I spent 11 hours in the last few days at the Eagle Ridge Hospital Emergency Ward.
On Thursday night – July 9th, and Lyra’s birthday – we took Lyra out for the traditional birthday Sushi dinner and non-traditional movie while Pandra was visiting friends for the evening.
Except that isn’t what happened at all.
We arrived at the sushi place and ordered our food. Lyra complained that her stomach hurt and we tried some basic parental troubleshooting techniques (namely, asking a bunch of questions in an attempt to rule things out).
Our food arrived and we started eating… except Lyra didn’t want to eat, and complained that her stomach hurt even more. And then she started crying. We packed up our food, cancelled our movie tickets, and headed to a walk-in clinic, where he was concerned that he couldn’t rule out appendicitis, and sent us along to the Emergency room at Eagle Ridge Hospital for a second opinion.
Emergency room waiting areas are not where good birthday memories are made. Neither are hospital beds, severe dehydration, or the experience of having an IV put in while screaming at the top of one’s lungs and being held down by three adults, including your traitorous mother. Lying the bed after hour four of Eagle Ridge, Lyra was crying and telling me that this was the worst birthday of her entire life.
I can’t fault her on that one. It pretty much sucked.
But by midnight they were reasonably assured that, while they couldn’t totally rule it out, appendicitis wasn’t the culprit. The lab did discover a raging bladder infection, so the doctor ordered a bag of antibiotics added to the IV drip that was rehydrating my displeased little girl and a prescription to follow.
She wasn’t all tears and screaming. Multiple times she pointed out that the artwork on the wall of the children’s room we were in — a jungle scene featuring a snake, a giraffe, a lion, a cheetah, a hippo, a zebra, a monkey, and an elephant — was scientifically inaccurate. “Who puts all those animals together in the jungle? Most of them live on the African Savannah! And hippos aren’t PINK! And their eyes are creepy!” she scolded indignantly.At midnight, finally, they decided that Lyra was feeling and looking much better with the help of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and took out the IV and sent us home with a requisition for an ultrasound to be done the next day. They were reasonably confident that it wasn’t her appendix, but the doctor wanted to be as thorough as possible and was unwilling to rule it out entirely. The three of us packed up and took ourselves home.
Friday morning I worked from home, then headed back to the hospital with the now seven year old Lyra for an ultrasound. She loves getting ultrasounds. She calls it a belly massage. The last one she had was for a bladder infection, and she enjoyed it so much that she was looking forward to this one.
Once complete, they sent us back to check in at emergency so a doctor could go over the results with us. And then the waiting started.
First we registered, then waited in the main waiting room for nearly two hours. Then they moved us to the RAZ waiting room, and it took me nearly two hours of our waiting time to figure out that RAZ mean Rapid Assessment Zone. Then we got moved to a curtained area with a bed for a little while, and then sent back to the same room we’d spent all of our time in the night before.
Throughout these transitions, Lyra moved through a variety of dispositions. At first she was cheerful and dancing around the nearly empty main waiting area. Then she got bored, which quickly turned into worried. When it occurred to her that they might put another IV in her, she went from worried to a full on sobbing anxiety attack, where nothing I said could convince her that there wasn’t a nurse coming at any moment to poke her with a needle. I held her in my arms like when she was my tiny baby and not a tall, gangly kid, where I sat in my uncomfortable waiting area chair wishing we were somewhere else. When she came back from the cliff of anxiety, she settled into pure desolation.
“This is the worst day of my life. It’s the worst birthday I’ve ever had,” she would repeat over and over between her tears. “I hate this day.” All I could do was be with her, try to reassure her that things would get better, and keep telling her that I did not believe an IV was coming.
All of the tears and curling up in a ball and general unhappiness convinced the nurses that Lyra was still in pain, which she wasn’t. Someone brought her a comfort teddy bear to help her feel better. It didn’t really work, but I appreciated the effort. We were both starving by then â€” we had planned to go get lunch after the ultrasound was done, and that never happened â€” and I think we were both pretty Hangry. I was exhausted from hours of trying to manage an ongoing anxiety attack turned desperate depression, Lyra was exhausted from hours of having an ongoing anxiety attack turned desperate depression, and we both just wanted to go home.
By this point I didn’t believe it was appendicitis. The Ultrasound technician had told us that she couldn’t find Lyra’s appendix, and that it was a good thing, since an inflamed appendix sticks out. I was fairly certain that seeing a doctor was just going to repeat the same things, that we were to continue treating the bladder infection with antibiotics, and that if she got worse we should bring her back in.
When they moved us the last time from the emergency ward bed to the Children’s room in the ER, Lyra started to panic about getting an IV again. The nurse said, “No, we’re not doing an IV, we’re just taking you to another room,” and suddenly Lyra was perfectly calm and happy again. I suppose my betrayal during the IV incident of the night before, while never being mentioned by her, had not gone unnoticed, nor been forgotten. She would only believe a nurse. And since the previous nurse had said they’d wait to see what the doctor said when Lyra asked about the IV, she assumed that meant it was a 100% chance that it would happen.
The new nurse wasn’t talking about not getting an IV ever — she was just saying that they weren’t doing an IV right at that moment. Thankfully, Lyra didn’t understand it that way, so it helped.
We spent the last hour and a half back in the room we were in at the beginning. Someone brought us colouring sheets and crayons, we played toss-the-bear-around-the-room games, she jumped on the bed, we decided that the extremely upset and screaming small baby was actually a velociraptor (poor thing sounded like one), and Lyra would occasionally poke her head out the door and watch people go by, wondering if we’d been forgotten. I explained to her that sometimes in the emergency room other people will get seen before you because they have more pressing issues, and she accepted that.
Secretly I wondered if we’d been forgotten too.
After spending more money on parking at the hospital in two days than I normally spend on dinner for the family, we were seen by the ER doctor. He was pleasant and apologized for the wait, and patiently let Lyra ramble at him about completely unrelated topics (to a point, anyway). He said exactly what I expected — ultrasound showed no appendix, they don’t like to do a CT scan on a seven year old if they can avoid it, it’s probably okay, keep an eye on her and bring her back if she has pain and it ramps up for any reason — and sent us home.
Our plans to get lunch, to pick up a cake for her birthday, to fill her prescription from the night before, and to get me back home so I could do a some more work from there, were wrecked. Instead we got slurpees, picked up Pandra from daycare, and headed straight home.
Today, I’m hoping, made up for Lyra’s worst birthday ever — we all went to Cultus Lake Water Park with Lyra’s best friend and her family, and we had a picnic lunch there and rode waterslides all day long.
It’s going to be a memorable birthday for her, I expect. It was for me.