I just needed a place to get this all off of my chest and out somewhere, or I'm going to burst.
Saturday, my son, Alexander, bonked his knee on a stroller tray whilst being taken out of it, no blood, no broken skin. Nothing to give any indication of what was coming. Throughout Saturday and Sunday, he would stiffen his right leg and refuse to bend it, sobbing if it did bend. When we gave him Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen (children's versions, no more than 1 1/4 tablespoon every 4-6 hours), he would be find, bending, running like normal, and playing. Since he has recently begun to milk wounds (being 2 and 11 months) for more sympathy, we kept a close eye but were thinking he was getting more attention.
Now comes the hard part.
At 0130 Mountain time, he woke up screaming and crying, with a fever. We don't have anything to get a quick, easy temp, and he was not cool with anything in his mouth, so we got dressed and rushed to the local ER. There's the shell of a hospital there, but only the ER is functional. They start taking temps, noting he's hitting the 101 deg. F temp, and start doing tests. IV went in fine, so they started him on Phentonyol for pain. Seeing Alexander like that hurt. The doctor attending thankfully had the strength to say "We know there's something wrong with his hip, and we can't do anything here. So, we're going to transfer you to Presybetirian Saint Lukes and the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. The Childrens Hospital has a better trauma team, but the Rocky Mt. Hospital for Children has a lot better pediatric specialists, especially orthopedic." My wife and I nodded and signed paperwork. She went with the Ambulance, I ran home for electronics (cell chargers mainly, her laptop, my ipad) some extra bottles (just in case). Because of the possibility of surgery, his last actual food/water was 0330. We were transferred at 0530. Ambulance ride went without incident. Apparently Phentonyol is mildly narcotic, so Alexander was waving at empty benches and saying "Hi".
At St. Lukes, the ER pediatric docs were amazing. They had a good idea from the start that an operation was needed, so they moved into Morphine for a longer lasting pain blocker. We met the Physicians Assistant to the orthopedic surgeon at 0800, and he had a battery of questions. In the end, he said, it could be one of 2 things:
1.) The lining of the hip joint is, for lack of a better work, crumpled up and causing the joint to not rotate smoothly.
2.) There is a bacterial infection of the hip joint capsule.
After all the questions, he was 85% sure it was the second scenario. I keep a very close track of what Alexander is given in terms of medication, and in the first scenario, ibuprofen would have given him more motion than what he had. So, he then starts explaining that Alexander will be going into surgery, and what they do.
First, they tap the joint (stick a long needle in) and pull some fluid for cultures. If it's cloudy, white blood cells are in there going after the infection, which means they will know 100% right there that the first scenario is the right one. The second thing that needed to be done was a picc line needed to be put in from his left arm, through deep veins into the vas deferens because no antibiotic can really penetrate that far into the hip joint without some help. A picc line, as he explained is a much longer, more robust IV line. He was hoping they could get the picc line specialist in by 1030, if not he knew for a fact he would have the specialist in by 1230. The anesthesiologist was apparently the best in the state (and I looked him up, so yes, no lie there) and only worked one day a week at this hospital. A Dr. Lewis.
At 1000 Alexander got hot, so I called in the nurse. His fever had spiked up to 103.3F. We were rushed to Pre-op, and bumped a child with a broken leg who needed pins. Doctor ordered 6ml of Ibuprofen to bring the fever down, morphine for pain. Alexander, at this point, started having involuntary muscle spasms. Every time, it sounded like the worst pain he's ever been in. I asked what could be done, and they consulted with Dr. Lewis who said give him .5ml of Valium. That worked like a champ. It worked so well, in fact, Alexander's O2 levels dripped under 80% saturation due to him not taking deep breaths. O2 was brought out and aimed at his face, bringing it back up.
The specialist was not available until 1230, so I sent my wife home for a change of clothes, shower etc. Unfortunately, we're about an hour away from the hospital, so as she's heading back, all of the doc's, surgeon, PA's, and nurses choose that time to descend on the room. They explain everything (which is why this is now the hospital i'm taking Alexander to from now on) answer each of my questions like they're the most important thing in the world, and above all, they tell me that no matter what they're here to take care of my boy, and they know how important he is to me.
I'm hanging on by a thread, having to sign my name to 14 literal pages.
They hand me the cheap coveralls and a hair net, and say I can go back with him, but only until the general anesthetic is administered. and he passes out. Thread starting to break. I've managed to hold it together up to this point. Stoic, resolved, determined. Now, I'm starting to tear up. Having 3 nurses in my extended family, 2 nurses in the family, I'm pretty aware of the risks in the OR, even when everything is done perfectly.
