This post was originally featured on the Dads Round Table on June 4th, 2013. I felt like it was worth sharing here as well. Enjoy my story.
The Day I Thought Our Son Was Going To Die
To put you at ease right off the bat, our son was fine in the end. It was one of the scariest days I have had as a parent and I want to share it with you. The following story is how I remember it, so if anyone (my wife) feels I forgot something, my apologizes.
The day I thought our son was going to die.
It was late November, 2010. Our son Harrison was just over a year old and starting to eat everything in sight. You remember that age. As you are eating your food, you keep giving your kids some to see what they do. Nothing wrong with that right?
For some time, we had been giving our son Cheerios and of course he loved them. What’s not to love? To this day, cereal is one of his favorite food groups.
So on this random weekday in November as we were having a normal morning before both my wife and I head to work, I was enjoying a bowl of Froot Loops. Pretty healthy stuff.
This was one of those special boxes that had a blue loop that was supposed to be blueberry or grape or something. It really just tasted like sugar.
As my wife and I were eating our cereal and Harrison was sitting in his high chair watching, I decided for whatever reason to give Harrison a Froot Loop. My wife gave me a quick look of disapproval but I did it anyways.
It was even one of the special blue ones. Big day for my kid I was thinking. Harrison of course grabbed it and stuffed it in his mouth. No big deal. Then things got real fast.
Harrison started having problems breathing and he was clearly very uncomfortable. Did the loop get stuck? This has happened with rice crackers before and our son has always figured it out, or the cracker simply just dissolved. We waited to see if things just fixed themselves.
They did not. He was getting very uncomfortable and was crying. We just kept looking at each other in silence hoping the other would have a plan.
We took turns walking with him and seeing if burping would help. Nothing. He was angry, uncomfortable and still having trouble breathing. This was slowly breaking our hearts cause we could not help or figure out what was wrong.
Then we started throwing the word “Emerg” around. Should we go? Will it pass. After a few more minutes, Harrison was clearly getting worse. He was even starting to drift in and out. That scared us.
This was our first “parenting” moment of absolute terror. It was 8 am, we were supposed to be heading to work, to take care of our busy days and now this. We finally just called it. We were heading to emergency as fast as we could. This situation was going south fast.
The stress level was high, our hearts were racing, we were scared at all the outcomes flying through our heads. We packed up like we were fleeing the county and hit he highway. It was rush hour heading into Halifax. My wife was in the back with Harrison as he was in his car seat. He was crying but also doing the drifting in and out again. Traffic was slow-moving and I was freaking out as I was helpless.
Then the silence started to happen. Harrison was not making any noise at all. There is no sound worse than silence when your son is in that much pain. I could not look, I could not help and all I could do was wait for updates from my wife. She was stressed of course but he kept coming back from his doze or whatever it was.
Then, he did not. For a handful of seconds, I actually thought in my head “did my boy just die?”
The thought honestly crossed my mind. Now, I have no idea if my wife thought the same.
10 seconds passed. The silence was horrible. My wife pleading for Harrison to wake up. It seemed like 10 minutes of hell.
Finally he was back to crying and then some. He was so loud. On top of being uncomfortable, he was strapped into a car seat as we crawled down the 102 into the city.
After what seemed like an hour, we flew in the driveway of the hospital, pulled up to the door and raced in with Harrison screaming. We were the only ones there so that was good. I sat there walking around with Harrison as my wife checked us in. Keep in mind, we still have no idea what is going on. A blue Froot Loop? There is no way that was it? He was not choking? Was he allergic to blue?
I was feeling very guilty and pretty much the worst dad alive because I gave him the Froot Loop. Katie kept saying there was no way that was the cause but considering what went down, I was still unsure.
How does one bounce back from accidentally killing your kid with a Fruit Loop??
They were on Harrison fast trying to diagnose him. After a short time, sadly, my wife and I figured out that the doctors did not know what was up either. They were throwing every test they could think of at Harrison hoping one would bring results.
For anyone who has taken their kid to emergency, you know how gut wrenching it is to watch your little guy pinned down as a bunch of people poke and prod him. He could not talk. He could not tell us what was wrong. Just looking at his face, you just wanted to lose it.
