June had arrived, and it was just a few days before our inaugural out-of-state flight with Sam.
We spent those last hours compiling lists…and more lists…and double checking those lists.
How much formula can we bring on the flight?
Where do we check in the stroller?
How do we entertain Sam for almost 5 hours?
How do we ease the pain of popping ears…and what do we do if he starts screaming on a crowded airplane?
The day had finally arrived, and we just agreed to not stress too much about it. We prepared as much as we could, and there was only so much we could do.
Sam ready to fly!
Well, I’m happy to announce that our 5 hour-long flight (including layover) to Washington state was smooth and pleasant!
Sam was a happy boy, and he entertained the people sitting around us with his coos, laughter and curiosity.
It was beyond what we hoped for, and we felt like pros!
The visit with my sister and her family was wonderful. Sam got to play with his cousins, we attended my niece’s graduation, and we all shared some quality time together.
Our short weekend was over before we knew it, and it was time to head back home.
Our departure date had arrived, and unlike a few days earlier, we felt confident for the flight ahead.
It would be a short jaunt to Seattle and then another two hours to L.A.
As we settled in by our gate, Sam began to act really fussy which was strange because we just fed him and changed his diaper. Hubby walked around the waiting area multiple times trying to soothe him, but he was still unhappy.
On the flight to Seattle, it seamed like no position was comfortable for Sam. We tried laying him down on our laps, holding him on our shoulders, sitting him up, and putting him on his belly.
We even tried feeding him again, but he jerked his head to avoid the bottle.
On our layover, I had Sam in his baby bjorn, and we walked quite a way to get to our connecting flight. As we took the tram to our gate, Sam started screaming.
It wasn’t just a scream…it was a painful scream.
Other travelers glanced over at me with disapproving eyes. “Did you feed him?” asked one obviously annoyed man.
“Yes I did.”
I focused on Sam and avoided all eye contact.
When we approached our gate, they were already boarding, so there was no time to waste.
Sam screamed at the top of his lungs as we waited in line. I could feel everyone’s eyes burning into me. My hubby began to apologize to people in line. When we found our seat, again, he apologized to everyone around us. I just held onto Sam reassuring him everything would be ok.
I took the window seat with hubby in the middle and a friendly older lady on the aisle.
“Sorry about this,” said hubby.
“I understand. I’ve been there.”
And so began the longest two hour flight imaginable.
The screams continued followed by soft moans. Sam twisted and writhed in pain.
And then began the vomiting.
First on hubby. Then on me. As we passed him back and forth to clean ourselves up, he would throw up again.
The odor filled our section. We apologized to everyone again.
We tried to figure out if it was something he ate, but all we gave him was formula and some baby apple sauce, and everything had been sterilized beforehand. Then we thought it was some bug he caught in Washington.
A strange rash began to grow on his left cheek. It was bright red, and it grew quickly.
Sam was exhausted and moaned in pain. There was no ways to comfort him. The situation seemed hopeless, and the hours couldn’t go by any slower.
At long, LONG last, the pilot announced our decent. A wave of relief washed over us.
At this time, Sam was burning up, so we rushed home.
Hubby went to the store to pick up some children’s Tylenol, and I proceeded to cool him down.
His vomiting appeared to have stopped, but he was still in so much pain.
Before cleaning myself up, I put him in his crib and noticed that he quickly grabbed his feet and pulled them close to his chest before falling asleep in that position.
While I was in the bathroom, he screamed painfully again, so I dropped everything and ran into his room.
Vomit covered his crib mattress, face and hands.
He looked up at me with exhausted, innocent eyes as if to say, “Help me mama.”
I gently picked him up, washed him down and held him close.
The nurse advised we take Sam to the ER asap…just in case.
So we grabbed a few things and rushed down to the ER.
Sam was given anti-nausea medication once we were seen by the nurse. The general diagnosis was that he had a viral illness known as Fifth Disease, otherwise known as Slapped Cheek Disease…hence the rash on his cheek. After being diagnosed, he was given Pedialyte to prevent dehydration. Once he showed signs of improvement, they discharged Sam, and we made our way home around 1:30am.
Sam was still uncomfortable, but he eventually fell asleep.
The next day, he was still in obvious pain.
Soft moans and cries filled his every breath.
