Note: I’m not writing this to bash on hospitals in general, or even this particular hospital–so I won’t even name it. I’m just writing this to get it out of my system, because it has made me sick with anxiety for the past month and a half and I just can’t not write about it, you know? I’m going to skip over the really shitty parts like waking up to Ender in respiratory distress and the whole 15 hours of emergency rooms and treatment b e f o r e this part of the story.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s what happened.
Ender was getting suctioned every 2 hours at that time, and it seemed to be a good time ratio. He was so congested and having such a hard time breathing that he had to be suctioned before every bottle; he couldn’t breathe through his nose and drink his formula. He had been doing all right for an hour or so, but while Derik and I were sitting in the room and Ender was napping, his oxygen dropped low again.
If he’d been awake and alert I would’ve just let the monitor beep but he was asleep, and his breathing was labored, so I pushed the call button. It was mid-afternoon but the lights were off in the hospital room–as you can see from the above picture, there were HUGE windows letting sunlight in anyway, so the room was dim, but not dark. When I pushed the call button I anticipated the respiratory therapist (the one who used the high powered suctioning device) to come in, but it was a nurse(?) I had never seen before.
I remember that she was blond, and pregnant. She rushed into the room all business, didn’t introduce herself or anything. I was holding Ender and she wordlessly went to a cabinet without even checking his pulse ox or anything else, and withdrew a nasal cannula. I told her, “He needs suctioning, he’s going to eat soon anyway and he can’t eat without it.”
“We still have some time left before the two hours,” she replied (what…like…twenty minutes?) so I just gritted my teeth and watched her try to put this nasal cannula on a cranky baby with an IV in his head. It didn’t go well. She didn’t speak or inform me what she was doing or anything, she just reached over and slapped these two circular, quarter-sized bandages over the edges of the oxygen tubing and bandaged them to Ender’s cheeks.
She left without a word. I was fuming mad already because I didn’t consent to or agree with giving supplemental oxygen without even looking to make sure he was okay. I got to poking around at the bandages, which Ender HATED–he was tugging at them and tossing his head around. Now he was wide awake and unhappy. It seemed like his breathing was worse, too. I looked more, I felt like something was off. The notches on the cannula were far too wide for his little nostrils, they were pushing his nose apart and it looked painful. The nurse(?) had set the oxygen to a whopping 1 lpm…gee whiz, what a difference….but what bothered me more than all of this is that Ender seemed to be breathing worse now.
I sat him on his bed and watched his breathing. His breath seemed to be stuck in his throat. He’d been in distress for literally all night and all day, at this point about 15 hours total, the only relief coming about five minutes after a suction and then immediately going away. But what happened next is the part that sticks in my memory. I was watching him breathe in a new, weird, unusual gasping pattern and every alarm bell in my head went off. I haven’t had much EMS experience with infants, and having it be my own may have played a part, but just thirty seconds of watching his gaspy breaths made me hit the call button again. I felt like he was going to go unconscious at any second, and he was trying desperately to cry and couldn’t. As gently as I could, I took off that stupid ass goddamn cannula, leaving big red marks on his cheeks from the adhesive.
One CNA entered, then another nurse. I didn’t even pause, “He’s not breathing right, get the respiratory therapist.” Then I saw him coming anyway, likely due to the beeping monitor or the fact that it was time to suction anyway. As everybody piled in I sat Ender back down and assumed they would suction him first, so I laid him on his back.
And thank god it was me who did it and me who was facing him. They were all standing around the bed and the moment I lowered him down I looked in his open (gasping for air) mouth and saw a foreign object in his throat. IMMEDIATELY I said, “He’s got something in his throat.” I kid you not, no one moved. It just enrages me to think about it now, I have tears in my eyes thinking about it. An actual circle of children’s medical personnel and not one person moved an inch, to see, or to speculate, or to say ‘what?’ I spoke calmly and clearly–with urgency, I presume–and nobody moved or flinched.
I repeated myself, “There’s something in his throat” and I remember thinking before the sentence was even done, that I was going to have to fucking take care of it myself because these dazed workers would have reacted the same if I’d been speaking Tagalog. Before I even realized what I was doing I did a finger sweep. It moved maybe an inch forward. I assessed and did another finger sweep and pulled out a clear plastic tab–the cover of the adhesive bandage the nurse had placed on his cheek for the cannula.
I was deeply, deeply disturbed. I held up the plastic–this was a round, quarter-sized flap of plastic that had covered Ender’s throat and left him with a one way valve to breathe!!!!!!–and spat out something resembling the English “THIS WAS IN HIS THROAT.”
The only reply that I even remember came from the CNA who muttered, “Welll…it’s…dark in here”
Seriously I’m so enraged I don’t even know if I can type the rest of this out.
I demanded everyone leave the room and I called for the nurse manager. She came in and gave a very lovely rehearsed speech about how this was unacceptable and she would speak to her staff and blah blah blah. I was as aggressive as you’d imagine if you know me and the hospital staff tread very lightly around me for the rest of the visit. The nurse(?) responsible was not allowed back into my room, because if she would’ve showed up I would have likely killed her with oxygen tubing. The nurse manager pretty much avoided me as well.
Luckily Derik was there, witnessed the entire thing, and when I shut down out of pure anger he stepped in and continued defending the situation. I don’t kwow what I’d do without him.
There’s no point to this story, it’s just one of many festering piles of anxiety stuck inside my stomach that doesn’t seem to know how to find its way out.