For the next few hours everything was a blur. We were both checking in with work to say we would not be in. We were being shipped all over the hospital to see different “experts” as they were still unclear. As each hour passed, we kept hearing the word “surgery” more and more. Another scare that was hard to take.
Looking back I think I kept my cool on the outside. I had to for Katie’s sake even though she is probably tougher than me. on the inside, I was a mess. Guilt, fear, stress, worry, anger and just wanting to grab my boy and run for the hills. They had no clue.
Finally, they hooked Harrison up to some meds to calm him down and cool him off. That worked and he was at least calm. The theory from here was he might be “backed up” and needed some fluids to clear him out. As all this was unfolding, my wife and I started to look back and put some pieces together. Harrison had not had a bowel movement in a while and even the night before in the bath I noticed his tummy was pretty firm. Was all this about being constipated?
While the idea of that being a little humorous at the time, at least it calmed us down because we thought they had figured it out. This was great news. So we would wait for the fluids to work and let the nurses do whatever they were going to do to empty his bowels. Case closed, we go home and tell everyone the story of the boy who could not poop.
Sadly, this was not the problem.
After the doctor’s theory did not work, they moved him on up to another “specialist” for a full inspection. This time I think we got the doctor who had a clue. ”It could be intussusception”, the doctor said.
Intussusception is a condition where part of the intestine (bowel) folds into itself like a telescope. The telescoping may block the bowel and its blood supply, which can result in damage to the bowel. Intussusception often involves both small and large bowels. It is the most common cause of bowel obstruction (blockage) in children.
We were in shock. I had never heard of this and thank God it was “common” in toddlers. At least that is what they kept saying. Now, they were on the hunt. What was to be done? Well, unblock or unfold the bowel of course.
At this point, I think my wife and I were both feeling queasy at the thought of our bowel folding like that. The doctor showed us how it happened by pulling her pant leg up over itself.
Now we were being scurried to room that was full of about 10 people waiting to do what they said was a pretty minor procedure.
We got to stay. We got to watch our poor 1-year old boy laying on the table, drugged up and looking so sad. Again, heart breaking to see. You know what, I think he was holding up better than his mom and dad. His eyes were like “I got this”.
Now, I am not a doctor by any means so my description of how they fixed the intussusception will be pretty simple. They had to use an enema to inflate his bowel so it would unfold and return to normal. This is a 1-year old they are doing this to.
Finally, mid-afternoon of the same day, an enema was used to inflate Harrison’s bowel and hopefully solve the intussusception riddle.
After it was over, the team seemed happy. Now it was just a matter of seeing if their procedure worked.
Now this was not an instant thing. We had to wait around for quite some time. We were back to the original room where our stuff sat all day. Harrison seemed okay. He seemed content. He seemed on the mend.
It reached shift change and we were still waiting for the word that all was well. More doctors came and started from scratch wanting to hear the whole story.
Things seemed to be good but of course they had to monitor Harrison over night. We got a room and got situated. It was pretty good considering.
My wife and I were exhausted, hungry and still trying to recover. Harrison was better it seemed. What he just went through was something I would not wish on any kid or parent for that matter.
Looking back, it was not major surgery and was deemed “normal”, but nonetheless, it was scary. I went home and Katie stayed overnight with our brave boy.
This story is even hard to tell almost three years later.
It was not the blue Froot Loop after all. In fact the nurses kind of found that part of the story entertaining. To this day, I will never give Harrison an odd colored breakfast cereal. It was confirmed finally by the doctors that it was in fact intussusception and everything seemed to return to normal.
Harrison ate breakfast the next morning like he just had food for the first time. It was great to see. He was smiling. It made me smile. He was better. Thank the heavens. Just before lunch, we were allowed to check out. It was the best feeling. We both took the day off to spend with our triumphant little guy.
He could not talk but if he could, he would have told us how happy he was to be crammed back in his car seat and to be heading home.
So that is the day I thought our son was going to die. It was the first and only time to date. I hope it stays that way.
No more blue Froot Loops for this family.
Please go and check out the Dads Round Table for more stories like this from dads who are amazing. I also appreciate all the feedback and well wishes I received from those who read this scary story.