from my ex husband Chris, whispering to me that he had a severe headache and that his sister was coming to take him to the ER at Mass General. The headache turned out to be a migraine, probably aggravated by stress and brought by genetics. After getting some fluids and a prescription, I drove him back to Plymouth thinking about ways I could relieve his stress level. His father recently passed away and I knew that he was (and still is) struggling with the immense loss. How can I help? What can I do? I can take care of the kids and make sure George stays away from skunks. He felt a little better on Thursday but by dinner time the flashes were coming back. He called me again only this time I sent my parents over to be with him until I could get there and put the kids to bed. He needed rest and for the stress to be reduced dramatically in order to get better.

The complete opposite happened because a few days later I would receive another phone call, only this one was about Izzie. The school nurse was concerned about Izzie. She didn’t seem herself, complained to her teacher about being cold, and laid down a lot in the classroom. Nurse J usually does spot checks on her with her pocket pulse oximeter. The numbers came up with a heart rate of 52 and O2 level of 78. Both are completely out of character for Izzie. She warmed up her hands and tried again. This time the numbers were better but still not great. She wanted to know if she should call 911 for an ambulance.

I didn’t know what the right answer was. Should we get an ambulance? Or should we just lessen the drama and drive her to the hospital ourselves? I felt pressured to call the ambulance but went along with Chris who felt that we should see her before making that call. I call the pediatrician and was put on hold. After the three longest minutes passed I hung up and off we went to get her.

As soon as she saw us, she perked up and hopped over. She didn’t appear sick at all. Well, her coloring was a tad off and she seemed to be a bit tired looking but still presented well. We packed up the car and headed to Boston. I spoke with her cardiologist who wanted us to bring her in. She told me she would call ahead and suggested that we call an ambulance. We said she seemed stable enough to drive her. At Chris’s we had taken her O2 and it was more stable so she was ok with us driving. We got onto the expressway and as we moved closer to the city, I began to regret the decision not to call. Traffic. What if something happened while we were stuck? The stress on Ruggles was overwhelming.


Nest time, call an ambulance. Duly noted.

We were fortunate that nothing happened but you can’t always count on that statistic. There was traffic getting into the hospital. I jumped out, grabbed Izzie and ran to the ER. They were expecting us and called upstairs. We were brought into a room and Izzie seemed to be ok with being at the hospital. Until I asked her if I could help her into a tiger johnnie. Hell no. She cried and yelled at me the entire time but I changed her. After she stopped sniffling she began counting the tigers. We waited for someone to see us. Chris found the room and our latest BCH visit began.

I rehashed the story multiple times. Everyone who was in a one mile radius listened to her heart, checked her ears and asked her to stick her tongue out. It was agreed that IV fluids and observation were the way to go. The nurses came in to place the IV. Chris had stepped out to get something to drink for us. I held Izzie while the nurses prepared the kit. As soon as the alcohol swab hit her skin, Izzie knew what was up and began to writhe in my arms, screaming “NO! NO! Mommy NO!” In spite of my breathing deeply and my arms holding her, the tears began to fall from my eyes and she cried out to me to make them stop.


This is why I get a certain expression when you begin telling me how awful your child’s shots were. Capiche?

I held her strong and did my best to hold it together in spite of those tears that escaped. Chris came back as she had finally calmed down. He had wanted to be there for the IV placement because he knows how hard it is on me. It’s ok. It’s not my first IV and it won’t be my last. I shrugged and grabbed my drink. Izzie grabbed his drink. We went back to waiting another hour.

A group of doctors/nurses/attendings came in and the cardiology fellow told me that Izzie’s blood showed that she was dehydrated and fighting an infection. She said that the fluids should help and weren’t we fortunate to have teachers in Izzie’s life who noticed such a subtle change because the blood test was the only indicator of the diagnosis. The head cardiologist in the bunch expressed his thoughts on us staying for observation, just to be safe. Fine with us.

Chris and I sat there completely stunned by the whole event while Izzie watched videos on Disney Junior. We had a whole year of ‘normal’ living. Ok, so she pukes a little. She still was going to preschool, just finished ice skating and was acting like a normal three year old kid who had a virus. Except she’s not. She is a hypoplast, who depends on her blood being thin enough to pump efficiently to her body. Hydration is key to her health more than the average child’s. Throughout this whole week and the one earlier, we encouraged her to drink a variety of beverages and bribed with popsicles. It still wasn’t enough. She vomited every day from the cough she had due to being congested. Another chocolate milk? Sure! Just keep drinking, please? After all of the begging, pleading and bribing, we still ended up in the emergency room of the hospital. It hurt both of us, a painful reminder that she is always going to need a little extra care.

Earlier in the day my mother offered to take Addie so we could just go to the hospital. Addie had a great time being with her nana. She was very happy, but we were very worried since she knew Chris had been in the emergency room days earlier and now her sister was there. I messaged my family and told them we were being admitted. After the IV fluids were done, Izzie got her second and third wind, and decided now would be a great time to run in the emergency room. We stood in the orange tiles. Hopped to the blue ones, and then skipped to the green ones. We chased after her with her O2 probe being dragged behind her like a tail. It was a riot. As I watched her scamper down the hallway I realized that she was pretty sick and has been this whole time. Seeing her being herself showed us how much she hadn’t been herself and for how long.

We passed the time by taking turns getting food, getting toiletry supplies for the night and an obligatory BCH sweatshirt since…well…I just had to have a new one. The news came that a room would be ready within the hour. Two hours later we went upstairs to one of the new suites on 8 East. Chris and gave each other knuckles. A single! Score!

Izzie didn’t slow down once we reached 8 East and proceeded to laugh at the nurse when she tried to hold us in PRECAUTIONS. She consented to wearing a mask so she could find the baby that was crying somewhere. Once again we went in a circle and ran into the attending who had been looking for us. Chris was listening to the lecture on what living on 8 East is like. We both smiled. This must be a new nurse. After another round of the story of how we got there, it was time for vitals and bed. Chris went home after helping me set up the bed. So far it was the most relaxing BCH visit yet and for everyone’s sake I wanted it to stay that way.


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