Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back home

Oliver is home again and recovering well. It's not clear whether he had a virus and/or his problems were asthma related, but it looks like just the former at the moment.

Hayley had a terrible night with him the first night he was in hospital. He had a very disturbed night needing inhalers and later a mixture of oxygen with vaporised salbutamol. When I arrived in the morning poor Hayley looked exhausted, so we decided I should do the next night shift.

During the day Oliver had regular "puffs" from the inhaler: up to 10 puffs every 2 hours! By comparison, Hayley, who is asthmatic, will take one or two puffs on the rare occasion she becomes wheezy.

When Tuesday evening came, Hayley went home after we had put Oliver to sleep in the ward and and left me with the little man until morning. It was a long and not very restful night for me, but he did much better! After talking to the nurses, we decided not to use the inhaler which he wasn't very happy with, but instead used the nebuliser with its mixture of oxygen and vaporised salubutamol which he could even breathe in (in theory at least) as he slept.

He had one session with the nebuliser at 11.25pm, but after that he made it right through the night without any more interventions. His oxygen level was being montiored and it would occasionally drop to a level that caused an alarm to go off. I always seemed to be trying to sleep when this happened, causing me to leap up from the bed. Consistently it would then go back up as he stirred and the nurse who appeared would say "oh, it's fine as long as it gos back up; the machines can be a bit temperemental". Combine this with the comings and goings of nurses and the arrival of another baby who (get this) was in because he was having sleep problems(!), and you start to see why I didn't sleep much even if Oliver did.

Meanwhile Oliver contin ued to improve. As the night went on his oxygen level went up, even without any inhaler or nebuliser.

When the insomniac baby cried Oliver would raise up his head wondering what was going on. I'd tell him it was OK and he'd lie back down. Several times the cable attached to Oliver's toe to measure the blood oxygen level (how does it do that?!) would come loose and need removing and refitting. The lights were put on, Oliver would wake, sit up and look sleepily at me and the nurse, before giving her a big smile. "Oh you're gorgeous", she told him. Then after all the fuss I would turn the light out and he would lie back down, as good as gold.

In those moments as he lay there holding Julien and looking up at me with big sleepy eyes as I leaned over him stroking his head and whispering to him "it's sleepy-byes time little man", I felt filled with an enormous sense of gratitude that I could be there for him as his source of security, of re-assurance, of his feeling that everything was OK because I was there. It is very hard to describe the feelings of love you have for your child, but those moments were ones where I felt truly connected to him and knew why I had been put on this planet.

By the time morning came Oliver was breathing well but a little fast. His oxygen level was good so I was re-assured as I lay on the bed next to his cot (feeling absolutely shattered!).

But when I got up and felt him he was very hot to the touch. I called a nurse who took his temperature. He told me it was 36.7C (where 37C is normal). He took it with a machine I wasn't familar with and I didn't catch the reading propoerly, but I knew this couldn't be right. I asked him how could he be so hot and he told me "well he's fighting it off". "Yes, so he has a temperature". The conversation continued with him telling me he didn't have a temperature until he realised I wasn't going to be fobbed off and was getting pretty annoyed. When he re-took the measurement as I requested, sure enough Oliver had a high temperature of 38.7C. The nurse quickly went off to get paracetamol. After that he was very much more friendly, no doubt trying to recover from his potentially serious error and frankly poor attitude.

There's one thing I have learned about being in hospitals: don't stop questioning the professionals until you get an answer you are happy with. Some of them will try to fob you off, others will just be unaware of what has been going on because they have just come on shift. I naturally tend to defer to the judgement of professionals, but that doesn't mean they can patronise me or tell me errant nonsense when it is my son's health that is at stake. Having said that, the nursing staff were generally all great and Hayley brought in a card and some chocolates when the time came to leave (and the same for the playroom staff who seem to get forgotten).

SO last night it was a relief to have the little man home and even though we seemed not to sleep all last night because we kept checking on him, he did well overall. We did decide to give him his inhaler by 5am, but by that point he had started to become more comfortable with it. In fact today, while I was at work (and again tonight at bedtime), Hayley was able to administer the inhaler single handed and he sat quite compliant. Kids are tough little cookies. And so adaptable!

There's phrase Hayley and I use perhaps more than any other about him these days and it's more true than ever when I think of how well he has coped this week: "He's such a good little boy!".