Salmonella - My Baby Had Salmonella!
Unfortunately anyone who has a baby has said at one time or another, "my baby's sick." There are different degrees of illness that all lump together under that phrase. Many babies have colic, or persistent colds. Many babies develop allergies at an early age, others have fevers for no apparent reason. These are the things that babies do.
When my oldest son was ten months old we decided to go to the movies with my Mom, Dad, and Nana babysitting. A night I will never forget. We went to see Bonnie and Clyde and stopped for a quick drink on the way home. We hadn't gotten out a lot in the last ten months so it was a nice relaxing evening. When we got home we entered our apartment and found Nana standing there crying. "The baby's sick and your mother and father took him to the hospital. He had a high fever and convulsions." In spite of her words I looked around our small apartment and yes, she was the only one there. There were no cell phones back then so there was no way to contact them and get details. We left right away and headed for the hospital. Poor Nana stayed behind. My mother had raised three children and cared for many others so I knew she was a pro and something was really wrong, she would never take a baby to the hospital unless it was a real emergency. We didn't say much to each other during the fifteen minutes it took us to get to the hospital, we were both overcome with fear. This little guy had been born almost two months prematurely and had struggled for his first three weeks, then with many infant ailments during his short ten months, but this was beyond the norm. The hospital! My baby back in the hospital! I cried and prayed.
When we got to the hospital emergency room the first nurse we met we asked about our baby. She said he was holding his own, something about baby coma and something about having some brain damage from the convulsions. BRAIN DAMAGE! My baby in a coma! Now the hysterics began. We continued to search to find my parents. Apparently, he had started with a fever shortly after we left. The fever got higher and then he went into convulsions. My parents couldn't remember the name of his pediatrician but remembered a new medical center we had mentioned. After calling the movie theater to try to contact us they called the medical center. (The movie theater had never tried to find us by the way.) My mother explained he had had convulsions and appeared to be in a coma. The doctor said to bring him right in. When they arrived at the medical center the doctor examined him, stuck pins in his feet, and said he was in a coma! Another doctor entered the room and said, "get him out of here. He needs to be in a hospital." Since they had driven to the medical center they were now 1/2 hour away from the hospital. The doctor said the quickest thing was for them to drive him there. When they got to the hospital emergency room things happened very fast. Fortunately when the nurse mentioned pediatricians' names my Mom remembered mine and he was called immediately.
That brought us up to speed, that and the fact that our ten month old baby was in a coma. While we were waiting for the doctor we weren't aware he was already in with our baby. When he came out he told us to calm down, there was no brain damage that they knew of and he would definitely speak with that nurse. The baby's high fever had caused the convulsions and even though my mother had done everything right, he went into a coma. They were doing everything they could for him. We were allowed to see him. Seeing anyone in a coma is a difficult thing but seeing a ten month old baby in a coma is heart wrenching. He just laid there with IV's in his thighs, such a pitiful sight. After a while the doctor told us there was nothing we could do so we should just go home and get some rest. I couldn't tell you what time it was by now.
The baby remained in a coma for three days and I remained at his side every minute I was allowed. Back then you could only stay during visiting hours, no exceptions. On the fourth day he finally came out of the coma but was still a sick little baby. He began to develop diarrhea. Of course testing was going on but it seemed there was no definitive diagnosis. Even though he had diarrhea and was still sick he started to move around quite a bit and they had to put him in a covered crib. I was allowed to hold him, which I did every chance I got. The days passed and still no diagnosis. Finally around day eight the doctor said, "I think he has salmonella but this hospital isn't equipped to do better testing. We need to get him out of here or he's going to develop pneumonia from lying in the crib. Do you have a hospital preference?" Before I go on let me explain Salmonella; called salmonella poisoning or salmonella infection is a bacteria in the intestines. Salmonella symptoms usually include cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and can lead to dehydration and death. Salmonella has also been linked with botulism and typhoid fever.
