As I mentioned before, as we left Vienna, Abbie had come down with a fever and was complaining of pain on the right side of her neck. I took her to the doctor on base on Monday, she said it was a virus. I took her to the Italian ER in Pordenone on Tuesday, he said it was a virus. I was 100% not convinced it was a virus and Abbie continued to get worse. My little girl is full throttle about 95% of the time, and she was deteriorating rapidly by Thursday. I called the pediatrician on base again Thursday morning and got her an appointment for 10:40am. I was anxious so we got there early and saw a different pediatrician than we saw on Monday. He almost immediately said that he thought it was an abscess and that she needed to go to the Pordenone hospital again for emergency treatment.
Since it is an Italian hospital, the base provides us with translators and then liaison doctors that speak English that also visit the patients from the base. But the Italian doctors have to do their own exams, even though we were just referred from the base.
We got there and went to the pediatric level of the hospital, which is the ER and also the pediatric ward. Italians have socialist health care, so it’s a
little lot different from what we’re used to in the States. The translator checked us in and we sat in the waiting room with 2-3 other kids waiting to be seen by the ER doctor. Since the base pediatrician had told us that her case was rather urgent, I was pretty antsy since the other kids in the “line” were up playing and talking and Abbie wouldn’t even get out of the stroller. We got off to a bad start with the nurses there when they took Abbie’s temp. When we were on base, her temp was over 102. We drove to the ER and they didn’t stick the ear thing all the way in her ear and said her temp was 99. I said that is wrong, she didn’t have any meds, and there’s no way her fever miraculously came down on it’s own. So 20 mins later they finally took it again, but sticking a thermometer in her armpit… and then leaving it there for 15 mins. So of course she feel asleep again and wasn’t holding her arm down tight and they again said that she didn’t have a fever, when I knew full well she did… Not off to a good start.
I left and took Ben to a friends house and to grab some things from home for us and while I was gone they decided to admit Abbie to the hospital. They put an IV port in her arm while I was gone, and Mark said she barely even flinched when they did it. She needed a CT scan and we originally thought that she was so out of it that she would lay there still enough for them to do the scans, but she got one look at machine and she wasn’t having any of it at all. We’re sitting in this tiny waiting area in the basement of the hospital, starting at this huge machine, talking to the radiologist and anesthesiologist via the translator and trying to understand everything they’re saying. They were handing us forms in Italian to sign and we were trying to ask questions, again, via the translator, to make sure we understood the risks of things and what they were doing. The anesthesiologist gave Abbie the sedative while Mark was holding her and then he laid her on the CT scanner bed and we were ushered in to this room with a window where we could watch her while they did the scan. However, she started twitching really funny – her chest was like jumping occasionally and there were 3-4 people crowded around her. I had no clue what was going on or why she was doing that, and the translator kept saying she’s okay because I was really freaking out, but he didn’t have a medical degree and I didn’t believe him. The anesthesiologist was pushing pretty hard in the soft part on both sides under her jaw by her neck – I don’t know why – and they were all looking at the tiny, hand held machine that was beeping with her heart rate or something I think. I don’t know. They had an IV hooked up to her and one thing on her finger and that’s it. No big machine with the line like you see in the movies – just a tiny box that was beeping… I was scared. The scan took about 5-10 mins and then we got to go out to her again. That thing on her toe was the only way they were monitoring her during the scan.
Dr. DeBose, the liaison doctor, came to visit us after we got back to our room and said that if they were going to do surgery, they would probably do it on Friday. However, I think after they looked at the scan results, they decided to do emergency surgery because her abscess was so big and they were worried about it suffocating her.
Around 6:00pm, some random guy came in to the room when we were talking to the Italian pediatrician who was explaining to us that they were going to do surgery that night. We had no clue who he was or why he was there. Turns out he was the after hours translator, but he never told us that. He escorted us down to the OR area, on the way handing me the phone to talk to Dr. DeBose who told me what was going on again, although I really couldn’t hear him much. He told us to put our green stuff on and then he disappeared. So when we really needed him, he was absolutely no where to be found. I’m going to be filing a complaint on that one.
