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Friday, February 16, 2007


The inevitable finally happened: Hallie is sick.

I had a bit of a runny nose about ten days ago and it seemed to have passed uneventfully, both for me and the kiddo. Sharon also began to feel like she was coming down with something this past Monday. Given that I work with sleep deprived young adults (big teenagers?), I'm always exposed to some stage of illness or another. But handwashing and purelling has kept Hallie well until now.

Anyway, on Sunday or Monday, Hallie began to make this curious new noise. She sounded a bit quacky like a duck. Sharon and I began to research vocal cord paralysis and damage pretty intensively. After all, the babe was intubated for 9.5 weeks and was diagnosed by an ENT tentatively as having a sluggish vocal cord, and seemed to be at risk for paralysis (and hence quacking). Neither of us was thrilled to find out that our little girl sounded a bit like Daffy, but this does, after all, seem like a small price to pay.

Tuesday, she began to have a bit of a runny nose, but it is freezing out and the weather has been weird and terrible.

Wednesday, she started to drool even more than typical and seemed generally miserable (but still feisty). This we attributed to teething.

But by last night, at around 11pm, it seemed like too much was happening all at once. Suddenly, Sharon thought, "Where have I seen this combination of symptoms before? In Aunt Laura's kids when they had croup." So, she did what any internet savvy parent does: she google 'croup' and the symptoms matched up.

Sometimes micropreemies behave just like regular kids.

But these micropreemie parents weren't going to take any chances. so we bundled Hallie up and headed off to Children's Hospital.

Aside: This process of heading off was facilitated by the fact that just a few short hours earlier, Sharon had dug out and de-iced the car. Our annoying pilot light had gone out again, and once more the culprit was the evil (and 2.5 dollar) thermocoupler. It blew for the first time a year after we had the heater installed--coincidentally, on Valentine's Day--and has burned out ever since then at least once a winter. We've been pretty complaisant about things and hence didn't have an extra one in the house (we have, after all, been a bit busy this year). but we've learned our lesson. Around about mid afternoon yesterday, Sharon remarked that Hallie's room was cold. This made sense given that it was 22 degrees outside. I thought that the heater hadn't kicked in as well as it should have because I was baking potatoes downstairs, which raised the temp in the living room/dining area and not just the kitchen. As it turns out, I mis-read our thermostat (just because I have a PhD doesn't mean that I am smart; indeed, there seems to be a clear correlation between excessive amounts of eduation and the capacity to do anything remotely practical). Anyway, I digress (as usual). After I got home from the gym last night at around 8pm, the house was seriously cold and it became clear to both of us (and not just to my more astute partner) that there was a problem. So I bundled up Hallie in a fleece jacket and pants, wrapped her in two big blankets, and held her while Sharon dug out the car and headed off to Home Depot. The part really is cheap and it took Sharon less than half an hour to fix the heater; this makes her feel especially competent, and is a good thing all around since the heater repair people charge about 350 dollars to do what she did and they don't work as quickly, effectively, and neatly.

Anyway, the car was ready to go, and in a matter of minutes, so were we. We made our way down empty and snowy/icy Philly streets, thanking our good fortune to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and got to CHOP in 15 minutes, even though the lights were poorly timed and we had to stop at pretty much every corner. The door from the parking lot to the hospital annex was locked, and so we had to speed Hallie's stroller down a few driveways and along an icy street to the ER entrance. But from there on it was smooth sailing: the ER was empty and quiet, they triaged Hallie in a matter of seconds, and we saw nurses, fellows, attendings and the like very quickly. Everyone concurred that this was indeed croup, and that it was probably caused by a parainfluenza virus (and happily not RSV). They administered some oral steroids (yummy cherry flavor, and hopefully not something that will lead to complications later on) and nebulized epinephrine to help her sound less 'junky.' And they kept her (and us) under observation for the next six hours. I must say that the ER rooms, while nicely equipped with DVD/VCR/TV combos and free phone calls, are none to comfy for the parents and that it's never a good thing to sleep sitting up in a plastic armchair. Hallie rested better in her hospital cot, with Mommy Sharon holding her while she snoozed. Anyway, after 6 hours of observation, they decided to let us go rather than admit Hallie---Hallie sounded a lot clearer and the attending did not want to expose her to anything else in CHOP. (When I worked at CHOP as a temp and then a part time employee in grad school, we used to call the air in there the "CHOP Rot" because it got us all sick all the time).

So, at least for now (and hopefully for the duration of this cold), we are home watching our girl carefully. We're using a cool mist humidifier, regular Albuterol administrations, plenty of fluids (she actually seems comforted by drinking from the bottle---this is a new one and maybe it will outlast the cold), and steamy bathrooms to manage the babe.

And meanwhile, both of us have gotten pretty sick. So there must be something going around. We're not sure whether this is a resurgence of my cold-that-never-blossomed of last week, a result of having too many people over on Saturday night (Yes, we've learned our lesson and will be hibernating more effectively), or our play date with our ICN mate who also ended up getting sick. Either way, hopefully it will get better soon and Hallie will no longer sound like a seal cub, I will get my voice and swallowing capacities back, and Sharon will stop sneezing.

The prospects for this seem better than, say, peace in the Middle East, a quick end to the Iraq War, and winning a Suitecase of Cash in the A&E Sopranos contest. Let's hope they're a lot, lot better.

Meanwhile, time to go make some more hot tea!


Lathan, Lauren, Logan, London said...

Awww...a house full of sickies is no fun, especially when one is an infant!

Our house just got over something similar - sore throats, coughs, runny noses, you name it! Thankfully it was over with fairly quickly (3 sick babies will make you want to pull your hair out!) and we all seem to be healthy now.

Here's to keeping warm and getting better!!!


Laura said...

awww sorry sweet baby is sick. it's great she got this far into the season healthy, relly.
racemic epi treatments rock! it always did the trick for my little man when his albuterol treatments at home didn't work.
i don't know if you know but daniel's left vocal cord is paralyzed. but he has a super right vocal cord and his ent tells us they can fix thbis, when he is older after his voice changes. we'll explore that option if need be when we come to it. for now, it is not an issue except with speech. we had to really work with speech therapy to teach him to speak from his diaphragm. an easy thing for his vocalist mama to reinforce. he does pretty well considering he can caryy that little voice of his through our 3,000 sq ft house just as well as his sisters.
feel better.

Maggie (Sarah's mom) said...

I hope you ALL feel better real soon! I'm sure taking Hallie to the ER was not a fun experience but it's good to hear it wasn't RSV.

Sending healing vibes to all of you!