We Were The Lucky Ones
It started on a Saturday.
My neighbor on Fort Lewis was having a party. She invited all the members of the small chapel we attended, and being a close-knit military community, several of our neighbors came to sit and chat with us as we sat outside. It was a warm, beautiful day, and I loved seeing all the kids playing in our courtyard.
I was pregnant with my son at the time, wracked with a constant upset tummy.
Emma was across the grassy area playing with our neighbor's kids, like she had done almost every day since we moved to Fort Lewis. But then she suddenly ran over to me, her face filled with horror.
Her dress was wet on the bottom, so I gently took her hand and led her the few steps to our house so she could change. Emma was so distraught. I was so confused. Emma had taken forever to potty train, but when she got it, she really got it. She hadn't had the slightest hint of an accident in months.
Emma was, by most people's standards, a "perfect" child. No, really. She was always easy going and polite and good natured; even now, as a teenager, she rarely talks back, is kind and helpful and is well liked by both her many friends and teachers.
She was horribly embarrassed by her accident and didn't want to go back outside, where her friends might make fun of her. So I let her decide what she wanted to do; after all, we were just sitting in the courtyard outside our house. Little did I know, the horrors that soon awaited us.
I guess, really, that our ordeal started a week before the party. We went to a local wildlife preserve, where you ride around on a bus looking at wild animals. There were almost no animals that day, and Emma, whose mood was usually cheerful, was grumpy. Her head felt hot to the touch, so as soon as the tour ended, we took her straight home.
Emma was a healthy child, except for a strange bout of kidney sand and consequent urinary tract infections. She rarely got sick; the most memorable illness she suffered was one ear infection, made worse by her getting it before we had to fly home from seeing a friend in Alaska. I was diligent in keeping up with her and her sister's vaccines to that point, despite many billing headaches caused by careless billing people in my doctor's office and persnickety insurance companies. Those hassles alone should have stopped me from vaccinating my girls.
Oh, and she didn't get an ear infection until after she had been vaccinated against them.
After getting home from the zoo, Emma's temperature spiked; the thermometer read 105°. She didn't seem to have any symptoms besides the fever, so my mom and I did what we could to bring it down and resolved that if she wasn't better by morning, we would take her to the doctor. This decision was made mostly on the knowledge that we would have to sit in Madigan's ER for several hours before being seen. We decided it would be better to wait it out until morning.
And she was better in the morning. Not entirely cured, but her temperature had dropped to a much less troubling 101°. She had fully recovered in a couple of days.
A week later, she had her accident at the party. Two weeks after that, she couldn't stand by herself.
The nighttime screaming started about a week after the party.
The first night, it scared me. After several nights with no sleep, I was ready to pull my hair out.
We awoke to Emma moaning loudly; when I picked her up to comfort her, she began screaming. Screams of excruciating pain. I couldn't touch her, and she couldn't move. It was too painful.
The morning after that first night, she woke up as though nothing had happened the night before; the pain seemed to be gone and she was acting like a typical four year old. After two nights of this, though, the sleepless nights gave way to a more disturbing symptom: An inability to climb stairs and stumbling when walking.
I took her to one of the doctors in the Pediatric Clinic in Madigan, where they told me she was having "growing pains" and that I should just wait the symptoms out. I told them about her screaming at night, and they surmised she must be having nightmares.
When I pulled up to our townhouse, my friends were standing outside. I hadn't known them very long, but we were already close and I desperately needed someone to confide in. My husband and I were at our wits' end.
As we stood there by the playground, my daughter tried to walk over to the slide, but couldn't lift her legs enough to get over the 6" barrier that kept the pea gravel around the play equipment. She nearly fell down.
"That is not "growing pains," I said, fighting back tears. My friends agreed; both had deeply concerned looks on their faces.
And then, everything plummeted out of control.
Emma was barely sleeping and I had no idea how to help her. She was such an easy child, but nothing that worked before was working now. I had coslept with her as an infant, I had breastfed her, I had showered with her, her tiny body pressed against my chest; and now, I couldn't even touch her because it made her scream even louder.
I was losing my mind. I was severely sleep deprived. I was desperately nauseous from my pregnancy all the time, to the point I could barely eat anything. I was concerned about the toll this was taking on my younger daughter.
Finally, I reached a breaking point. My husband had been on Charge of Quarters (CQ) all night, and when he arrived home in the morning, exhausted, I begged him to take her to the ER, and not leave until he had an answer. She had screamed the entire night. He worked in the hospital, so I knew that he would know what to say to have them take us seriously.
But we obviously had no idea what we were talking about.
You can read Part Two here.