We were ushered in to this area to wait for Abbie to be taken to surgery. I asked the ENT doctor who was doing the surgery if they could please sedate her while she was with us instead of taking her back fully aware and then sedating her and she just said, “No.” I asked again, and she said no again. I was losing patience by this point and my “cool” and I was constantly fighting back tears. Abbie said she had to go potty so Mark took her to find a bathroom and the next thing I know, he’s coming to get me because she was throwing up blood and puss and it was also coming out of her nose. I went quickly to find someone to help us and found a room with a few people in scrubs sitting in it and motioned for them to come quickly. About 4-5 people ran after me back to the bathroom and then they all pretty much stayed in that area with us. From what I could gather without the translator, it was 2-3 nurses and at least 2 doctors.
Then began our game of charades. I was trying to ask them to sedate her while she was with us again, and they weren’t getting it. I speak very limited Italian, and they spoke very limited English, so it literally was a game of charades. I was ask them, and all 5 of them would look at me with confused expressions and then start chattering with each other and then one would say no. And then they’d all stare at me again. I was getting really frustrated and looking at Mark to help, which he did a little. Finally, after about 3 rounds of that and them saying no, there was an older guy who we think was a doctor, that finally said “Ahhhh!” and then chattered in Italian to the others and then they all said “Ahhh, okay, si” (yes). So they gave her a little of the sedative to make her sleepy while Mark held her and then picked her up and carried her away. And I completely lost it.
It took about 45 mins to an hour from the time they took her away until the time they brought her back to us. And it took a couple hours for the anesthesia to wear off, but she still wasn’t doing very well on Thursday, or on Friday. I thought that once they drained the abscess and gave her a round or two of antibiotics that she’d bounce right back, but she didn’t. She gradually got better over the next 5 days.
They only let one parent stay with her, even though the base pays for us to have a private room. So Mark spent the first night with her, and I went home and slept and came back the next morning bringing toys and clothes for Abbie. Ben was with our friend Lisette overnight Thursday night and most of Friday.
Friday Abbie rested most of the day, until around 5pm when they tried to give her the antibiotics via her iv port (hep-lock). We had Ben with us at this point since Lisette had plans and Mark was going to take him home for the night and drop him off with different friends in the morning. Abbie was
saying screaming that it hurt when they were putting the meds in her hep-lock, so they decided that they blew the vein it was in and had to redo it. And that’s where her fear really started. I was trying to keep Ben quiet and help them hold her down, but it was taking four of us to try to hold Abbie still and the nurse tried 3 times to get another one in and didn’t succeed. Abbie was beside herself at this point and had bruises on her arms and hands where they’d been sticking her. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and not wanting the nurses anywhere near her. The nurses had Mark hold her for a few minutes to calm her down, and then put a sedative in her nose to try to help calm her to get a new hep-lock in. However, she flipped out when they laid her on the table and held her down and put stuff up her nose, so the sedative had a “paradoxical” affect as they called it, meaning that instead of calming her down, it pretty much kept her in a frantic state for a good four hours. Since she was very upset when they did it, it didn’t have the desired affect. It made her act like a belligerent drunk. She could barely stand up and was slurring her words somewhat, but she was still fighting – kicking, screaming, hitting, biting, sobbing. They managed to finally get a port in her hand and administer the meds to her, and Mark took Ben home, but Abbie was in a hysterical state until after 9pm. She was trying to rip her hep-lock out of her hand and trying to kick and bite anyone who tried to stop her and she screamed for Mark for a long time. (She’s 300% a daddy’s girl.) It was a very long night and I was in tears more than once. Luckily my favorite nurse, one who spoke very good English, was on that night, and the two of us tried to control her for about an hour. I finally got her to lay down in bed and turned on the TV for her to watch, even though it was all in Italian. She was complaining that her hand was hot, so I sat next to her bed and blew on her hand to “cool it off” until she finally fell asleep around 9:30pm. That night was complete and total hell and something I never, ever wish to repeat.
Abbie woke up a few times at night and screamed for about 10 seconds and then would fall back asleep again. Luckily the next morning the sedative was mostly out of her system, so she was almost back to her normal self. We decorated her “mitt” as we called it, and she was happy, until any nurses or doctors came near her. She kept telling us to not let them in and she kept saying she wanted to go home and that she didn’t like those people.
