I have written and re-written this blog post so many times… it’s been almost 10 months since we realized something was horribly wrong with our precious baby girl. I still get choked up about it but I feel the need to share. I’m not trying to scare parents with infants or terrify new parents. I just want to warn them of the potential dangers and above all else. TRUST YOUR GUT! If you think something is wrong. Call your pediatrician. Go to the hospital. I will take being labeled an overreacting parent 1,000,000 times over being wrong just once.
This is our story…
It all started with a fever. A fever of 100.4 to be exact. She was 7 1/2 weeks old and fussy (which was not like her). She seemed hungry but was struggling to eat. She wasn’t comfortable that much was clear. My husband and I took turns rocking her and holding her to get her to sleep through the night. I knew something wasn’t right so I called her pediatrician. I didn’t realize she had a fever at the time. She didn’t feel that warm to me but when we checked she in fact had a fever of 100.4. Our pediatrician’s answering service told us to bring her to their Urgent Care.
Your baby could have a fever for many reasons, but the most likely is infection. Simple things such as colds can cause a fever, but so can very serious infections such as meningitis. If your baby is under 3 months and has a fever, see a doctor.
A temperature reading isn’t the only indication of whether a fever is serious.
Age is a factor: Fever is more serious in babies under 3 months.
Isabella was under 8 weeks old and hadn’t had her immunizations yet. This was more serious than we realized at the time.
Fever is only part of the story. Sometimes a baby can be sick even if she doesn’t have a fever. A more important question is: Does your newborn show other symptoms of illness? Call the doctor if your baby:
- Is irritable
- Is inactive
- Is sluggish
- Doesn’t eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has a rash
- Has diarrhea
The urgent care doctor sent us to the ER at Children’s Hospital for what she thought was an ear infection and possible urinary tract infection. We were told that several tests needed to be run in order to rule out something more serious. A lumbar puncture was performed to rule out bacterial meningitis. A normal result was considered 5 or less white blood cells. She had 6. Her spinal fluid had just one single white blood cell over the cut off for normal. We were being sent home and told to keep an eye on her and follow up with our pediatrician in the morning.
We could have gone home and followed up with our pediatrician but at the last moment the ER doctor changed her mind due to protocol. What we didn’t realize at the time was that doctor’s last minute judgement call saved our daughter’s life. We found out 48 hours later that she had a Staphylococcus Aureus infection in her blood. An infection that could have caused the murmur in her heart. Staph apparently likes to attack the vessels of the heart. An echocardiogram revealed that her heart was free of infection. Her heart was safe due to the fact that she got to the hospital as early as she did and started antibiotics as early as she did.
Dr. Nowalk and the infectious disease team continued to look for a cause for the infection and because of his tenacity and the swift action of the ER doctor our daughter was able to avoid risky surgery when days later an MRI revealed a Spinal Epidural Abscess. This is extremely rare and almost unheard of in an infant. She could have lost the use of her legs or worse! Doctors were amazed that her arms and legs were still functioning normally.
Had we waited… had the ER doctor actually sent us home… I know it’s pointless to wonder or worry about these things. But I do. It all but consumes me… We were lucky. We spent 8 days in Children’s Hospital and she spent another 3 weeks on IV antibiotics at home with a visiting nurse for dressing changes and lab work and another 2 weeks on oral antibiotics to ensure the infection was gone. 6 weeks of treatment and recovery.
Each scary step of the way the staff at Children’s was there to comfort us, to educate us and to support us. They answered every question and sometimes just sat with us to listen and quell our fears. From the nurses, (Alexa, who worked tirelessly to unblock Isabella’s PICC line and avoid another IV or procedure) to the patient care technicians (Julia, who searched security footage to find Isabella’s missing blanket), to the third year medical student, Jeffery, who kept us informed every step of the way, to the MRI techs who kept a machine especially prepped for Isabella to get additional images, to every doctor who consulted on Isabella’s case, to housekeeping, and the unit managers, the staff at Children’s is amazing and so caring. They made a terrifying experience bearable. They gave us hope when we started to lose ours and continued to care for us as much as they cared for our daughter.
10 months later and I still haven’t recovered but Isabella is healthy and happy again. And yesterday she walked! She took her first full 5 unassisted steps!!!
Trusting my gut and getting my daughter to the doctor’s at Children’s saved her life and ensured that she will have the ability to walk. I will be forever grateful. I will ALWAYS err on the side of caution. If you think something is wrong with your child make the call. If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind and maybe even save your child’s life.
Again, I’m not trying to cause panic. Raising kids is hard. I have four and this was a wake up call for me. I knew something was wrong and I acted. That’s the message I’m trying to convey. Despite my parenting experience I honestly didn’t realize how serious a fever in an infant was. None of my kids had had fevers that young before. If you find yourself in that situation. Take it seriously.