Zev Family Newsletter: March 2003

Saturday, 3/8/03

Saturday morning, Benjamin woke up and complained that his head hurt above his left eye. He was all stuffed up (as he had been for a week) so we gave him medicine for his nose and his head and took him to track practice. (Both boys are doing Track and Field this spring.) He was sluggish at track, but did not complain at all, so we figured that the medicine had worked. But as the day wore on, he developed a fever, and he napped from 3 – 5pm, which he only does when he is sick. He did eat some dinner though. As the evening wore on, we noticed that his left eye was a little puffy, so around 8 we called the pediatrician. He said that it was probably nothing, and that we should bring him in the next morning (Sunday) to be seen.

Sunday, 3/9/03

The next morning, Benjamin’s eye was swollen shut. Marc had a class at the Temple, so Jackie brought Benjamin in to the pediatrician’s office when it opened. The pediatrician took one look at Benjamin and said he was sending him to the hospital for IV antibiotics. He said Benjamin would have to stay overnight. Jackie took Benjamin to Tarzana Hospital. It took about an hour for Benjamin to be admitted, partly because there wasn’t a room available. At one point while waiting, Jackie looked at Benjamin and realized that his eye was noticeably more swollen than it had been at the pediatrician’s office. That spooked her and evoked an “Oh my God” which she immediately regretted, because it scared Benjamin and made him cry. While they were waiting to be admitted, Jackie made arrangements for Jonathan (who was at religious school) to spend the afternoon at a friend’s house, and left a message for Marc to come to the hospital.

Finally, Benjamin’s room became available and Jackie took him upstairs to pediatrics. The nurse put in a heplock for the IV and drew blood with a single needle stick. Next was a wheelchair ride for a CT scan. Marc arrived just before we got on the elevator to go down to radiology. Benjamin was an angel and held perfectly still, even when he had to be face down. We were glad that CT scans are not taken in a claustrophobic tube as MRIs are.

We returned to the room and the IV was hooked up around 11:30. Two lunches were brought in – a chicken breast sandwich for Benjamin, and a grilled chicken breast for Jackie. Not that Benjamin would eat anything! Marc called the grandparents to let them know what was going on. The hospital pediatrician to which Benjamin had been assigned showed up soon after, examined Benjamin and went off to look at the CT results. She returned and said that he had a massive sinus infection involving the entire sinus region. The infection had probably spread to the area around the eye and made it swell up. She said she was concerned that there was also an abscess and had called in an ophthalmologist and also a pediatric ENT. The ophthalmologist showed up around 3 – about 15 minutes after Benjamin had dropped off to sleep. We had to wake him up so that the doctor could examine him. His recommendation was that there was not a clear indication of an abscess, and he thought we should wait and see how he responded to antibiotics. Since the treatment for an abscess involves surgery, we were glad to have this advice. He also said that one night was not going to be enough – three or four was more likely.

Around 6, Benjamin dropped off to sleep again, just in time for the nurse to come in to check vital signs. She didn’t want to wake him, so she took his temperature under his arm. It was 102 – Then she woke him up to give him some Tylenol. Marc left around 5 to pick up Jonathan, and to pick up the things he would need for the night. They returned around 7 after getting some dinner. Not too much later, Benjamin, who had not said 10 words all day, who would only answer question that he could shake his head to, finally perked up a little bit. His eye seemed a little less swollen too. He ate some graham crackers, drank some apple juice, and actually volunteered a few sentences. Jackie took Jonathan home around 8, feeling encouraged that Benjamin was showing some improvement. Marc got to sleep on one of those wonderful chairs that turns into a bed, although “sleep” was somewhat of a misnomer. Benjamin was up a dozen times during the night.

Monday, 3/10/03

In the morning, the swelling had clearly gone down, although Benjamin could still not open his eye. The pediatric ENT came by, as did the ophthalmologist. They conferred and agreed that the best course of action was IV antibiotics until the swelling and redness was completely gone followed by a month of oral antibiotics at home. The hospital pediatrician came by, as did the pediatrician we had seen in our own doctor’s office. The hospital pediatrician added pain medication to Benjamin’s treatment, even though he was not complaining – indeed if you asked him if he was hurting, he would deny any pain.

