The night of Friday, November 26, Creegan seemed really congested. He was four weeks old. He'd had a cold at two weeks old that hadn't gone completely away. I assumed it was his cold getting worse again. In the early morning hours of Saturday I gave up on him sleeping laying down. I picked him up. When I stood up with him, he projectile vomited. It got everywhere. I thought it was weird but moved on. As the day continued, he projectile vomited more. I assumed it was his acid reflux getting worse. The previous week I had been tracking his spit ups because I was wondering if my diet affected how many times he spit up. So I was aware that his norm was four to six spit ups a day, which was a lot more than my other two ever spit up. Creegan had never been put on medication for acid reflux, so I thought maybe things were getting worse and we needed medication. The projectile vomiting continued after each feeding, so I fed him for shorter amounts of time and burped him more frequently. On Saturday night he stopped pooping.
On Sunday I took him to church, like normal. I was a little nervous that his vomit would get on other people. I went prepared with multiple blankets and baby towels, which is what I'd been using each time he threw up (burp cloths were way too small). I ended up spending most of church in the foyer, and we left early. We already had an appointment scheduled for the next morning, so I just thought we would get through this day and have medication the next day. I started to wonder, though, if this could be an allergic reaction to something I ate. I'd eaten pecans and walnuts at Thanksgiving, which I hadn't eaten since Creegan was born. We'd had Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday and Saturday, so I thought it was possible this was causing his vomiting.
Nights started to get worse. He couldn't lay down at all. He slept very lightly and woke up to throw up often. He always wanted to eat, though.
I took him to his doctor appointment Monday morning. He weighed 9 lb 13 and a half oz. His doctor thought it was the acid reflux. She reassured me it wasn't a food allergy. He pooped while at the doctor, his first poop since Saturday night. I began to feel better. I thought it was just acid reflux and things were going to be okay. I filled his prescription that afternoon and gave him his first dose of zantac. He didn't vomit for three hours after taking it and he fell asleep and slept deeper than he had been. I was really excited.
Monday night was terrible, though. Tons of vomiting. No sleep. And not just vomiting after feedings anymore. Vomiting all the time. No more poop since that morning. Tuesday was a day filled with vomiting. I didn't even bother to change our clothes between vomits anymore. I just washed a load of blankets and towels and sat on the couch with Creegan waiting for the next one. At this point I was convinced it must be a stomach flu. Ben wanted me to call the doctor, but I wanted to give it 24 hours and see if it got better.
On Wednesday it wasn't any better. Creegan's pee changed. There was very little of it. It was very dark, and there were red spots in his diaper every time he peed. They looked like blood but may not have been. Ben didn't have to go to school, and I was so relieved because I didn't know how I could take care of Eddie and Peter on top of all the vomiting. I felt like I was hanging on by my last thread. Ben did have a paper to write, but he only worked for a few hours this day. We called the doctor. She thought it could be a side effect of the zantac. She upped the amount he was taking and said to make sure we fed him after dosages. We tried that, and it didn't work. We called the doctor again and learned that somehow Medicaid had assigned Creegan to a different doctor. The nurse wouldn't answer any of our questions or help us because Creegan wasn't a patient there. I really lost it here. Ben called Medicaid and assigned Creegan to the right doctor. They said it may not show up in the doctor's system for a couple of weeks, but they could fax the doctor something sometime in the next three days! At this point, I knew Creegan may end up in the hospital and three days was too long to wait. I spent all my energy praying, and thankfully, Creegan's doctor found out what had been going on and she called us. She knew the Medicaid problem was stupid and it would all get worked out, so she continued to be our doctor. She suggested taking him off breastmilk and just feeding him Pedialyte. She thought it might be a stomach flu. Ben bought Pedialyte, and we tried it. Creegan couldn't keep it down. Ben and I had been fasting for Creegan this day. We ate an early dinner. At 6 p.m. I decided it was time to take Creegan to the emergency room. I was worried about him being dehydrated, and I knew he needed an IV. I packed up some stuff and said goodbye to Eddie and Peter, not knowing when I would be back again. It was really hard for me to take Creegan to the emergency room by myself. We'd never had to do this before, and I was really scared and overwhelmed. What choice did I have, though? It was almost Eddie's and Peter's bedtime, and I especially don't want them to be without one of us at night time, and I don't want them to not be able to sleep in their own beds.
I checked in at the hospital at 6:45. They struggled to get Creegan's oxygen read. He weighed 9 lbs 5 oz. He'd lost a lot of weight the past two days. They did an x-ray. Some technicians were holding him for the x-ray, and he vomited all over them and the floor. They gave him an IV. They did bloodwork. They put a catheter in to force a urine sample. His white blood count was low; it looked like he might have an infection. The on-call pediatrician wanted to test him for plyoric stenosis, which couldn't be done until morning. We were admitted at 2 a.m. on December 2; he'd been admitted for jaundice on November 2. I continued to feed him when he wanted to eat. He wouldn't eat much, but he did want to eat a little. I fed him at 5:30 a.m. After that feeding, I was told to not feed him because he needed an empty stomach for his test in the morning. He was hungry by 7:30. His test was done at 10 a.m.
