Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Fever

Well, it happened. I’ve been dreading it forever and it finally happened. Jackson spiked his first fever in the middle of the night last night, and it was just as bad as I’d imagined it would be, although in a different way.
Sleeping through the night never really took (more on that when I finally get to Jackson’s 6-month update, hopefully tomorrow), so I’ve been getting up again to nurse him a few times a night for the last few weeks. Last night when he woke up at about 4AM, I nursed him and when he was finished eating, I put him up over my shoulder to let him burp before putting him back down. All of a sudden, I realized that his neck felt very warm to me. I felt his forehead and it also felt hot, as did the one cheek that had been nestled against my skin. His other cheek felt cooler, so I almost just put him back down (he couldn’t really have a fever, could he?), but then I decided I should check his temperature just in case.

I unzipped his jammies, and as soon as I put my hand on his tummy, it was like I was transported back in time. His skin felt like it as on fire, and for an instant, it was like it was her on the changing table, like I was touching her tummy, so surprised at how hot she was, because she’d never really run a high fever before. It was like I was right back there with her, at 4AM, not knowing what to do. It occurred to me that it was probably just a mild reaction to his shots yesterday, but that was little comfort under the circumstances.

Somehow, I maintained my composure long enough to take his temperature (it was 101.8—not a piddling fever), take him into our room and tell Ed that he had a fever, read my Portable Pediatrician book (I couldn’t remember what temperature was considered problematic at this age), and go downstairs, then outside to the car in my bare feet, looking for his discharge instructions about side effects of the immunizations. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I sat there and hemmed and hawed for about 5 minutes trying to decide what to do. Ultimately, I decided that if anyone is entitled to a middle-of-the-night phone call to the pediatrician, even an ultimately groundless one, it’s me. So I called. I expected to have to leave a message and wait for a call back, but the answering service connected me straight to the doctor. It was the same doctor who saw Hudson on that terrible, terrible morning last May, but not the same doctor Jackson usually sees now (there are two partners in the practice). She sounded pointedly annoyed, especially after I explained why I was calling. This surprised me—looking back on it now, I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and think that either 1) she didn’t realize it was ME and JACKSON (i.e., mother and brother of HUDSON, the child who died from meningitis last May after she herself sent us home to take more Tylenol) or 2) it was four in the morning and she wasn’t making any conscious effort to sound annoyed or otherwise—she was just barely awake. She told me to give him Tylenol and I asked if I should be worried otherwise. She asked if anything else was going on, and I said no, but of course in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “But nothing else was going on with Hudson, either!” She said if he kept running a fever, then he should be seen.

So I hung up, gave Jackson some Tylenol, settled into the bed with him, snuggled him close, and began to sob. I cried and cried and cried. I really hadn’t been afraid, because I did realize almost immediately that this fever could be easily explained. But what I hadn’t anticipated was the PTSD-like reaction I had. The hot tummy. The surprise. The confusion. The decision to make.

All I wanted in the entire world was to have that same decision point with her back. All over again, all I wanted was the chance to call the pediatrician instead of waiting it out until the office opened. Or the chance to go on to the ER where maybe they’d have been more familiar with signs of meningitis and would have caught it in time.

All I wanted in the entire world was another chance to rewrite the ending. Another chance to save her.

Why, oh, why couldn’t I save her?


  1. How I wish there were something I could do or say, some way to rewrite the ending, some way to change the cruelty of Hudson not being here. I hope Jackson is feeling better today.

  2. Wish we could make your pain go away. Its so hard to understand why something like that happens to precious children. You did for Hudson and do for Jackson what you think is best, have faith in your instincts. Trust yourself. I hope that Jackson feels better today.

  3. You got through it. Hang in there sweet friend. You are awesome.
    - Sarah

  4. I am glad you made it through the day too.

    There is so much trama associated with sudden loss that can take over at any moment. Getting through it is a monumental task.

    Love to you and yours -Meredith

  5. I never met this doctor but I have a very deep dislike for her. Tylenol seems to be her answer to everything.

  6. Of course it's PTSD. And If I could roll back the clock for you, I surely would. And beyond all of this, I am more than a little annoyed that the doctor sounded annoyed. Seriously. She must not have realized who it was.
    Sending you big hugs. You and Ed and Jackson made it through. Take a deep breath.

  7. That's a tough night. You are so strong. It's always going to be hard but you are coping amazingly well. We can't let fear rule our lives even though I know, that’s easier said than done. I hope Jackson is feeling better soon. I'll be thinking about you guys.

  8. Been there. It's so hard. Hugs, Mandy.

  9. I'm sorry, but I also don't like this doctor and I'm glad that you don't see her on a regular basis. If she did realize later on who you were (because I really hope she didn't at the time, because I can't imagine not showing you more compassion if she had), she could have called to check up on Jackson later in the day, even though it really was just a reaction to the vaccines.

    I am so sorry that you had to go through this. It's so understandable, but that doesn't make it any less scary.


  10. Oh momma. I'm hoping Jackson is feeling better, and I'm so sorry for the stressful night you must have had. :( I'm dreading all that fever business.

  11. Hi, Mandy -- I haven't commented in awhile, but I have been reading and adoring the photos of your gorgeous baby boy and I marvel at how much he and Hudson look alike. I hope Jackson is feeling better today...I would have cried and cried and cried as well. I don't like the ped who answered the phone - and I think she should have called you in the morning merely as a courtesy.
    (((hugs))) Mariann PS -- OOPS -- I was actually checking in to tell you that the kids and I (Madison 12, Eden 11, Michael 11) are going to cook and serve dinner at Christ House in Alexandria tomorrow evening in honor of Hudson.

  12. Oh Mandy. I can't imagine. And I can only hope that the doctor didn't realise who you and Jackson were because, otherwise, her behaviour is inexcusable. My heart was just aching for you throughout this entire post xo