Monday, January 27, 2020

From Emergency to Children's Hospital

We got N's diagnosis on a Sunday morning at about 1 a.m. in our local emergency room.  Things moved pretty quickly from there.  Our hospital often transports pediatric patients to a larger city Children's Hospital about two hours away.  The emergency room doctor gave me the diagnosis and told me what they were doing to treat my son who was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).  DKA is a life-threatening problem that occurs when the body starts breaking down fat too quickly because the insulin isn't there or isn't doing it's job; the liver responds by turning the fat into ketones which causes the blood to become acidic.  The breathing my son was doing was his body's attempt to bring down his acidity.  They were treating him with IV fluids and insulin and were already coordinating with the Children's Hospital to transfer him.  Our ER doctor warned me that he would go to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at first because of the DKA.  The weather that night was super windy and rainy and they were concerned the ambulance would take too long and possibly get stuck in traffic so a helicopter was coming to pick him up.

Things settled down in the room we were in and I had a chance to give my son a hug and stroke his hair.  My ten-year-old doesn't usually like these displays of affection in public but he didn't seem to mind that night.  I told him we knew what was wrong and we were going to be able to get him feeling better over the next couple of days and that he was in good hands and could sleep if he wanted.  He was out a few minutes later.  A nurse hugged me and told me she was sorry all this was happening and that my son has diabetes but I just told her thank you because I knew the problem and I knew we could work with it.  We can't cure type 1 diabetes (yet) but I'd had a friend with type 1 in my twenties and his life had seemed to be going pretty well so I knew we could work it out.

So, the helicopter is small and is set up as a self-contained emergency room.  When the crew arrived to pick my son up they wanted to weigh me to see if I could go with him.  I needed to be under 150lbs...I didn't bother to get on the scale but I did chuckle and thank them for their grace.  N went in the helicopter and my husband and I drove the two hours to the new hospital.  My sister, who had taken us to the ER, went back to my house to break the news to my sixteen-year-old when he woke for school.

When we got to N's new hospital room (ICU) he had just barely arrived and they still had the gurney next to his bed.  There were so many people in there that we weren't sure who to talk to.  My sister is a nurse, my mother is a nurse, and several others in my extended family are nurses so I always look to them.  Our ICU nurse was wonderful.  She made sure I knew what was happening at every step and my training to be a type 1 diabetes mom started the moment I arrived in that room.  She told me everything she was doing and why she was doing it and under what circumstances I would be doing it too.  I didn't sleep much in the 3 days we were in the hospital but I learned a lot.  We were at Children's Hospital Monday morning (3 a.m.) and we went home Wednesday afternoon (1 pm).  In that time we met with an endocrinologist, a dietitian, a nutritionist, a counselor, and someone (I don't know what his title was) who explained all our supplies to us.  We learned about counting carbs, calculating insulin to cover, how to correct for lows and highs, sick day management, how to check blood glucose levels, and how to give insulin injections.  We gave our first insulin injections to our son under the supervision and coaching of the nursing staff.

The best part about being in the hospital was having experts around all the time helping us to learn our new skills.   We were anxious to get home though since our teenager was home alone, we were far from family and support systems, we weren't able to sleep very well, and my son was tired of eating his food cold.  We would order his meals then have to wait for them to arrive in his room before giving his insulin since sometimes the kitchen would get behind and ordered food could take up to an hour to arrive.  He'd then have to wait 15 minutes before he could eat.

We left the hospital on Wednesday afternoon with hundreds of dollars in diabetes supplies and our new worries and anxieties.  Thankfully I am a teacher and we were a little more than a week from our winter break so I made arrangements to take those days off to meet with my son's school and to get our house in order for our new life with a child with type 1 diabetes.

N was so happy to be home.  He was also uncertain about what his new diagnosis meant for him.  He needed encouragement to get back into his familiar routines and activities.  The first afternoon home he wasn't even sure if he could be in his bedroom by himself.  That night when I tucked him into bed I was so relieved; he was so much better than just a few days before.  The last time I had tucked him into his bed I'd been so worried and uncertain.  This time I was anxious for my new role as a T1D mom but happy to have him home and healthy.  A few hours later, as I did his 3 a.m. blood glucose check for the first time at our home I realized I'd left all our expert support behind at the hospital and I was now expected to know the answers.  Thankfully our team at Children's Hospital had given us the Pink Panther book and phone numbers to call and call we did.

No comments:

Post a Comment