That morning, my mom and I took him to his pediatrician for a follow-up appointment, and she, too, diagnosed him with Fifth Disease and a viral disease that caused the vomiting. She told us to continue with the Pedialyte and Children’s Tylenol for his fever and to watch for any blisters in the mouth which comes with Fifth Disease.
That day I spent monitoring him, consoling him, cooling him down, giving him his medication, hydrating him, and holding him.
He didn’t seem too interested in the Pedialyte, but thankfully, he did take small sips.
We noticed that his diapers were quite dry and thought it was due to the dehydration.
That night, hubby and I took 3 hour shifts so one of us could take care of Sam while the other could get some sleep.
Hubby took the first shift, and around midnight he woke me up.
“Look at this.”
Sam had thrown up blood on his burpy cloth.
Without hesitation, we were back in the car heading straight for the ER.
We checked in, and while the admitting nurse took his vitals, she looked us up and down, and with a judgmental smirk on her face said,
“Started late, huh?”
I was numb. We came in because our baby threw up blood (a quite serious problem if you ask me!), and she had the audacity to judge us for being older parents.
If I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have called her a *you know what*, but instead, we both explained that we were adoptive parents and were very blessed to have Sam in our lives.
And she just looked down and said, “Oh.”
We were sent back to the waiting room to await our turn.
After 3 hours of Sam filling the waiting room with soft moans, hubby returned to talk to the *you know what* and reinforced the fact that Sam was not doing well and needed help.
He was finally taken into an actual hospital room where, for the entire evening and morning, was monitored, given an IV to keep him hydrated, had blood and urine tests, given Tylenol, and had his temperature taken twice.
The night wore on, and Sam continued getting IVs. The nurse said I could lay next to him on the bed, and so I did while rubbing his arm and kissing his forehead.
By morning, there was still no improvement, and the night doctor said that he wanted him admitted for more observation.
Hubby and I noticed that his diaper had the blue “indicator” line noting that he was wet, so when we opened his diaper, we noticed that there was bright red blood in his diaper.
We grabbed the first nurse we could find and asked, “What is this?!”
She briefly looked at it and said, “Oh it’s probably a broken blood vessel caused from the thermometer being inserted too hard.”
Being somewhat relieved, we continued to comfort Sam and sit by his side. More liquids were given to him for another hour or so, and our assigned nurse said his diaper was wet again, so she proceeded to change his diaper.
A large, bright spot of blood marked his diaper.
We explained to her what the other nurse told us about it being due to the rough insertion of a thermometer causing broken blood vessels.
“That is NOT the reason for this!”
She quickly grabbed Sam’s new doctor now on duty and explained his symptoms.
I could see the doctor’s mind working overtime.
“Sam needs an ultrasound asap. It might be intussusception.”
“Wait, what is that?!”
“An intestinal blockage caused when the intestines telescope in on each other.”
“What does that mean for Sam?!”
“If it’s the worst case scenario, surgery.”
Blood rushed out of our faces at the mere thought of the severity of the situation.
I quickly called my parents and friends letting them know what was going on.
We rushed to the ultrasound department with Sam in his gurney, and after close examination, it was confirmed that Sam did have intussusception.
Back in his hospital room, the doctor explained what was next.
“We’re going to try a barium enema first. If that doesn’t work, he will need surgery asap.”
A barium enema is when they take an X-ray while injecting fluid and air into the rectum and into your colon to try to correct the intestinal blockage.
“Is this fatal?” I asked the doctor.
“It can be, but we caught it in time.”
Hubby was asked to sit in the gurney holding Sam as they quickly wheeled him to the x-ray room.
Only one of us was allowed into the room. I asked my hubby to go because I was already an emotional mess.
From the waiting room, I could hear Sam scream…and howel.
“We need more tape!”
“Hold him still!!”
“More towels…get more towels!”
Sam’s screams grew in intensity.
It felt like an eternity before the x-ray door opened. I sat in the gurney this time, and Sam was placed in my arms.
“Did it work?”
“No, even though all of the backed up debris was flushed out, it didn’t correct the problem. He still needs surgery.”
Sam nuzzled into my arms as they wheeled us directly to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) where a staff of nurses stood ready to care for and prep Sam for surgery.
As they carefully took him out of my arms, I noticed his entire diaper was saturated with blood.
