So, we had our first stay admitted at a hospital. The little one had had a racking cough for a few days, and two nights with a fever. Saturday lunchtime, he told me,’ya-ya’ (lala – sleep in Swahili) and climbed into my arms and fell asleep, mouth ajar, lips cracked. He hardly ever asks for ‘ya-ya’ so I knew something was not right. He was hot, not warm, to the touch and he just did not seem right. When he woke up, an hour later, he was lethargic and could barely keep his eyes open and mouth closed. I checked his temperature with my tympanic thermometer and with my oral thermometer (we have 3 thermometers in the house). 102 by the American tympanic. 39.8 by the oral thermometer.
I called his pediatrician. I sent him a Whatsapp message.
He called me back right away. And asked me to take him to the emergency room closest by. I hung up, grabbed 4 diapers, a set of wipes, a long sleeved onesie and my wallet. Then I called Uber.
The ER nurse was pleasant enough. She took his temperature and then calmly said she would give him medicine rectally to bring down the temp. She inserted it, despite his protests and asked me to remove his shirt and wait in the Peds waiting area (this hospital has a separate area for Peds patients). His fever came down within 10 minutes – his body already felt cool to the touch by the time my mental clock was hitting 9 minutes. He perked up and asked to see the ‘twa-kta’ (tractor) that was parked right outside the hospital gates; we could see it from the Peds waiting room.
Then the doctor popped up, talking about how he needed to be admitted.
I called his pediatrician.
Off we went to the cashier, to present our insurance cards. After so many years working in Admissions in American hospitals, I found this particular experience so weirdly cumbersome. I mean, we handed over our card and the guy just said, wait. There was no explanation, no direction…just, wait.
He handed us a bunch of papers in triplicate after what seemed like an eternity and told us to give them to the nurse.
We walked back through the ER, past the resuscitation room where somebody’s dad, brother, uncle, husband, cousin lay on a gurney – tubes coming out of him. I could not hear the telltale hum and hiss of an intubation machine. I know, after 15 years of working in hospitals, exactly what that sound sounds like. I cradled my young one in my arms as I walked as fast as I could past that room. In a funny way, I did not want him to see that guy laying there. BabyASW wanted to be held in my arms all through. Let me rephrase that, he normally wants to be held by me whenever he is uncomfortable or wants to get close to me. Usually, he rewards me by pulling my hair, grabbing my mouth or glasses (whichever is nearest) or pinching my boobs. This night, he just wrapped his little chubby arms around my neck and held on for dear life.
We walked to radiology and he had his first x-ray. I was cringing the entire time; he was crying weakly the entire time. Then we went off to the ward. Walls painted with cartoon characters; some with cross-eyes, others with slightly off lines. But nonetheless, an air of brightness. They put us in a 4-bed ward. Bed 22. It was now 2130. My boy had not had anything to eat since lunchtime (1230 when he took a few bites of brown rice + chicken). I asked for some food or even a banana from about 4 different nurses/staff members. Aus also started to chant, ‘baah-nah-nah’ and I started to wonder if he would sleep hungry.
They brought us some food at 2215. The doctor came by to see him just before then. He said it was a good idea for us to have been admitted. Asked us to rest up and he would be by in the morning.
By 2300, Aus was asleep after a round of ‘gongo’ – baby wearing on my back. I placed him in the crib and then settled into the pull-out lounge chair along with the mosquitoes waiting to feed on my blood.
The ward was busy – nurses came by to the other beds, giving breathing treatments and waking up babies, whose cries in turn woke up mine. He woke up no less than 4 times. Calling for Mummy and then rubbing his eyes and saying,’Eye, Eye, Eye…’
In the morning, I asked his doctor if we could go home so we could rest properly. The hospital crib seemed too small, the mosquitos were a menace and a half and the ward was super busy – they actually had a television set in the play area immediately outside the ward and someone had blasted the volume until late at night.
Doctor said no. But he mentioned that we could upgrade to a private room but probably at an out-of-pocket cost. I jumped on that.
Best decision ever. They moved us to a room and I got a real bed, he got a crib, and we were at the end of a long corridor and it was super duper quiet. My guy got to rest – slept at around 2300 on day 2 as well because the nurses brought his meds late. He fell asleep mid-cry when the nursing assistant was taking pulse-ox. She even started laughing, and I couldn’t help it either. I placed him in the crib and despite the nurse coming back in an hour and a half later for more medication administration, he simply asked for ‘ya-ya’ once and dropped back onto the mattress. We slept until morning.
By midmorning, he was happy and walking and back to his normal self. We went home by 3pm.
I never want to go through that again.