So, I'm holding it together, I call my wife and put her on speaker and let her talk to Alexander, I tell her what's going on, she pulls over the the side of I-25 and holds it together long enough to say"I love you! We'll see you soon!" and hangs up. Later, she told me she couldn't see enough to drive. We get back to the OR, I pound knuckles with the Surgeon, Dr. Laura Benson, Dr. Lewis and the PA, Dr Dennis (I don't know his last name). They all do the reassurance thing. I nod, and hold Alexander's hand. Dr. Lewis says, due to the valium, Alexander won't remember this at all. 2 female nurses come in at that point, and Alexander, God bless him, does the chin up and a small wave to them as if to say "How you doin'?" They come over, and Dr. Lewis administers the anesthetic. Apparently it stings, as Alexander lets out a little cry. I leaned in close and told him I loved him, and I would see him as soon as he was done. I got it in as his eyes closed.
One of the female nurses walked me out, and I broke down in the hall. Never in my life have I felt this way. I work in IT, I can fix most things in my house, and I'm powerless to help and fix one of the cornerstones in my life. The nurse was kind enough to give me a couple of minutes to pull it back together before completing her part and giving me to the charge nurse. She looked me in the eye and said "We know you're good parents, and we know how much your little guy means. We will do everything we can humanly do to get him healthy."
Hell, I'm crying now. Thank God I chose to work the 4 hours I need to from home.
About an hour later, my wife comes in and we sit and discuss it. I explain everything they told me, she smiles through tears, and we walk down to a cafe to get food, water since neither of us had eaten much at all up to this point.
At 1430, the charge nurse called back to the OR to get a small status update, and gave it to us. "Picc line is in, they're flushing the joint. It was a bacterial infection. Another hour and you'll see Alexander. He's doing very, very well." My wife broke down. I teared up but caught most of it, and held her.
1530, Dr. Benson comes out to the waiting room and explains the procedure, and in general, what happened in the OR. Good was: everything was as she expected. Bacterial infection of the hip joint, it was flushed and cleaned, picc line went in smoothly. Things that did not go so well: Alexanders fever jumped to 104F - in a 65F room, that's a problem, and the hip joint capsule was dry at first. So, we got him in at a good early stage, any longer, and there might have been bone damage.
1545 - a PACU nurse comes out to get us, and we go back to see him. He's in leg braces for comfort. 4 inch incision on his leg. the picc line looks like an IV. He's still sound asleep. Again, all of my resolve shatters like plate glass on concrete and I sit in a chair, crying, knowing now he's ok, and we're through the (hopefully) hardest part of this whole thing. The PACU Nurse, April, is freaking awesome. Calms my wife down, talks to both of us (and, as my wife tells me in a text message this morning, came up to the room to check up on her and Alexander - simply amazing) and explains the next steps. When he wakes up, we can do water, and we need to keep close so he knows we're there. They, at this point, moved to an oral pain med, Z...something something with a morphine buffer to keep him pain free until it kicks in. Valium is still being administered for the spasms, to help him sleep. 30 minutes at least until he's moved into a normal room, after his eyes open and they do a check to make sure he feels hands on his feet, legs arms, tummy, chest and head. Each and every one of the nurses, surgeons, PA's, and Dr. Lewis come by to check up on him. Answer my wife's questions like they answered mine. Explained the outline of the recovery plan (for flexibility, it's only an outline) and generally act like human beings. They explain their part in the whole thing, what they did, and my wife and I thank each of them in turn...profusely.
We were moved into a room at 1630. The nurses in my family were clamoring to come to the room, so I started filtering them in. The nurse for the floor said "They can all come in. You're so tired, you're going to fall down the stairs if you keep it up!" so all 5 of them cam into the room and generally talked to Alexander, each held his hand in turn (so as not to overwhelm him) and asked some pointed questions of the nurse. (seriously, I don't know the terms, but it sounded like they were sharp questions. 2 of the 5 were NICU nurses (one for 35 years), 1 a pediatric nurse, 2 ER nurses - one of those my mom) so, I felt bad for the nurse, but I knew why. I apologized after and she said "No! I learned a lot from that conversation, so don't be sorry. They gave me their numbers, so if I have questions, I can ask them if I can't get answers here."
So, at this point, my job gave me a free 8 hours for the day, giving me 4 hours today, and said "When they're discharged, you're done for that day here to." I have a customer delivery tomorrow, so I have to go into the office for at least 6 hours (I don't expect it to take much longer than that).
As of this posting, he's eating french toast and scrambled eggs, hitting on the nurse (in his way) and is doing pretty well. Temp is fluctuating between 99 and 100F (105F is very very bad, 98.6F is normal human temp, for those who use C) which is normal for post operation and this type of infection. I'm working through tickets, doing laundry, will be getting a list of what my wife needs and wants.
Survived 19 hours of hell. Unlocked that achievement, and I don't want anymore from that list.
Thank you for reading. If you're in Denver, and need a good hospital, St. Lukes is a really great hospital. If people actually want pictures, I have them. If you have questions, I'll do my level best to answer them.