The test was an ultrasound where he had to drink barium. I was there for the test, watching but he was out of my reach. Creegan's stomach was full from the feeding he'd had four and a half hours before, which was unusual. The doctor stuck a tube down his nose into his stomach and used a big syringe to empty his stomach. It took three and a half of these big syringes to empty his stomach. They fed him the barium also through the tube in his nose. There was a screen where you could see all of the insides of his body working. It was beautiful and fascinating. It was also a very low point for me. I was tired and the tube in his nose was sad to me and I knew from what I was seeing that he had pyloric stenosis and I knew what that meant-surgery.
Pyloric stenosis just means that the muscle between the stomach and the intestine grew too big and blocked the entrance into the intestine. As a result no food can leave the stomach unless it's thrown up. Thus no pooping and lots of projectile vomiting. This problem usually develops in babies between three to four weeks of age. It's most common in Caucasian males that are firstborn. Surgery is required. The surgeon goes in and stretches out the muscle so it's no longer blocking the entrance to the intestine. The positive results of the surgery are immediate. Problem's corrected and body functions normally.
Creegan's pediatrician called and said the surgeon would come see us and perform the surgery later that day. I was to not feed him at all because there was a risk he would aspirate. He had the iv, so he was receiving hydration and nourishment, but his stomach was empty and he felt hungry. Thanks for my wonderful friend who took Eddie and Peter, Ben was able to be with me at the hospital. I really didn't want to go through Creegan's surgery alone. We waited and waited all day, but the surgeon didn't come until after 10 p.m. (Ben left around 6 p.m. to get Eddie and Peter. This was the first day in Eddie's and Peter's entire lives that I never saw them. I didn't see them at all the next day, either. Very sad for me.) The surgery was scheduled for 8:30 the next morning, Friday, December 3.
Thursday night was very hard. Creegan screamed constantly for the first half of the night. Thankfully he slept in my arms the second half of the night. The best part of not eating was less vomiting, although he did still vomit the fluids the stomach makes.
Ben arrived Friday morning at 7:35. We were supposed to be going down to surgery at 7:30, but they didn't get us until 8:30. I was scared but happy that we were almost done with the worst part, and things would only get better. The surgery was done about 10 a.m., and it was super short. We were with Creegan again by 11:30, which was after his time in the recovery room.
So much of my mental efforts had been focused on getting to and through the surgery that I was completely unprepared for the post-surgery situation. I didn't know how sad I would feel to see him being pushed in that big (normal-sized) hospital bed, covered in a huge blanket, laying on his side, like he likes, with all those tubes coming out of him, especially the ones in his nose. I didn't know how scared I would be to hold him; I was worried I would hurt him (he had four small holes in his stomach, one had been for the camera, one for air, and two for the instruments). I didn't know he would hurt so much. When he would cry because of pain, my heart would break (he had morphine and Tylenol). I thought he would be dying to eat, which he still couldn't do until 4 p.m. The opposite was true, though, he didn't even want to eat when it was time.
There was a whole schedule for his feedings. He could eat every three hours. He began with just an ounce of Pedialyte. Then two ounces. Than a mixture of breastmilk and Pedialyte. Then we just kept increasing the amount and eventually just switched to breastmilk (from a bottle). He never vomited after the surgery, so all seemed well. He pooped Saturday morning. So all really was well.
We got to go home Saturday around lunchtime. Of course, as soon as we got home, he projectile vomited everywhere. The doctors didn't say this would happen, so it really scared us and I wanted to be at the hospital, just to know there were medical people around that could answer questions. Of course it was a Saturday, so we would have to wait until Monday to speak to his doctor. He vomited a few times that day and the next but never after Sunday night.
The lowest his weight got was 9 lb 3 oz. Before we left the hospital he was at 9 1b 5 0z. On Monday he was still at 9lb 5 oz. By Friday, though, he was up to 9 lb 11 oz, not as much as he'd been, but he was gaining weight and pooping and peeing.
I didn't take any pictures at the hospital, but here are a couple of post-surgery pictures. The first one was taken on December 6, three days after the surgery. You can see the four steri-tape things on his stomach and dried blood.
The second was taken on December 17, two weeks after the surgery. You can see all four scars, the line under his belly button is one of them.
Now he looks even better than this, less red. We are only three weeks removed from this, but it feels like a lifetime ago. We haven't seen his doctor in two weeks, which is a record so far. We will be taking him in this week for his two-month check-up.
The most important thing I learned from this experience is our children are absolutely worth every struggle we have to go through with them. I also had to learn to ask for and accept help; I had to let go of my concerns for Eddie and Peter and just completely trust their care to other people (not an easy task for me). I told Ben I would really, really like to live near family; I just don't want to do the hard stuff so much on my own anymore. I learned that you get whatever child you get when you have a baby, and each child will come with a unique set of needs and challenges that you can't possibly predict. I learned that there are always children in the hospital, and my heart yearns to somehow help them and their families. I learned that I am really, really loved by a lot of people. I learned that I can do whatever I have to do. Being a mother has helped me become a much stronger person. I love my children and the simple pleasures in life are my favorites: singing to them, reading them books, putting them to bed each night, holding them, caring for them.
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