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Calling all hands–it’s a staph meeting

November 28, 2009
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After our long nap that Friday the 13th, I was relieved that no calamity had befallen us, but the day wasn’t over yet. As I was nursing Jesse contentedly in my newly put-together, extremely comfortable rocker-glider, Dean bounded up the stairs and announced, with his usual humorous aplomb, that our baby had been recalled. We had been summoned back to the hospital for some antibiotics because one of the lab cultures had come back positive for a strain of unidentified bacteria, and because they weren’t certain whether the bacteria had come from his skin (where it’s–believe it or not–normally present) or from an internal infection. But his previous low-grade fever and high-ish white blood cell count meant that something was tasking his newborn system, and so he was re-admitted as a pediatric patient.

Before long, it became apparent that the bacteria was a staphylococcus, or staph, strain. What blew my mind was the number of times I was asked if I had tested positive for Group B Strep, which I hadn’t. Last I checked, Strep and Staph were totally different strains of bacteria. I was also asked repeatedly if there had been anything unusual about my pregnancy. Well, aside from my tongue possibly being a map to buried treasure, no. I had to fight the urge to be smart-alecky (“At his second ultrasound, Jesse flipped us off…”), actually. I thought we’d be there for a while for them to draw new blood samples and be sent home with antibiotics, but then I found out we’d be there overnight for several courses of IV antibiotics.

I was devastated and nonplussed. We hadn’t been told to pack for an overnight stay, for one–and this meant that I hadn’t brought any of my postpartum supplies other than a change of pads, much less any food or drink. What was worse was that we were now in the pediatric unit, so I didn’t have access to the mother-baby unit refreshment stand. I’d discover the following day that I was to be fed, being the breastfeeding mother of the patient, but in the meantime we were in for the most harrowing night I can ever remember. Dean went with the nurses while Jesse got his IV, and I meanwhile sat wringing my hands in Jesse’s room, freaking out and thinking, “If I’d had him at home this never would have happened.” When Dean brought Jesse back–his hand immobilized by the complicated heplock they had created–Dean said to me, “He is so brave, Helen.” This struck me as a strange thing to hear Dean say, but then I realized that he was bonding with the baby too.

This being the same man who didn’t speak to me for a half hour when I told him I was pregnant.

But the doctor–a very nice woman–came in and explained that we should have results of the additional tests by 3 p.m. the next day, and that they should reveal the course of treatment from that point forward. By this point, it was nearly 10 p.m. I thought I could tough it out, and Dean said he’d stay with us. Jesse cried through most of the night, and I found myself in meltdown mode shortly after 3 a.m., sobbing hysterically with my newborn, wanting nothing other than to go home. My milk was starting to come in; Dean was holding me and the night nurse was comforting me. I remember blubbering out all of my fears as I tried to nurse Jesse and he’d find no solace there because latching on was so difficult. Finally, Jesse and I fell asleep–with him in my lap in the hospital bed.

The following morning, a shift change brought us a new nurse that we didn’t really see all that much of. Another doctor–different from the one we’d seen the previous night– came in, did an exam, and explained brusquely that Jesse might be sick and might not be but we needed to err on the safe side, and left. We sat and waited, and sat and waited, and sat and waited. Jesse had two normal temperatures in a row. I got breakfast, and lunch, and was asked to place an order for dinner. That’s when I started to get suspicious, and summoned the nurse to find out what was going on. It was now nearly 3. She explained that usually these infections meant a 48-hour stay in the hospital. I nearly lost it all over again. “I was told we’d have test results by this time!” I said, insistently. The nurse cocked her head. “Well, the doctor won’t be back in until this evening.”

ARGH! I nearly burst into tears again, but put my adamant hat on and told her what last night’s doctor had said. The nurse said she’d try and find out the results of the additional testing and call today’s doctor for more instructions.

An hour later she came back in and said we could go home; the tests showed he’d cleared whatever it was. Dean made the observation that I had been giving Jesse my antibodies since shortly after he was born, amniotic fluid in his tummy notwithstanding. (And I have the immune system of a tank, really. I don’t get sick often, although I’m apt to get run-down often enough because I’m Type A that way.)

The nurse ran down our discharge instructions and then went on to add a bit of unsolicited advice. “And don’t put your baby in the bed with you!” she said, firmly. Did we look suspiciously like co-sleepers to her? Or was she concerned about the fact that when she’d come in this morning, Jesse had been asleep in my lap? “They can suffocate,” she continued, “and when you go into a deep sleep, you can roll over on top of the baby.”

Yeah, like I roll over on top of my husband on a regular basis, right? I co-slept with my first son without ever having heard of attachment parenting (or co-sleeping, for that matter. It just made sense, and made him a better sleeper; he slept through the night at 6 weeks and slept in his bassinet or crib from that point onward, with the occasional exception for rough nights.

So we just smiled and nodded and took our little boy home–for good, this time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 12:30 am

    Good for you for standing up for yourself! I had a nightmarish night in the hospital when my first son was 2 and my second son was 6 weeks old…first son was admitted for Croup, and I didn’t really think he needed to be there, but I didn’t stand up for my son as you did. Fortunately we were discharged by 11 a.m. Nneither of us had been given anything for breakfast yet despite my multiple requests–I kept getting told that a tray of food would be coming for my son–so I was glad that at the least I’d insisted on going home from the pediatrician’s office to get dinner before going to the hospital the previous night, the pediatrician was NOT happy with me about that.

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