Daniel's Story Chapter 3.
3.2. Christmas in Hospital
On December 8th, I am on a day trip with the other members of the research group and our supervisor. When I come home, Yuki isn't there! I know that she went to the doctor in the morning to have a look at Daniel, since he started coughing a few days ago, and also vomited more than usual. But it could not possibly take until the evening! I start calling our friends and I find out that she went to the university hospital. The doctor downtown suggested to her that Daniel be hospitalized. The continuous vomiting dehydrated him and the electrolyte balance in his blood was out of control. A few days with infusions, and he should be well again.
Daniel was hospitalized not on the pediatric ward where he used to be before, but in another building. The first thing I recognize when I enter the ward is the noise. Crying babies and children everywhere. I later-on tell Yuki that those kids are really well. On the other pediatric station we could rarely hear a baby cry, much less on the ICU. The kids here are healthy and strong enough to cry. Most kids have colds, or similar rather minor illnesses. Daniel has to inhale; something that he did not like from the very beginning. But I am steadfast and hold the nozzle in front of his mouth and nose, how much he twists his head, or cries. "This is for your own good" I tell him. The sooner he gets better, the sooner he will come home again.
Since he always vomits when he coughs, Yuki's milk is not enough anymore . The doctors urge her to stop breast feeding and Daniel is put on bottle milk. All together Yuki could breast-fed Daniel for more than 7 months, but she is disappointed that it ended so abruptly. Being able to breast feed Daniel was one of the most important things she could do.
A few days later, Daniel is still not better and the doctors diagnose pneumonia. "But for Christmas we will be at home for sure" is my guess.
I guessed wrong. Christmas comes near and still no sign of recovery. He needs infusions, but the needles in his arms soon clog and have to be replaced. When an infusion "goes bad", the infusion liquid leaks out of the vein into the tissue. This hurts! Thus the nurses have to check every few hours if the infusion is still good. It could be due to an overworked crowded pediatric station in winter, it could have been that the nurse did not want to wake Daniel up in order to check the infusion, but one day an infusion goes bad and nobody recognizes it. It was only a few hours later that I see Daniel's swollen right arm! It is already cold, so much fluid is in there! I call the nurse and the doctors replace the infusion. It then takes a few days for the arm to recover, but no damage done.
For a baby, if legs and arms cannot be used for infusion, the next suitable place to find a vein is - the forehead. Thus for the next few days Daniel looks like an deep-sea Anglerfish. Or an alien, if you like.
A few days before Christmas, the station empties. As many kids as possible are sent home for the holidays, but we are not on that list. I speak with the doctor and I literally beg him to be allowed to go home. He refuses. Christmas is hospital! Something worse could barely happen, and I am really down.
So, here we are, Daniel in his room - alone, since the others have left, Yuki and I. The Christmas tree on the station adds to the lonely feeling. I have never seen a poorer Christmas tree. It seems that it also needs an infusion! But the fact that we HAVE a Christmas tree, is in a way, consoling.
On Christmas eve, Daniel is already asleep, I give a small present to Yuki and she hands me her present. No friends, no party, no singing "silent night, holy night", we spend a very quiet Christmas this year.
After Christmas Daniel develops fever again. The oxygen saturation drops to dangerous levels and he is transferred to the intensive care unit. The pediatric station is far away from the other buildings of the pediatric ward, and we cross the whole university clinic area in underground tunnels. The most urgent thing to do is to get the fever down. One degree in fever leads to an increase of pulse rate of 30 beats per minute. Thus Daniel now has close to 200 beats per minute! No medication works to reduce the fever, and the doctors then use the oldest method: cold wrappings. Since they have to work quickly and efficiently, they are not applied to the legs, as usual, but directly onto his belly. A doctor himself asks a nurse to prepare everything necessary. Then he dips the towels into the ice water. "Why does a doctor have to do that? Isn't a nurse capable enough?" I ask myself. Then I see him applying the first ice-cold towel very very slowly onto Daniel's belly. His eyes do not divert for a single second from the heart rate monitor. "Heart arrest!" I think "that must be the reason." But Daniel's pulse is steady at 200 beats per minute. The doctor is afraid of heart arrest, when such an ice-cold towel is put on Daniel's belly. Nothing happens. Daniel's heart rate is steady. After the first towel is applied, the danger is over, and the doctor leaves it to a nurse, Yuki and me to continue. We can see his heart rate go down! First 180, then 150. 120 is Daniel's normal level. The ice towels work! Praise God!
Intensive care is only necessary for 24 hours and we are happy to return to the other building the next day, but due to this interlude in the ICU it is clear that we have to spend more time at hospital. Thus after having a miserable Christmas, we also spend New Years Day in hospital. The only good thing is that the pediatric station is on the fifth floor. This, in addition that the hospital itself is on a hilltop gives us a nice view of the New Years fireworks.
Daniel has spend the time since Christmas alone in a room big enough for 3-4 beds. Because we are afraid that he might catch another cold, we only leave this room when it is absolutely necessary. Then, on New Years Day, another kid comes to our room. After the initial small talk, I ask the mother why her son is in hospital.
"Oh, he has whooping cough."
"What?" is the only reaction I can give. I rush out of the room. Into the doctors room.
"Please tell me, our son just recovered from a very exhausting and dangerous pneumonia, right? Why do you allow somebody with Pertussis into his room? Listen, if this boy is not immediately transferred to another room, I will take Daniel back home. I will take that risk! This is better than catching whooping cough!"
It is hard to believe for me, but if I wouldn't have asked that mother about her son, Daniel would have caught the next infection. What did the doctors at that time think? The doctors listen to my complaint, and the boy in transferred. Even though the other rooms are much more crowded than ours, I feel no pity for the other kids. "Just let Daniel be alone, so that we can go home soon" is the only thing that matters to me.
The very next day, after being hospitalized for three weeks, we can take Daniel home.