“What happened?! He’s bleeding!”
“That is from the enema”, the nurse explained.
Hubby looked at me. “I’m glad I was in the room and not you during the enema because you would have either thrown up or passed out. It was horrible!”
The nurses cleaned Sam and put him in a fresh hospital gown.
At this time I learned that the rash on his face was not from Slapped Cheek Disease. It was actually from the stomach bile that accidentally rubbed onto his cheek after he vomited on us and brushed his cheek on it.
I was so happy to see my parents enter through the PICU doors. Even my dad, who is going through his own personal health battle, came to shower Sam with love and support.
It didn’t take long before the surgeon entered Sam’s room to explain the three things that could happen during his laparoscopic surgery:
- He could pull apart the intestine segments and it could correct itself.
- If part of the intestine died due to lack of blood flow to certain segments, it would be required for him to remove those sections and reconnect the intestines.
- After removing part of the intestine, depending on the severity, it might be required for Sam to have an ostomy bag.
It was time to move Sam into pre-op. Hubby and I were allowed to go with Sam where we met another surgeon and the anesthesiologist who further explained the next steps and how depending on the surgery, it could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
After kissing Sam goodbye and saying a prayer for him, we went into the waiting room where we found my parents and best friend full of love and support.
The hour crept by with still no update.
Finally, our surgeon arrived and summoned us into a conference room.
“It went well, and he’s resting comfortably.”
The surgeon explained that part of his small intestine slipped into his large intestine causing a blockage, and so due to the lack of blood flow to these parts, they had to remove the dead intestine portions consisting of 25% of his large intestine, 4″ of his small intestine and his appendix.
We couldn’t believe what our little boy had just gone through and all the suffering he endured for over 24 hours.
Sam recovering peacefully.
Sam’s wonderfully loving and supportive Grandparents.
But thank God his intussusception was discovered early on and that Sam had an amazing medical team helping him every step of the way!
For the next week, Sam recovered in the PICU and had the best of care from a professional and compassionate team of nurses and doctors. Sam also had so many visits from family and friends that meant the world to us!
The staff did everything they could to make Sam (and us!) feel as comfortable as possible in our new home for the next week!
Sam was what they called a “hard pick”, meaning that after they exhausted all the available veins on his toes, ankles, wrists and fingers, they gave Sam a PICC line as a last resort. The insertion of a PICC line is a very delicate procedure where an IV gets placed in his scalp and gets threaded all the way down his head and neck and into the large vein that enters his heart. The nice thing about a PICC line is that once it’s in place, it can stay there until it is no longer needed.
Sam’s PICC line
Sam’s first hair cut due to his PICC line.
Every day we hoped to hear “bowel” sounds. That would indicate that things were healing nicely, and he’d be ready for nummies!
A few days later, the long-awaited sound occurred, and the next day, he was allowed to have small sips of Pedialyte. We monitored Sam closely to ensure he kept it down.
We were moved into a private room where Sam continued to heal and where his fun personality started to re-emerge!
On the day before we left, Sam gave us a small smile telling us that everything was going to be ok.
We lovingly placed him in his car seat, said goodbye to the awesome nurses and staff, took one last look at what had been our home for the last week, and walked out the door!
Grandma and Grandpa surprised Sam with quite a homecoming! Colorful balloons and a huge sign welcomed us on our porch!
Someone is happy to be home!
Looking back, it’s like a bad nightmare…that actually happened!
What we took away from this experience is that if anything doesn’t seem right with your child, parent, you, or anyone you know…don’t hesitate to seek medical advice! You never know what it could be, and time could be of the essence! We had never heard of intussusception, but now we are pros on the subject and know more than we ever wanted to know!
Another thing is that life is precious and can come and go in the blink of an eye. Savor every moment, and make the most of the time you’ve been given with your family and friends because tomorrow is not guaranteed!
One month later, Sam is happy and healthy and recovering nicely. He’s getting close to crawling, enjoying new foods, laughing and enjoying life!
Seeing him smile again means everything to us, and now whenever he cries for the umpteenth time, wakes me up early, or disrupts my at-the-moment plans, I don’t get upset. Rather, I just hold him a little bit longer and thank God for this precious gift He blessed us with.
Mommy and Daddy love you Sam!