Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Monday night I dragged myself over to a bow-making party at a friend's house. No, we weren't working on our Katniss Everdeen costumes for next Halloween. We were making bows to decorate mailboxes for the holidays. I'm a member of the Backyard Friends group that raises money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta ("CHOA"). This is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart because we are (unfortunately) regular visitors to CHOA.

You all have your own problems to contend with, so I won't bore you with too many stories of the times I've scooped up one child or another and driven the 2.8 miles from our home to CHOA's Egleston campus. One of those trips, though, was truly life-changing, so I hope you'll indulge me on this one.

The Boy and the Girl are 20 months apart in age. Anyone with stair-step children will tell you that this means you will spend your entire winter with one or the other one home sick. When the Girl had just turned two and the Boy had just had his four month check-up, the Girl came down with a bad cold. She ran a super-high fever that we couldn't get down, even alternating Tylenol and Motrin. On a Saturday (because it's always a Saturday when you realize that your kid needs to see someone and the pediatrician is closed) the K took her over to CHOA. The diagnosis was pneumonia. On Sunday, the Girl seemed to be doing better on her antibiotics, but there was something not-right about the Boy. I don't know what it was that worried me, but I could tell he was really, really sick.

The K wasn't at home, so I called a neighbor to stay with the Girl and I put the Boy in the infant carrier and ran to the car. I was fixated on the thought that he wasn't breathing, so as I drove to CHOA, I kept one hand on the carrier and kept shaking it to make him cry. When we got to the Emergency Room it was mercifully empty so they checked his vital signs right away. The nurse slipped the little cuff over his big toe to measure his oxygen level. She looked immediately concerned.

"It must not be working. There's no way it could be that low." I glanced over at the monitor and saw that his oxygen level was dancing back and forth between the high 70s and 80%. Normal is 99-100%. She checked it again and the machine was not malfunctioning, the Boy was not getting enough oxygen. She checked his heart rate which, for a baby, should be about 100. His was 250 beats/minute. Everything after that went by in a flash. In a minute he was out of his clothes and into a hospital gown decorated with little spacemen. He was lying on a gurney across from the nurse's station.

A nurse talked to me, "Your baby is very sick. We don't have any rooms available, so we're going to work on him in the hallway." There were doctors and nurses and other people administering oxygen, giving him a breathing treatment, inserting a hair-thin needle into his tiny veins to draw blood. They kept asking me questions, "how old is he? when was he born? was he premature?" I answered like a robot. At some point, I called the K and told him what was happening.

"Well, he's going to be okay, isn't he?" the K asked.
"They're not saying that. No one has told me that he's going to be okay." I was terrified.

When they finally got him stabilized in the hallway, they moved us into a room in the Pulmonary Intensive Care Unit. A doctor came to see me, while the Boy lay in a hospital crib with an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and a tangle of wires connecting him to countless machines. The diagnosis was respiratory syncytial virus ("RSV") and secondary and tertiary and whatever's after tertiary infections everywhere - eyes, ears, urinary tract, throat, you get the idea. Some kids and babies get RSV and it's like the worst cold they've ever had, but they get over it with no problem. When infants, especially premature infants (the Boy was not premature) get it, it can be extremely serious.

The Boy was in the hospital for three days and I stayed with him the entire time, even sleeping in the little crib with him. The care he received at CHOA was excellent. Because I was nursing, they even provided me with three meals a day delivered to his room, so I didn't have to leave him.

We are nearing the seven year anniversary of this event and I am still writing this with tears streaming down my face, remembering how scared and helpless I felt. This will stay with me forever. I really, honestly believe that the doctors and nurses at CHOA saved the Boy's life. How can you not be eternally grateful for someone saving your child? So, I will always, always do what I can to give back to CHOA.

The Backyard Friends group makes these mailbox swags out of fresh greenery, pine cones, berries and the big bows that we made on Monday night. We made hundreds of bows. Here they are piled up in bags and strewn all over the floor at our hostess's house:

We received a tutorial in how to make the greenery swag:

Here is the finished product:

Isn't it pretty and festive? So, until November 9th the price is $40 per mailbox. After the 9th, the price goes up to $50 per mailbox. The final cut off for orders is November 28th. If you live in the Druid Hills or Decatur area and would like to have your mailbox decorated, leave me a comment or email me and I will get you information that you need to place an order.

Thanks for letting me be not-funny today and telling you about something that means a lot to me. You are seriously lucky I didn't tell you about our CHOA experience when the Girl almost severed her finger playing skee ball! Have a happy day everyone!


  1. God Bless CHOA. Beautifully written.

    1. No kidding! We've been there more times than I can count. We are incredibly fortunate to have them in our backyard. And, you know what? Valet parking at the Children's Center today was so easy I forgot that I'm mortified by the state of filth in the car. If you were a good husband you'd take it to Cactus this weekend and get it cleaned for me. ;o) Safe travels.

  2. Thanks for the link to your blog and for the sharing why CHOA is important to you - we have been very fortunate to not have to use their ER yet, but I know that when the time comes, we will be in excellent hands.

    1. I forgot to put my ER tip in the blog, which is this: if you have an injury ask to be put in the injury waiting room so that you don't have to sit with all the kids with communicable diseases. Nothing worse than going in for stitches and coming out with strep throat or worse! Thanks for commenting!