The nurses called the hep-lock the “butterfly” and said that they had to feed the butterfly once a day. Abbie is still telling people that she doesn’t like to feed the butterfly and she doesn’t like butterflies. From Friday on, it was a bit of an ordeal to get her meds into her and she would cry and fight us every time they came it do administer them. We managed to get them into her, but not without her putting up a pretty good fight. They eventually started hooking her up to in IV and letting the go in over 15-30 mins instead of putting them in a syringe to push into her hep-lock. We’d distract her with walks while she got her treatments.
Mark and I alternated nights that we’d stay with Abbie and go home with Ben. Our friends, the Sanford’s, kept Ben for us all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We’d go pick him up around 8pm and then drop him off between 8:30am and 10am. It took both of us to deal with Abbie some times, so I’m glad we were both there.
We had friends offer to bring us meals while we were in the hospital. Both of Mark’s boss’s wives visited us twice. The CC’s wife brought us a meal on Friday and a present for Abbie. The DO and his wife brought us a meal on Saturday and a present for Abbie. Abbie’s best friend, Luke, came to play with her for a while on Sunday which REALLY cheered Abbie up. That was the happiest she’d be in over a week, so it was fun to see her interact with Luke, and nice to talk to Jennifer and Josh also. Sunday night Abbie and I went for a walk around the hospital. She was really getting antsy to leave, and I couldn’t blame her. There’s not much to do in the hospital. The TV got about 5 channels, none in English. There was no phone in the room, all the books were in Italian and there sure weren’t many toys.
Abbie was seen by an ENT doctor on Friday and Saturday and then Monday. She got to the point where she was terrified of tongue depressors because they would use them to see in the back of her throat. She is very fearful of any doctor now and gets very anxious if we even mention the hospital. I have to give her meds at home, and every time we do any of them she asks if it’s going to hurt, even though she’d had them before and knows they don’t. I feel bad that she’s so afraid now, and I don’t quite know what to do to get her over that fear. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to.
On Monday, the ENT doctor cleared us to go home, as long as we came back on Tuesday for one more round of IV antibiotics. We packed up and headed home, thinking most of this was behind us. I had asked the babysitter to come on Tuesday to keep Ben for me so I could take Abbie to the hospital to get the last round of IV antibiotics since Mark was going to go back to work, and of course, the babysitter cancelled on me again. (Her third time in 2 weeks. Yes, I’m looking for a new babysitter.) This time, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because since I had both kids with me now, Mark decided to go in to work late to help out at the appointment. They tried to do the last treatment and Abbie was screaming that it hurt again, like she normally did, but this time she was inconsolable, so I took her mitt wrapping all the way off to make sure she didn’t have any sort of bump under, it. It was looking a little bit puffy and the nurse, who spoke no English, ended up taking the hep-lock out. Thank GOD we’d run in to our favorite translator on our way in to the hospital, so he was there to help us out and explain was these nurses and doctors were saying because none of them spoke any English. Mark got down right mad when the nurse pulled the hep-lock out and started refusing right away to let them put another one back in. The doctor that was there was telling the translator, who was telling us, that they needed to do the last round of IV treatment so she needed a new one. I was hesitant to put her through that again, but I was more in the thought process of, if she really needed this, I wasn’t comfortable not getting the treatment since I knew how sick she was before. Mark was saying no, we’re not putting her through that again, all along. The translator was telling us that we could refuse treatment, but we’d have to sign a waiver for it. I got ahold of the on-call pediatrician on base and was trying to explain to them what was going on and ask them what they recommended we do. In the meantime, the pediatrician that we liked the most, and who saw Abbie the most, came up and the translator told her what was going on, and she said that that was okay, Abbie could just add another day to the oral antibiotics instead of doing another IV treatment and we didn’t have to sign a waiver. In the end it all worked out and I’m SO glad that Mark was there with me and that we didn’t have to put Abbie (and us) through that again.
Overall, our experience could have been much worse, but if we had been in the States when this had happened, I have no doubt that it would have been much better in the USA. Italians have a different way of thinking on just about everything, medical care included. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. I’m just glad it’s mostly behind us. We have one more visit with an ENT doctor in Pordenone on Friday and if she’s cleared there, we should be done with everything. Fingers crossed!!!