One “Flu” Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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DSC_5776A week ago last Friday, I received a call from Field Elementary in the middle of the day.  Ella was in the nurse’s office with a fever and she was complaining of a sore throat and body aches. Uh oh, I thought… the flu.  I went to pick her up and tried to make an appointment with her pediatrician. No walk-ins allowed, and they were already fully booked through Saturday so I made an appointment for Monday.

She felt progressively worse, and her fever got increasingly higher, over the weekend.  On Monday morning, the doctor confirmed she had the flu but said it was too late to give her Tamiflu because we didn’t get her in within the first 24 – 48 hours.   I decided to forego the debate about why Ella wasn’t able to get in to see the doctor as soon as her symptoms presented, and instead focused on what we could do at this point to get her better.  I was told there was really nothing to do other than give her fluids and let things run their course.

Ella continued to go downhill over the course of the week.  Yan and I juggled staying home with her and on Thursday – Yan’s day – Yan had a doctor’s appointment of her own.  Ella had to go with Yan because I had client appointments scheduled all day. Yan’s doctor took one look at Ella and asked if she could listen to Ella’s heart and lungs. She became concerned and suggested Yan take her back to the pediatrician as soon as possible. Yan took her right over after her own appointment.

After battling with the receptionist over the “no walk-ins” policy – Yan prevailed – the doctor discovered Ella’s flu had progressed into pneumonia and her pulse ox level was alarmingly low.  A prescription was written, and Yan was told to bring Ella back the following day to see if the medicine helped Ella improve.  If there was no improvement within 24 hours, the doctor said she would be admitting Ella to the hospital straight away.

That night was a long, sleepless night as I watched my baby girl curled up in the fetal position, panting like a dog because her lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen into her body.  Her eyelids and lips were slightly blue and I was terrified she would go into respiratory distress at any minute.  She seemed right on the brink.  Finally, about 3 am, her breathing evened out and deepened, her tensed up body relaxed, and she seemed to have finally turned the corner.

So we watched Ella go from healthy to sick to very sick to dangerously sick, all in less than a week.  I am certain that if Yan hadn’t taken Ella to her own doctor’s appointment, or if the pediatric receptionist had had her way, Ella would have been in a real fight for her life by Friday.  And we’ve all heard how many children have lost that fight this flu season.  I can’t imagine what those parents have gone through, but I did get a glimpse, as I stood at the edge and looked down with my own child, at just how helpless they must have felt and how quickly their lives went from normal to devastated.  My heart aches for them.

At her follow up appointment on Friday it was confirmed that Ella had indeed turned the corner and would not have to go to the hospital.  I am so thankful.  I was so scared.  It was another reminder of just how fragile life is and how precious is the gift of every single day we have together as a family.

Marc Garlett 91024