Lessons from the PICU

I always figured my second born, King of Chaos, Charlie would be the cause for my first ever trip to an Emergency Room. I assumed it would be for a broken bone or concussion from scaling furniture in the house, jumping off the bed or some other little boy activity he loves to age me with.

Exhibit A: Charlie hasn’t been changed on this changing table in well over a year. He sure loves to climb up here now though.

But alas, in November, after all three kids had been sick for the better part of a week, I recognized that sweet Evelyn’s work of breathing was becoming increasingly distressed. So the morning after Thanksgiving, I walked into the kitchen amongst yelling from my older two. Something to do about pancakes and told my husband I was taking Evelyn, 7 weeks at the time, to the ER.

I was not sure about what they would or could do for Evie. I thought maybe a breathing treatment and a steroid to open her airways and we would be on our way back home. During her triage, they tested her for the usual and to absolutely no ones surprise she came back positive for RSV.

It probably shouldn’t have been, but when the doctor brought up transferring Evelyn to a children’s hospital for admittance I was shocked. “What? We aren’t going back home today? I have two other kids I need to take care of!” Off we went to a room to wait a few hours until an ambulance could arrive to transport us.

We arrived through the Emergency Room and before going to our room upstairs a doctor assessed Evelyn. She immediately said she needed to stay in the ER and be transferred to PICU instead of a standard room. At this point she was having a lot of difficulty breathing and her oxygen was in the 80s. A few hours of waiting in the ER and we were transferred to our room in PICU where we stayed for the next four days.

After four days on high flow oxygen and successfully weaning from that, we transferred to a standard room. One final night to see if she would stay stable off all oxygen and praise the Lord she did! Back home we went! I did not leave the house once for a week after that!

During our time at Rainbow Babies, I felt like a stranger in my body. It was as if I was watching this happen to someone else. This could not possibly be happening to my sweet, newborn, baby girl. She looked even smaller than she already was with so many wires stuck to her.

I struggled with guilt of leaving my other two children at home. “They are going to think I abandoned them.” “What if they get more sick?” “What if they refuse to sleep without me there?” “What if this is too much for them to handle?”.

These two exceeded my expectations. 💜💙

Thankfully my husband was able to take off work. My mother being the saint she is, came over daily to help as well. Thank the good Lord, they did so much better than I would have expected. It was certainly an upheaval in their routine that caused big emotions, but overall, they did wonderful!

During our stay in the hospital I had plenty of time to think and ponder on this experience. What lessons can I take from this? As stressful as this time was, I could appreciate the many moments of recognition of just how blessed I am. Here are a few things that I can appreciate from our time in the PICU.

By far, the first thing that came to mind and I could not stop thinking about was how so many parents have a child with an illness that requires frequent hospital visits. These parents are absolute warriors. The stress and trauma they must endure while caring for their child and navigating the medical system is not something I would wish on anyone.

Knowing so many children and their families are going through this on a regular basis is heart wrenching. There was only one brief moment of sleep deprived fear that I thought to myself, “What if she doesn’t pull out of this?” Other than that moment, I had peace knowing she was coming home with me at some point. I recognize not all parents have that peace and what a living hell that must be. I’ve never appreciated my children’s overall health more.

I think I held Evelyn for all but maybe five to six cumulative hours while we were in the hospital. She did not want to be set down and I did not want to let go of her. What a blessing it is to be able to just scoop up your child anytime they need you. Evie had a number of wires and monitors attached to her. I was frequently bumping them, pulling them off on accident and crimping her oxygen. It felt like I was always causing alarms to go off. Thankfully after about half a day, I learned how to reattach and correct everything myself. My goodness though, what an ordeal it seemed to be to simply adjust her in my arms. Changing her diaper and clothes was an entire saga. Being able to lift her up and pull her to my chest unimpeded is something I try and remember to thank God for regularly now.

For two days, Evelyn and I were unable to nurse. Eating was too much of an extra strain on her breathing and she was vomiting up her feedings. She was kept hydrated through an IV. I’ve always loved being able to bond and nourish my babies with breastfeeding. The first time I was able to nurse her again I cried, I was so grateful. There are times when I’m nursing at night and, naturally, frustration and exhaustion hit. “I just want to sleep” I complain to myself. Occasionally those two days pop back into my head and it helps me feel so much more appreciative of being Evelyn’s comfort no matter the hour.

I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated technology more than during this time. I was able to video chat with my husband and family. We were able to have meals “together” and my oldest was able to bring me into her play. Being able to Doordash meals to my family was also such a relief!

Josh and I received an abundance of love and prayers over what felt like the longest five days of our life. In what can seem like a time where everyone is divided, fighting and thinking only of themselves I was reminded of how good people are. We had wonderful care from every staff member who came into our room. We had friends reaching out asking how they could pray for us, sending coffee and offering to watch Addy and Charlie. It helped mitigate so much anxiety and I am forever grateful.

Although I pray we never have any reason for another hospital visit or stay with any of our children, I can acknowledge the new appreciation I have for the day to day little moments I am blessed to have with my children.


3 thoughts on “Lessons from the PICU

  1. Thank you, Christa, for this informative account of your experience in the PICU with Evelyn. The pictures you shared help readers understand the challenges you both endured. Hopefully, others will immediately seek help (as you did) when they see their child’s breathing is not normal.


  2. Christa, this is a great account of what you experienced during Evelyn’s illness. Hopefully, others will be on the alert and take quick action if their child’s breathing is not normal. Thank you for sharing this important information.


    1. Thankfully someone else shared their experience and taught me what to look for!

      Liked by 1 person

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