Five days before Holden’s scheduled cranial vault surgery, he woke up in the middle of the night with a harsh, barking cough. His little body was gasping so hard for air that it looked like his tiny chest was touching his back. His whole body was contorting and he was livid. Sam and I knew immediately that it was croup.
Holden and I drove over to Dell Children’s in the middle of the night where he received a big dose of steroids and several breathing treatments. Luckily, he started doing better and we were sent home the following evening.
Much to my horror and disbelief, Holden licked the floor of the emergency room shortly after we arrived. I am divulging this detail now because it may have been the catalyst that set the rest of this story into motion.
Holden continued to get better over the weekend. There were a few spells where he coughed so hard that he threw up, but this didn’t particularly worry me because babies can vomit when they have congestion and can’t get rid of their phlegm.
Two days before Holden’s cranial vault surgery his symptoms were under control. His pediatrician and anesthesiologist thought any respiratory risk he faced during his surgery could be managed with some additional steroids. The vote from his entire care team was to move forward with his surgery.
Since we had the green light to proceed with Holden’s surgery, Sam and I began packing up the car for our roadtrip to Dallas. We were about to load Holden into the car to leave when I got a phone call from the boys’ daycare.
“Mrs. Smith,” said the Director. “Everett has thrown up three times and we need someone to come get him.”
Suddenly everything started to click. Holden’s cough hadn’t made him vomit. He had LICKED THE FLOOR at the hospital. The boys had a stomach bug.
It was getting late and we needed to be in Dallas for a 6:30 a.m. MRI appointment the next day, so we left Everett with my mother and started our trek.
About the time we reached the Austin City Limits, Sam started feeling nauseous. As we sat in a 1.5 hour traffic jam, Sam opened up the passenger door to treat the surrounding cars to a delightful upchuck. Sam now had the stomach bug!
Another fun detail I thought I would mention here is that, while all of this is going on, Sam is suffering from viral hemorrhagic pink eye. The whole family had it, but Sam’s was so bad that his right eye was swollen shut for four days.
Meanwhile, in the backseat, Holden had recommenced his vomiting. We pulled over to a particularly filthy gas station and I took Holden inside to clean him up. When I returned to the car, Sam was alternating between cleaning the puke out of Holden’s car seat, and turning around and vomiting on the pavement.
Eventually, we managed to get back on the road. Holden then decided it was time to scream inconsolably for over an hour while Sam kept on puking. This is the point where I realized the only way to survive this was to start laughing. I cracked my window, put on “Bon Jovi Radio” and belted out my favorite tunes, all the while trying not to breathe in through my nose or listen too closely to the hurling and screaming surrounding me.
When we pulled up to our hotel that night after what ended up being a six hour journey, we had a sleeping baby, a sick father, a worried mother and two cups full of puke. I was starting to feel like surgery in less than 36 hours was a terrible idea.
That night Holden’s cough worsened and the next morning at his pre-op visit, the decision was made to reschedule his surgery. Part of me was immensely relieved because I was getting extremely nervous about proceeding with him not being 100 percent. Yet, part of me was immensely frustrated because it had taken so much physically, mentally and logistically to get us to this point. I really wanted it to be over with for him so that he could start the healing process. I also wanted it to be over for me so I that would know he had survived.
Hopefully, this experience has taught Sam and I a little more about how to handle medical adversity with humor and level-headedness. In a few weeks, we will put this to the test when we load up once again to drive Holden to Dallas for his surgery. Fingers crossed, this time the journey will be puke-free.