Back to the decision. I had worked at St. Vincent's in New York City and my parents still lived in Queens so I told him I would really like to take him there rather than Albany Medical Center. Additionally, my aunt was a nun - a Sister of Charity and the Sisters of Charity ran St. Vincent's hospital. I contacted my aunt who did some quick phone calling and made arrangements for him to be brought to St. Vincent's. When I told my pediatrician who his doctor would be in NYC he laughed and said, "I was in the Navy with Vince." That was Dr. Vincent Fontana. Dr. Fontana practiced at St. Vincent's but was also medical director of the New York Foundling, the service agency for abused and neglected children and their families. When he was in the Navy he served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower's physician. My pediatrician, Dr. Hoveman, said we couldn't be in better hands. He also said there was no need to traumatize our son and send him to the City in an ambulance, we could drive him down there.
The two hour drive to the City was both happy and sad. It was the first time in ten days we had our baby to ourselves, but he wasn't himself. He was listless and cranky. We were so worried and so heartbroken to see him this way. He was a very active little guy - he climbed out of his crib when he was six months old! I alternated between laughing and crying throughout that two hour drive. My husband was very somber the entire time. He was worried and didn't want to show it. Arriving at St. Vincent's and checking in is all a blur. The most painful part was watching as they put him in isolation ... we couldn't go in his room. We could only stand by the glass and watch. Testing began again.
I was afraid this was going to be a long haul and knew I was again facing the visiting hour limitation. Before we got married I had worked at St.Vincent's as Secretary to the Director of Psychiatry. I called my office manager and explained the situation. She asked if I would like to work as a temp while my son was in the hospital. I said yes without even thinking about it. This would help defray the cost of taking the subway to the city every day and it would allow me to see my baby any time during the day I could get free. I filled in as a secretary in Child Psychiatry. Every spare minute I had I'd run up and see him. Just stand and watch for a few minutes, then go back to work.
After about day number two in St. Vincent's Dr. Fontana confirmed Dr. Hoveman's diagnosis, our baby had salmonella and after spending twelve days in the hospital he had developed bronchial pneumonia. Watching him through that glass was tearing my heart out! One night in particular he was crying and tangled in his IV's. I called for a nurse and no one came immediately. I began to lose it. I started ranting and raving and running up and down the halls. I'll never forget Sr. Catherine. She approached me and said, "okay, if this is how you act we will bar you from this floor." I was shocked but the shock made me stop screaming and running up and down the hall. We sat down together and she said, "I had to get your attention. Now that you're calm realize we are doing the best for your baby. He is our concern, not you, though we want you to be comfortable with his care." I was better after that and of course apologized to Sr. Catherine. She said there was no need she understood all too well how I was feeling.
I settled into a routine but always had this ball in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to hold my little boy. I wanted to pick him up and just kiss him, but he was still in isolation. On day ten I went to see him and the window was gone, he was out of isolation! My heart leaped with joy and I rushed into his room. I hugged and kissed him as he pushed me away to play. I called my husband and my mother. This was a great day for us. They all came that night to see and touch him. We had spent so many hours looking through that glass.
Dr. Fontana explained, as we knew, he had had salmonella. No one knew how he got it or where it came from. He asked if we had a dog, which we did. He explained sometimes it can come from an animal or my husband or I could be a carrier. Before he would discharge our baby we had to have our stool tested for salmonella. Fortunately neither of us tested positive.
On day fourteen of the St. Vincent's stay, my husband drove down from upstate to finally bring me and our baby home. He had commuted on weekends but needed to work during the week - no work, no pay. My parents and Nana were so excited we decided to bring him to my Mom and Dad's and stay overnight before heading upstate. What a celebration this was for all of us! Finally, our baby was coming home. He'd spent ten days in our local hospital and fourteen days in St.Vincent's, but he was better now. He was back to his old self, laughing and trying to get into trouble. No more glass partitions, no more IV's, our baby was back!
He got sick again, after all he was only ten months old, but thank God, he never had anything like that again.
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My "baby's" 40th Birthday
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A febrile convulsion is a fit or seizure that occurs in children when they have a high fever. A febrile convulsion is not epilepsy and does not cause brain damage.
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