Most of you already know about Gracen and the fact that she was hospitalized last week, but I still thought I would give a run down of what happened and how Gracen is doing.
On Easter Sunday, Gracen woke up and seemed totally fine to me...other than the remnants of a cough and cold that she still had due to the croup from the previous week. Both girls dug through their Easter baskets and then I started our normal routine of feeding them breakfast and getting them dressed for church. They looked beautiful in their Easter dresses and I could kick myself for not taking pictures before we left for church....but we were running late and I figure we would just take family pictures with Gene after church.
When we arrived at church, I had to stay and work the nursery because there were so many babies in Gracen's class. Gracen was fine the first hour. I had to stay in the nursery the second hour as well, and it was during this time that Gracen's temperament changed. She became very fussy and just wanted me to hold her. She usually takes a nap about 10:00, so I just assumed she was tired. I tried to rock her for a good 30 minutes and she was incredibly restless. When she finally fell asleep, her breathing sounded really funny to me....weak and shallow. I asked Shannon Meadows, who was in nursery with me, to listen to her breathing and she agreed that it didn't sound quite right. Gracen slept in my arms until church was over and continued to sleep as I was walking down the hall to leave.
As we were leaving the building, I felt her whole body go almost limp, like a rag doll. I leaned her forward to look at her and she was pale and her little lips were turning a light blue. I freaked out. We were at the car and I screamed for Gene to look at her and he immediately started saying, "Oh, God....Oh, God....Oh, God!" This unnerved me too! We basically all jumped in the car and flew like lightning out of the parking lot to the ER, which is less than 10 minutes from the church. In that ride, Gracen became more and more pale. Around her eyes starting turning light blue and I could see veins on her forhead because she was so pale, almost gray looking. I was holding her and kept rubbing her back and stomach. I was crying and lightly shaking her to keep her from going to sleep. She only opened her eyes two times in that car ride and both times her little eyes rolled back in her head. She never made eye contact with me and was completely limp the entire ride. To say that I was petrified is an understatement of epic proportions.
I realized in that moment how fragile life is and how God is in complete control. We are just a vapor....here one moment and gone the next. I found myself begging God not to take her, not to use us as an example of walking through such grief and loss. Over the course of that horrific day, I wish I could say that my faith and trust in God brought me complete peace. It didn't! Maybe a minister's wife shouldn't say that, but it is totally true. Horrific things happen to the most godly people....not that we are the most godly people, just making the point. We live in a fallen world ravaged by sin, a world where terrible things happen to believers and unbelievers alike. I do trust God and love Him. I do believe that He is in complete control, that everything happens for a reason, and that everything works together for good for his ultimate glory. I knew that in His sovereignity, her life and her death could be used to bring Him glory and I just didn't know which way we were headed. Terrifying thought....that He could choose to take her, or Reagan, for that matter, for His glory....that He could use that to point others to Himself.
When we arrived at the ER, we were in a room within 10 minutes. At this point, some of Gracen's color was coming back and she was crying. The nurses put a probe of some sort on her toe to monitor her vital signs, which brought me great relief. We waited a good hour before they did anything else to her. Eventually they came in and took blood. They also put in an IV, bagged her urine, tested her for the flu, strep, and RSV. They also took about 25 minutes worth of x-rays. They may have run some other tests but that is all I can remember at this moment.
Thankfully many family members arrived to offer support...my parents, Gene's parents, my sister, Lindsay, and her husband Brian. Bro. Jason Kennedy also came to the ER right after we arrived and helped with Reagan until our family got there. Bro. Glenn, our pastor, arrived shortly after Bro. Jason.
The nurses found that she had a viral infection of some kind in her chest. They called it bronchilititis (I have no idea how to spell that). They also found a severe kidney infection. Her white blood count was around 34,000, which is off the charts for a baby. It is suppose to be under 10,000. The decision was made to transport her to Baptist East by ambulance to monitor her over night and to give her steroids and antibiotics by IV. Gene and I were already completely drained. We arrived at the ER at 12:15 and they loaded her in the ambulance at 5:45. Neither one of us had eaten since breakfast....not that I could have eaten at any point during the day. My nervous stomach also got the best of me and I made several trips to the bathroom. I was so nauseous that I could not ride in the back of the ambulance. Only one parent was allowed anyway. Gene thought I needed to go home and get Reagan situated with her Gran and Paw Paw and pack our bags. I didn't argue.
