photo by zen

Yesterday was a harrowing day for me...and my family. But mostly for my 3year old little boy. He awoke Tuesday, promptly came into the bedroom and said his head was shaking. Rather suddenly he grabbed his head and whimpered "oooww!". This was not his normal behavior. He wasn't coming down with a cold, there was no sign of a runny rose, etc. I thought it odd that he said his head was "shaking", a phrase he had never used before. I started trace back the last few days, thinking maybe he had a bad dream, maybe he fell and hit his head. Nothing was coming to mind...he continued to whimper in pain, wanted to be held and said he wanted to go to the doctor. That's when I realized not only was something wrong, but I need to take action. I dropped my daughter off at preschool. I drove straight to the doctor's office and he got seen immediately. With no other symptoms, the doctor seemed concerned it might be something internal and unseen...something more serious. She ordered a neurological exam and a CT scan (something I am all too familiar with). She said that he would be put on the urgent list and that was around 24-72 hours. She said to keep a watchful eye on him for in between his next test to note any related behavior. (she had mentioned the possibility of a seizure. At this point, I am still concerned, trying not to be overly worried-but thankful that he has seen a medical professional.) We rest at home for a bit. I have my eagle eyes on him while he sips on a sprite. At this point, he became extremely lethargic and sleepy (it was 11am). I made the decision almost instantly to take him straight to the emergency room. I brought him in, and again he was seen almost immediately. I explained my son's symptoms and they examined him from head to to toe. In the few hours since his original symptoms, he developed a low grade fever. They did a blood work up (to rule out an infection in his blood), a urinalysis (for a bladder infection), a CT scan for possible hemorrhage or tumor (hate the T-word...), and finally they did a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to rule out meningitis. Giving the okay to have them administer the LP was very difficult and only after all other avenues had been searched did I think this was the best course of action. He was not getting better and if it was meningitis, then we (or they rather) needed to act swiftly. The medical staff put him under heavy sedation and administered the LP. I left the room before the sedative took effect. I did not want my little boy to see me cry. I was not in the room at the time of the spinal tap, my husband took my place and stayed with him during the test. in the little "quiet" room across the hallway, I sat and cried. The weight of the events of the whole day came crashing down and I realized I had been trying to bear the burden all on my own. I had not given over fully to the One had ultimate control-God. I prayed for the next few minutes, fervently, for the Lord's will to be done and for God to remove my fear. When I walked back to the room, my little boy was lying on his side...so tiny and seemingly fragile. i just wanted to scoop him up and hold him, but I knew I couldn't. It would be 30 minutes before the test results came back (and they were negative...all the tests were negative) and another 3 hours before he would wake up from the sedation. During the minutes immediately following the procedure, the nurses did not leave the room; They watched intently for the slightest abnormality in his heart rate or oxygen levels and kept a log of every attempt to rouse him out of sedation. I had the chance to talk to the nurses on a more intimate level, asking about the procedure and in general about my son's condition. Now that the tests were negative, I began to second guess my decision to take him to the ER in the first place. The nurse attending my sweet boy said she would have brought her own son in, had he had the same symptoms as my sons. She said that I had made the right decision in bringing him in-that it was far better to rule out all the major stuff, than to have not come in at all and have had dire consequences. We didn't leave the emergency room until 8:15pm. 8 and a 1/2 hours in the ER. And he was discharged as having a viral syndrome. They said that they couldn't be sure what it was exactly, but the definitely knew what it wasn't. Bitter sweet comfort I guess. He still had a fever Wednesday morning and slowly through out the day regained his pep. I am so thankful that it was nothing serious.

So, why am I writing this? Why have I told you a story about a seeming "false alarm?" I guess I want any parent reading this to know a few things before that inevitable trip to the ER for their child.

First and foremost, you are your child's advocate. Their best advocate. You know the most about their health history and any current or related symptoms. You know when something is not right and obey that instinct that tells you so. When talking to a nurse or doctor, be bold. Ask the hard questions. Seek to be informed. Be aggressive (yet calm) in attaining information. The more informed you are, the better equipped you are to make those tough decisions.

Second, meningitis in children can be life threatening and if suspected needs to be acted on immediately. It comes in two forms bacterial and viral. They are both serious, although bacterial more than viral. Meningitis symptoms mirror that of a common cold so watch especially for these symptoms:
  • Fever.
  • Severe and persistent headache.
  • Stiff and painful neck, especially when trying to touch the chin to the chest.
  • Vomiting.
  • Confusion and decreased level of consciousness.
  • Seizures.
Other symptoms of meningitis include:
  • Sluggishness, muscle aches and weakness, and strange feelings (such as tingling) or weakness throughout the body.
  • Eye sensitivity and eye pain from bright lights.
  • Skin rash.
  • Dizzy spells
Third, the only test to detect meningitis is a lumbar puncture. Educate yourself on this test now, so that you can be informed should need arise for you or your child to have one administered.

Fourth, follow up after you have been to an ER. Remain watchful of your child and make an appointment to see a doctor if necessary.

I am so thankful that my son is not seriously ill. I am also thankful that we took him to the ER.


  1. Oh, my goodness, Michelle!!!! I was rivoted, reading the entire story in seconds. I am SO praising God nothing serious became of this. I have shivers, and my stomach is in knots. I'll be keeping him in prayer. Wow. So scary. Praise God it wasn't meningitis.
    Love to you,

  2. I'm so glad that everything ended up being OK. I feel bad that you and your little man had to experience something so traumatic!! You are all in my thoughts :o)

  3. he's doing better and no more fever or headache/pain

  4. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Oh, my goodness! What a scary time for you! I'm glad it all turned out okay -- but sorry you had to go through it all! We had a scare about a year ago when our oldest (then 3) swallowed a metal screw with a sharp end -- our first (and only so far) ER visit! Not a fun place, but it's nice to know there are so many knowledgeable docs and nurses when you need them.