When the Wheels Fall Off the Bus

Originally published as a TinyLetter


Well, this week did not go as planned! On Monday afternoon, the baby was sent home from day care because she was throwing up and lethargic. When I updated Darren via G-chat, he said that he was also feeling bad. He came home that night and face-planted on the couch, immobile. He tends to be a bit dramatic when he’s sick (see The Man Cold vs. The Mom Cold), so I gave him a bunch of ibuprofen and thought it would pass.

The next morning he still had a horrible headache, so after dropping off our four-year-old at school, I took Darren to urgent care. They referred him to the ER for a CT and blood work. We spent the day at St. Dominic’s with the baby in tow (who was still sick, as well, and projectile vomited in the exam room) waiting for test results. Darren’s mom, Jill, works at St. Dom’s and came around lunchtime to hold the baby so I could get some food.

Darren needed a spinal tap to test for meningitis. Just the words “spinal tap” make me a little green, but he said he felt only the stick from the lidocaine shot and then didn’t even realize the spinal tap was happening.

I wasn’t scared until the nurse started an IV on Darren, saying that he was being admitted to the hospital but not telling us why. “The doctor will talk to you about that,” she said. The CT hadn’t shown any physical abnormalities, but my mind still began to run wild.

I walked out to the common area and heard the doctor say to someone on the phone, “Meningitis.” He came into the exam room and told us the same. The spinal fluid hadn’t shown any bacteria, which was a relief, because bacterial meningitis is far more serious than viral meningitis. Darren very likely had the latter. They moved him to a hospital room and started antibiotics just in case it was bacterial (after culturing the spinal fluid, they confirmed that it wasn’t). I wondered if I should take the baby to the ER that night for testing, but the advice nurse said to wait to see her regular pediatrician in the morning. Turns out it was just a normal virus, which has passed now.

In case you’ve been around us recently and are freaking out that you might get viral meningitis, read this from the CDC. You don’t need to worry. In short, it’s typically a regular virus that manifests as cold, flu, etc. in most people but, for whatever reason, inflames the brain and spinal tissue in the rare instance. So you could have caught the virus that made Darren sick (he’s no longer contagious), but it’s very unlikely to develop into meningitis. Darren and the baby probably had the same thing.

And if you’re thinking, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” — it’s a weird situation, trying to figure out whom to tell about an emergency, and when and how, especially when words like “viral meningitis” can cause unnecessary panic. It takes a surprising amount of energy both to keep all the different circles of people informed and to manage a flood of replies (questions, worries, and offers to help, by text, phone, email, and Facebook) when you’re already overwhelmed. It’s a blessing, of course, that so many people care about us and want to pitch in. We truly appreciate it, and you don’t need to do anything differently. I have more bandwidth to engage now, from here at home, than from the ER.

Jill watched the kids on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings so I could visit Darren. Every time he moved, he felt excruciating pain in his head, but the rest of the time he was able to watch baseball and instant message his Creative Distillery team. He joked that it was kind of a vacation — the most peace and quiet that he’d had in four years.

I took him home on Thursday afternoon, and he’s doing OK. He still has a nasty headache and tires easily, even walking from room to room. A full recovery will take weeks. It’s going to be an interesting adventure, given how much we already have going on when we’re both healthy. This morning I was trying to color pictures with a whiny four-year-old while preventing the baby from putting each crayon in her mouth, while the dog was barking for food and the cats were scratching up the new furniture. There are a lot of competing needs to meet all at once.

So yeah, this week kind of sucked, and things are going to be a little rough for a while. But it could be much worse, and we have a lot to be grateful for. We live a few blocks away from excellent medical care. We have insurance. We sought treatment early. We have tons of loving support from family and friends. My boss and team cleared my calendar for the week. My in-laws will do anything for us. Seth and Alicia, our dear friends next door, picked up our son from his after-school program when I was rushing to drop off Darren’s prescription and pick up the baby. They fed him dinner (he even ate vegetables!!), then fed us, and took him to school the next morning.

I get choked up thinking about how fortunate we are to have our little village surrounding us. When the wheels fall off the bus, we have a lot of people helping us put them back on again.

what’s fueling me

Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #11
 – Jimmy Kimmel Live (h/t Gillian Burgess)

President Obama: Dropping off Malia at college was like ‘open-heart surgery’ – (h/t Laverne Dicker)

Teen Titans Go! – A wickedly funny cartoon that the whole family loves.

Snack Pack Naturals Chocolate Pudding – Chocolate pudding makes everything better.



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Image via Tsuji, Flickr Creative Commons

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