I cried and prayed while I was in the car by myself. I also called Joy Williams, a friend and prayer warrior. I asked her to put out a FaceBook request for prayers and to start praying herself as well. She did. She also prayed with me on the phone and her calming nature calmed my spirit. Thanks Joy.
I packed our clothes and some comforting things for Gracen and headed to the hospital. As I drove, I cried and prayed some more. My older sister, Lori, called me and we talked for a good 25 minutes. She is another prayer warrior and allowed me to talk and cry as well. She assured me that she and her family and their church family would be in prayer and I believed her. Another comforting phone call. Thanks Lori.
When I arrived at the hospital I found this...
A little angel in a hospital gown, with an IV in her hand brought me to tears....again. No child should be dressed in either. Heartbreaking!!! When I arrived, Gracen was already so much better. She was smiling and had won over the nurses with her cuteness. Many people were with us that night at Baptist East... my parents, Cassandra Hicks, Tim and Joy Williams. Your presence was comforting. Thank you for coming, especially on Easter Sunday.
Sunday night was very difficult. Gene and I might have slept 2 hours total. We finally got Gracen to sleep at 10:30 and the nurse came in at 12:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m., and 8:00 a.m. to check her vitals. Gracen woke up every time and it took me a good hour to get her back to sleep. The nurse also walked into our room every single hour to look at Gracen. She didn't need to because I was standing up beside her bed, looking at her too. The car ride to the ER was imprinted in my brain and I just knew she was going to die in her sleep. It was Tuesday night before I really slept. and even then, for just a couple of hours at a time.
Early Monday morning, my birthday, we had to hold Gracen down for a renal ultrasound. This was not a painful test but Gracen was scared of the nurses and the big machine. They also rubbed that sticky gel all over her stomach and back and she didn't care for that. The ultrasound showed that she has a mild case of neonatal hydronephrosis, which is basically a blockage between the bladder and the kidneys that doesn't allow urine to empty from her bladder completely. This causes reflux of urine back into her kidneys which can lead to scar tissue and eventually kidney damage if not corrected.
We have to take Gracen to Children's Hospital for an outpateint procedure on April 30th and she will be on antibiotics for a year to prevent any more kidney infections.
The doctors are not 100% sure what caused the terrifying breathing spell as we were leaving church. They gave us two possibilites. 1...A mucus plug broke loose from her chest and blocked her airway....or 2. Her little body was fighting two infections and just shut down, similar to passing out. I really think it was number 2.....but who knows.
I am very thankful for many things...
- that I was with her in the nursery while she was in such distress.
- that we were in Prattville and close to the ER when it happened.
- that I wasn't by myself, because there is no way that I could have driven my car.
- that something like this happened which forced us to take her to the ER, which allowed us to find the kidney condition before any major damage occurred.
- that I have such wonderful friends and family.
- that Gracen is still here.
- that all of my family is together again under one roof.
- that I have been forced to realize that as hard as it is to be a mother ...it is the greatest blessing that I have on this earth.....next to being a wife to my wonderful husband.
I will post some more details of the rest of our week in the days to come. Our one night of observation turned in to 5 nights as the doctors waited for her white blood count to fall under 15,000. When we left on Friday, the count was around 13,000. Gracen is on the mend and is taking antibiotics. Unfortunately, I am still not sleeping all that well. I still feel the need to check her repeatedly throughout the night.
All I can say is Praise the Lord for doctors, nurses, medicine, and hospitals!
Here are a few more pictures.
We spent days on this bed with toys trying to keep Gracen occupied and off the floor.
Here is Gracen visiting with Reagan and her cousin Abby.