Jackie dropped Jonathan off at school, and then swung by Benjamin’s class and picked up his homework and classwork that he was missing. Arriving at the hospital around 9:30, she was disappointed that Benjamin seemed to have lost some of his previous night’s perkiness. He was watching a video and was again reluctant to answer questions. However, he had eaten some eggs and ice cream for breakfast (my favorite breakfast too!) and his eye was clearly better. Benjamin watched videos all morning, had some lunch, and watched some more. Around 3, he reached a milestone – he discovered that he could open his eye if he tried really hard. He also perked up again – he was interested in going through his homework and classwork (although not in doing it, just in looking at it!) Some of his classwork is based on the book “Is your Mama a Llama?” so Benjamin read the book to us. Aunt Rhona showed up with Jonathan, and after a little while, Marc took Jonathan to track practice.

At this point, Benjamin turned into a real chatterbox. It was a significant relief to hear him so animated. Dinner came – spaghetti with meatballs – and Benjamin attacked it with gusto. Then he ate half of a sprinkle doughnut that Uncle Walter had brought for him (half of the doughnut, but all of the sprinkles.) Afterward he wanted to wash his hand, so he got out of bed and went to the bathroom and washed up. Next, another milestone: Jackie convinced him to take a walk. They strolled down to the elevator and back, with Aunty Rhona pushing the IV pole. He spent the rest of the evening doing dot-to-dot puzzles and mazes, and he read the book “Balto” to Jackie. Then it was time for bed.

Jackie got no more restful a sleep than Marc had. Benjamin kept waking up with disturbing dreams. Once he was dreaming that they were drawing blood. Another time, he was dreaming that he was “measuring animals.” Around 4 he seemed to settle into a deeper sleep – or maybe Jackie did, she’s not sure which! When they woke up, Jackie noticed that the gauze under his IV looked like some blood had gotten on it and she reported this to the nurse. Then she became aware that his gown was wet – and the bed was wet. It turns out the IV had become unhooked. Everything except the part that entered his hand had to be redone. But to Jackie, this was actually a blessing in disguise, as this nurse did a much better job than the original nurse had done, and now there was much less tape and tubing touching Benjamin’s skin. The worst part about the entire incident was that Benjamin’s blanket, a significant source of comfort to him, got soaked. Jackie placed an emergency call to her mom, asking her to come pick it up, wash it, and return it. Thank goodness for grandparents!

Tuesday, 3/11/03

Jackie was hoping for a dramatic overnight improvement, and in this she was disappointed. Benjamin’s eye was only a little better than the night before, and it was still closed unless he tried really hard to open it. But as the day wore on, we started seeing that sometimes it would be open even when he was not trying to open it. Around lunchtime, his spirits seemed to flag, and he complained that his stomach was bothering him and he felt like he was going to throw up. But he ate some lunch. His blanket showed up about half an hour later, and with its arrival a lot of tension seemed to drain out of him. He curled up on Marc, and within 20 minutes he was asleep.

He slept for about 2 hours, and it really helped a lot. As a matter of fact, after dinner, he became interested in moving around the room. After two days of inactivity, we did not want to discourage this, but it made thing difficult, as Benjamin was not very aware of the limitations of the equipment and had to be constantly cautioned to wait for the IV pole to catch up, or not to stand on the chair and lean on the table with wheels, and other things of a similar nature. His eye was also open much more, and if he tried, he could almost open it all the way.

Marc had hospital duty that night, and Jackie got to go home and get some uninterrupted sleep. Night 3 in the hospital went a little better than the previous two. Benjamin slept pretty soundly for 2 hours and then REM kicked in. Benjamin (and Marc) then had to endure about 2 hours of nightmares – one involving trying to make two ladybugs such that they did not look alike.

