It was the day before my birthday, and my sister and I were having a lovely time playing with my babies out on the patio. I was holding Wren and I heard her gagging. I immediately turned her to face me and she started vomiting. I quickly turned her away from me as she continued throwing up. It finally seemed like there was nothing left and when I turned her back toward me she was deathly pale and her lips had turned blue. I cleaned her up and laid her down in the play pen and she fell asleep. If it had been one of my other children, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But because of Wren’s heart issue, I figured I should call her pediatrician. I would have called her cardiologist, but they close the office during lunch time, and it was noon. As soon as I told the nurse on the phone Wren had pulmonary arterial stenosis, she cut me off and said I needed to take her to the emergency room. “Are you sure?”, I said. I did not want to be the hysterical mom in the ER who is there because her child threw up. “Yes, take her in immediately,” the nurse said firmly.
Wren before drastically changing the course of our day
I called my husband because my mother and sister both had lunch time appointments. He agreed to come home for lunch to watch the two other girls so that I could take Wren to the children’s hospital. At this point, I was torn between panicking and being exasperated. And then I would feel guilty for feeling either way. What if she had had a heart episode? What if she hadn’t and I was wasting everyone’s time? And so on.
Scott arrived home and I passed the baton of feeding two hungry toddlers lunch. I took Wren to the hospital, debating about whether I should grab some lunch on the way. I figured that would be presumptive of me and decided to head straight to the hospital. In retrospect, that decision was ill advised. We entered the ER, and it was jam packed with people. School had just started, and there were crying babies, sports injuries, and sick kids aplenty. They even had a few stretchers come in from a car accident. The estimated wait time before seeing a doctor was
two hours “one hour, forty five minutes.” I held Wren and took a seat. I was checking her feet to see how long my fingerprints lasted when I pressed on them. The white imprint on her foot would last a long time, indicating poor circulation. I kept telling myself I am not a doctor to control the panic that kept threatening to bring me to tears. Despite their best efforts, the ER is a stressful place. I remember feeling ridiculously grateful when a kind man came by with a toy cart and handed Wren a teddy bear. Wren was unflappable, but mommy needed that bear.
At triage, they checked her out and did her EKG. The nurses noted her poor circulation to her extremities as well, but didn’t seem concerned about it. I was sent back into the waiting room to wait to be called back to see the doctor. My mother had finished with her lunch time appointment by then, and called to let me know she would watch the girls if I wanted my husband there with me. I most certainly did, so I thanked her for her kind offer and called my husband to tell him.
They took us back to the exam room to wait for a doctor. The resident came in and introduced himself. He was very kind, but tended to use very technical terms that were beyond my comprehension and seemed painfully shy. He hooked Wren up to a bunch of machines to monitor her heart activity and asked me a lot of questions about the incident, making me wish I had been a lot more level headed at the time so that I could notice things like whether her actual lips were blue or just the area around her lips. I had no idea how to answer when he asked me what her eyes were doing. “Um, I wasn’t looking at her eyes, I guess?,” I answered, making a mental note to look her in the eyes next time. At this point, my husband arrived, making me feel exponentially better about the situation by his mere presence. The resident told us the doctor would be in shortly and left.
They monitored her heart activity for about an hour and the doctor came in to see us. She was very upbeat, and spoke in terms we laymen could understand. She told us she spoke with Wren’s cardiologist, and after looking at her heart readings they both agree that the vomiting incident was unrelated to her heart. She said it is common for babies to turn pale or blue when they are nauseated. I felt ashamed that I had wasted her time, and told her so. She reassured me that this was what she was here for, and symptoms of heart trouble can mimic symptoms of ordinary illness. Handing me a list, she said I should definitely take Wren to the hospital if she has prolonged bouts of vomiting, labored breathing, and if her face or torso turns blue. I was relieved to have specific guidelines written out for me. The doctor gave me some Pedialite in a bottle to feed Wren and said she would check on us in a little while to make sure she kept it down alright. By this time, I was so hungry even the Pedialite was looking good to me. My devoted husband brought me some snacks from the vending machine. The nurses were eyeing my snacks hungrily and admitted that things were so chaotic in the ER that day, they were having to go without. I offered them my snacks, but they politely declined.
Wren, of course, just gnawed on the nipple of the bottle without sucking it in, as hungry as she must have been. I eventually gave up and nursed her. She nursed and fell right asleep, it being almost evening and she had not had a proper nap all day. The doctor came back in, checked her vitals and her heart monitor, and cleared us for discharge. By this time it was 5:00 pm. I had arrived there at 1:00 pm. I was exhausted and famished, but mostly just glad Wren’s heart wasn’t giving her any trouble. The doctor mentioned she might have caught the stomach virus that has been going around, but thankfully it has been a few days and she hasn’t had any more episodes of vomiting. It is stressful trying to determine whether Wren’s stenosis is giving her any trouble or not. This heart condition of Wren’s is going to give me a heart attack. But all in all, I am beyond grateful that she is well.