Wednesday, 3/12/03

In the morning, Marc was much more rested than he was the first night – Although not entirely rested. Benjamin, for his part, was doing better. He was more animated and the swelling of his eye and the redness was less, although they were by no means gone.

Jackie took Jonathan to school and then went to the hospital. After visiting with Benjamin a little while and bringing him his favorite Bionicle toys, Jackie went to work for the first time this week. After Jackie left, the hospital pediatrician examined Benjamin. He explained that Benjamin’s eye infection was “orbital cellulitis” (an infection of the eye socket) and may not have been caused by the sinus infection. However, the source of the infection did not matter, the important thing was to knock it out!

Benjamin was not very interested in food, and he napped from 3:30 – 7:30, a clear sign that he was still not feeling quite up to snuff. This meant that he went to sleep late, but (fortunately for Jackie, who was “on duty” that night) – no bad dreams! He woke up at 4 am, and was deeply disappointed that it was not morning yet, but after a while he went back to sleep for another 3-4 hours.

Thursday, 3/13/03

The hospital pediatrician examined Benjamin in the morning and noted that his eye movement was worse than the night before, so he ordered another CT scan. After looking at the CT scan, he reported that the antibiotics were not clearing up the sinus infection. The pus from the sinus infection was pressing against the eye muscle, which was causing the reduced ability to move the eye. He recommended surgery to clean out the sinuses, but said that it was really the ophthalmologist and the ENT’s call. He said that the recovery from this surgery is very rapid. However when the ophthalmologist examined Benjamin, he did not agree that surgery was indicated. He thought that the decreased eye movement that the pediatrician observed could have been due to the fact that he was comparing eye movement in the evening to eye movement in the morning, and there is sometimes a build up of fluid overnight that can cause this effect. The ophthalmologist did not want to rush into surgery unless he was convinced that he would find something other than clear fluid. The ophthalmologist said that as long as he was continuing to see improvement, and he was, he did not want to do surgery. He did think that it might take as much as 10 days for the antibiotics to completely clear the infection.

Best of all, Benjamin was very animated and alert all day. He was willing to go for a wheelchair ride outside. He did some classwork, played with his (ever-growing accumulation of) toys. For the first time in a week, he did not need to take a nap.

Friday, 3/14/03

Friday marked another milestone. The doctors decided that Benjamin was eating and drinking enough to be taken off the IV except when he needed to receive antibiotics. They left the heplock in his hand, and just reconnected the IV three times a day for antibiotics. From this day forward, Benjamin seemed normal in terms of energy level and mood, with only his eye reminding us of why we were still in the hospital.

Marc and Jackie settled into a routine of alternating who slept at the hospital, and who spent the night at home with Jonathan. Jackie was going to work, but only working partial days. Benjamin got steadily, but slowly, better each day. Jonathan was a trooper – never complaining once about the disruption in his life. His only request was that he be allowed to visit Benjamin every day.

Friday night the hospital ran short of beds and moved Benjamin from his private room into a room with another child. This child also had cellulitis, but in his hand, not his eye. The move stressed Jackie out greatly, because (of course) she had JUST gotten Benjamin to fall asleep when they told her that Benjamin had to be moved, and she was convinced that the move would wake him up, but to her great relief, he slept through it.

Saturday, 3/15/03

Saturday we ran into another problem. Before and after giving Benjamin antibiotics, the nurse would flush the heplock with heparin, and Benjamin found this very painful. It was so painful, that Benjamin was reacting even when he was asleep. Jackie thought that the problem was that the IV had been in the same place for almost a week, and asked the nurse to move it. She did, but it took two tries. She did not do as good a job as the original nurse, and the next day it had to be moved again. Fortunately, the nurse who had done such a good job of retaping the IV on Tuesday morning was available. He did an excellent job of reinserting the IV, and we had no more IV problems for the rest of the stay.

The other child in the room went home, so now we had a huge room all to ourselves.

Sunday, 3/16/03

Benjamin had lots of visitors this day, so having the big room was pretty useful.

Monday, 3/17/03

Our private room was not to last, and Monday, another child joined us. This child also had an eye that was swollen shut, so we assumed that he also had cellulitis.

Unfortunately for this child, Monday was Benjamin’s 6th birthday, and we were not going to ignore it, roommate or no roommate! Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins crowded into the room, sang Happy Birthday to Benjamin, ate the Bionicle cake that Marc made, and watched Benjamin open presents.

Tuesday, 3/18/03

The whole hospital thing was getting old, but at least the end was in site!

Wednesday, 3/19/03

Wednesday was the end of the 10th day of IV antibiotics, and Benjamin was (finally!) sent home. Ironically, this was the second time in his life that he had come home from the hospital on the 19th of March! The first time was 6 years earlier when Benjamin was two days old. We’re hoping that he will not repeat the event 6 years from now! Benjamin arrived home to find Jonathan, Grammy Blanche, a banner that said “Welcome Home Benjamin,” and all of his (100s of) stuffed animals and beanie babies waiting for him in the entry hall!

Thursday, 3/20/03

Benjamin went back to Kindergarten the very next day. All of his classmates and teachers made a big fuss over him. He was shy about all the attention.

The weekend.

Before Benjamin got sick, Jackie and Marc had planned to go away for a night to celebrate their anniversary on Saturday 3/22. They considered canceling, but Benjamin was doing so well, and they thought that this would be a good way to put the stress of the past two weeks behind them. But of course, nothing could go smoothly in March! Benjamin was supposed to be on oral antibiotics. The oral antibiotic was a thick white sludge of a medicine that was hard to pour (and therefore hard to drink) and tasted horrible (Marc tried it and verified this). After 4 days, Benjamin just couldn’t do it anymore. So Saturday morning, we called the doctor to see if we could switch him to pills. We got a prescription, but then we had to teach him to take pills. We used small candies to practice on, and Benjamin actually learned to swallow them without too much trouble. Avoiding the liquid medicine was a powerful incentive. So we sent off the boys to Jackie’s mom’s house, hoping (but not knowing for sure!) that Benjamin would have as much success with the actual pills as he did with candy.

Jackie and Marc had a wonderful dinner at their all time favorite restaurant, and thoroughly enjoyed their anniversary get-away. They spent the night at the Hyatt Newporter, and went to a nearby estuary and to Balboa Island the next day.

When they returned to Jackie’s mom’s house the next day, the good news was that Benjamin had not had any difficulty with the pills. The bad news was that he also had a rash covering the left side of his body. Since he had developed a rash when on antibiotics in the past, and since he had an appointment to see the doctor the next morning, we decided not to give him the evening dose of antibiotics.

Monday, 3/24/03

The next morning the doctor reported that Benjamin’s vision was now normal, and decided to halt the oral antibiotics. Benjamin’s eye was still just a tiny bit red and just a tiny bit puffy, and the doctor said that this would fade over time, but it would take a while. He also wanted to see Benjamin again in a week, to make sure that being off antibiotics was not a problem.

The next weekend

Benjamin participated in his first track meet, and he was a winner! That’s because, as everyone in our household has heard a million times, “if you try your hardest, you’re a winner.” Fast, he is not. However, we’re not concerned about how he compares to the other kids, we would just like to see him improve as the season progresses.

Jonathan missed the meet because he was on a retreat with his religious school class. He really enjoyed it, despite a definite lack of sleep and food. That’s what the following week is for, right?

Jonathan returned before noon on Sunday, and Jackie’s mom took both boys to see “Charlotte’s Web” which was put on by our local community college. They adored it.

Monday, 3/31/03

The good news: Benjamin saw the doctor and the doctor pronounced him cured. The bad news: Marc saw the doctor and was diagnosed with a minor eye infection.

Oh, and did I mention that Jonathan has a cold or a sinus infection? But with Benjamin’s illness to compare to, Marc’s and Jonathan’s ailments seem trivial.

Hope life is treating you well!

Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin