Parents everywhere will sympathise when I explain why I've been so quiet on the blogging front...my poor little Bert has been very poorly, and we landed up in the hospital for 5 very long days.
Bert started to spike a high temperature at the end of January - his little red cheeks and grumpiness lead me to believe it was those pesky teeth, then a bit of a cold appeared, and I thought that was that. A few doses of Calpol and plenty of hugs later, he seemed to be okay - but then on Tuesday 27th Jan Bert woke up with a temp of 39, and his heart was racing! We took his straight to our GP who diagnosed a nasty ear/throat infection. She prescribed amoxicillin, and off we went home to rest.
Poorly Bertster :-(
Poor Bert had a reaction to the amoxicillin (it made him vomit), so back we trekked to the doctors on Tuesday eve to collect an alternative antibiotic. Bert was feeling very sorry for himself, he was really sleepy, very unsettled and upset, off his food/drink, and didn't get a single toy our for 4 days! It was just awful. He still hadn't picked up at all by the Friday eve, so we took him back to the GP.
Typically, just as we entered the GP surgery he seemed to momentarily pick up - he was interested in the toys she had in her room, and he even managed a smile. I explained he had been sleeping and not himself all day, and that he had only momentarily picked up, she looked in his ears, throat, took his temp etc - and said that his ears seemed a little better, his throat a little worse, but "thats how these things go" apparently.
She advised to continue with the final 3 doses of antibiotics, and said she was sure this was him turning a corner and that he'd pick up over the weekend. She did say if he seemed to get worse or we were worried to take him to see someone over the weekend.
Saturday was another dreadful day - he was so unhappy, very sleepy, and his temperature was still all over the place. I just knew something wasn't right. This is not an ear infection is what my instincts were telling me. I have enough experience of antibiotics to know that after 48 hours you really should be seeing improvements and, after a whole course you should expect to feel loads better - Bert was definitely worse!
We called 111 on Saturday evening, and spoke to a GP who thankfully agreed this was not normal, and that Bert needed to be seen by a medical professional asap. They gave us an appointment at Beddoc, the out of hours doctors service at Bedford Hospital, and by 8:30pm on Saturday night Bert had been admitted to Riverbank Children's Ward at Bedford Hospital. I was out of my mind with worry. He looked so poorly and helpless. As a parent all you want to do is to be able to take their pain away from them. We had to feed him 10ml water at a time through a syringe to keep him hydrated, and he was stripped to just his nappy, with a fan blowing on him to try and get his temp more stable. He just laid there in the hospital cot, too poorly to move.
The hospital staff were brilliant, and before long they'd diagnosed a very bad infection which was definitely affecting his ears and tonsils. Liam has a bad history with tonsillitis so that seemed like the most likely cause of his poorly state. The doctors explained that the antibiotics he'd been on must have been unsuitable to fight this infection, and when his blood test results showed a white blood cell count of 29 when it should be 11, they were very shocked at just how bad this infection was!
They popped a cannula in Bert's hand, and started him on a course of very strong IV antibiotics, to kill the infection. They explained that they had taken a blood culture from Bert, which the microbiologists would grow over the next 48 hours to find out exactly what the infection was, and that until we had those results we would stay in and Bert would be closely monitored.
Bert's cannula hand
We were all beside ourselves with worry - my mum had driven straight up from Surrey and arrived at the hospital at 9pm on Saturday night shortly after Bert was admitted. Liam's parents were by our side as soon as we asked for them, our families are just an amazing support to us, and I honestly don't know what we'd do without their unwavering care and support for us all.
By Monday morning the results from the blood culture were back, and we were in for a huge shock...Bert had picked up the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, and it had infected his blood. He had a nasty case of septicaemia! I went all cold when the doctor explained to me how poorly Bert was, and by Monday night, with some more explanation from a lovely consultant, we understood that Bert's blood was infected with the very nasty bacteria which causes meningitis! Every parents worse fear realised with that one 'M' word. Thankfully, he explained that we'd gotten Bert to the hospital before the infection in his blood had gotten the chance to spread to his brain (meningitis), and he was confident that the IV antibiotics would prevent the infection from spreading any further.
Bert spent 5 days on the ward, with his IV line in. He had regular observations from the nurses, lots of fluids, whatever food he would eat, and regular pain killers. The first three days he spent sleeping - and I just sat and stared at my poor poor beautiful boy, he looked so helpless, and so fragile. After three days of the IV antibiotics he began to pick up, slowly had more energy, more appetite, and soon was sitting up in his cot playing, and watching Peppa Pig DVDs on a portable DVD player.
It was such a relief to see him 'up and about', and was reassuring to see that the treatment he was receiving was beginning to kick the infection.
The first food that Bert showed any form of interest in was Bourbon biscuits (I wonder where he gets his love of biscuits from?) I cannot tell you how amazing it was to watch him tuck into a bourbon biscuit after over a week of barely eating everything - I actually shed a tear! I think Bourbons will always have a special place in my heart now!
Bertie the Bourbon muncher!
The hospitals facilities were brilliant: I cannot fault the private room we were given. It contained a bed for me as well as a cot for Bert, a large chair for visitors and perhaps best of all, an opening window (anyone who has ever spent an exptended period in hospital will know how hot and stuffy they are, so the window was just magic!). The ward was very clean, and the staff were mostly very kind and attentive. Bert's room was aptly named Puddleduck Pond (ducks are Bert's most favourite animal!)
Bert in his cot in his lovely room - Puddleduck Pond
There were also some pretty awesome play facilities available to keep Bert amused during his stay. There is a large playroom within the ward full of great toys, arts and craft activities, a large TV with selection of DVDs and a Play Worker available from 8am-8pm to help to keep the kids amused. The play room also contained an absolutely awesome dolls house - I had major dolls house envy! They also have a selection of cot-based toys such as portable DVD players, projectors and fibre optic lights to jazz up the cots of those children too ill to make it into the playroom.
Fibre Optic lights to brighten up Bert's cot, when he was too poorly to play
Bert made use of all of the toy facilities over his stay - we firstly added some fibre optic lights to his cot when he was still mostly sleeping, to try and perk him up a little. Secondly, he used a personal DVD player to watch Pingu, Peppa Pig and Finding Nemo on, and thirdly, he headed over to explore the toys in the playroom once he was on his feet.
Up and about - exploring the play room! (He always makes a b-line for a play kitchen, just like mummy!)
The dolls house that dreams are made of! It came almost up to my shoulder in height - we had a good play with this! It made me want to get a dolls house for Bert
There is also a parents lounge on the ward, where parents can make tea/coffee and toast to their hearts content - all tea, coffee, milk, sugar, bread, butter and jams are provided, along with a kettle, toaster, fridge and microwave and a seating area. This lounge was a godsend for parents like me, who spent the full five days with Bert in the hospital without leaving. There were also good (and clean) shower and toilet facilities especially for parents, which made my stay just that little bit more comfortable.
The Swannery restaurant in Bedford Hospital had a great array of foods available at a reasonable cost, although I didn't have much of an appetite as you can imagine.
By Wednesday Bert had picked up enough that the doctors advised he would now be safer to go on what they call 'home leave', which means that although Bert wouldn't be officially discharged from hospital, he could return home, and just go back to the hospital once a day to receive his IV antibiotic. This way he would be away from the risk of picking up another infection from the other sick children on the ward. So, after his 5th dose of IV antibiotics on Wednesday night we headed home. What a relief it was for us all to be back around our home comforts - Bert cheered when we arrived home, and hugged the cat: it was a beautiful moment.
Bert's last day in hospital - he was enjoying his yummy hospital lunch box - we have been trying to fatten him up ever since seeing how skinny he looks in this picture!
Snoozy Bert enjoying a final nap on mummy's hospital bed with his favourite hospital toy Horsey, and his 'sock hand' - before we headed home on Wednesday night.
Our final attempt at amusing Bert on Day 5 in hospital - all the lights out in our room and the fibre optics on the floor - I think Daddy enjoyed this game just as much as Bert did!
He's spent the last five days at home, resting, recuperating, eating, and playing with his beloved toys - with daily trips back to the hospital for his medicine. He's been incredibly brave, and he coped so well having only one 'good hand' to use (his left hand had his cannula in, which was popped in a splint, banadaged and covered with a sock, to stop him pulling it out).
Yesterday was our final trip to the hospital, Bert's 10th dose of IV antibiotic, and we were finally officially discharged. I cannot tell you the relief I felt walking out of the hospital yesterday with my happy, smiling, beautiful boy in my arms. I feel so lucky to have him.
Our children being ill is a very effective way to make you quickly see your life in perspective, and to make you immediately thankful and appreciative for what you've got. Watching Bert battle such a nasty illness taught me not to sweat the small stuff, to appreciate every single moment I get with him, to be so thankful of my amazing family and friends, and to always trust my instinct when it comes to him. I knew it wasn't just an ear infection, and thank god we took him to the hospital when we did - the alternative doesn't bare thinking about.
Thank you whole heartedly to all the staff at Bedford Hospital, to my wonderful family - especially Liam, my mum, and my mother in law, who all took it in turns to support me at the hospital - sleeping in chairs, on the floor etc! And to my wonderful friends who called, texted and sent endless social media messages of support throughout our stay. Thank you also for all the thoughtful gifts sent over to us: they helped make our stay much more comfortable, and kept Bert amused when he was feeling pretty rotten.
I also wanted to note the extreme power in social media - without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to hand I might have felt very isolated and alone in that hospital. As it turned out, my social media buddies were a huge support to me day and night: messages flooded in at all times of day from all over the world, and left me feeling truly humbled at the network of wonderful people we have around us as a family. One social media buddy (who I've never actually met, but have spoken to through Instagram because of our joint love of arts and crafts) even sent her husband (who happens to be a consultant anaesthetist at Bedford Hospital) over to visit us on Riverbank ward to make sure we were coping okay, understood Bert's illness and treatment and to just generally reassure us that he was in safe hands. That visit meant the world to us, and would never have come about if it wasn't for the power of social media. Some people knock it, but for me, it is a lifeline.
Our fantastic friends sent in some gorgeous gifts and cards for both Bert and I while we were in hospital - their kindness made the world of difference to our stay.
This experience has now made me extra-vigilant when it comes to germs - Bert's has had his hands anti-bac'd more times in the past 5 days than he has in his life I think! Bless him! I will be careful not to let him near any obviously ill people for a while, as his immune system will be weak after all of the antibiotics he's had. The doctors have reassured us that he will be no more susceptible to getting this infection again than anyone else, him picking it up was just one of those things, and not down to a weakness or susceptability for that bacteria, which is something at least.
I'll leave you with a picture of my gorgeous boy enjoying his first bath in 2.5 weeks last night (he was too ill to bath at the beginning of his illness and couldn't bath with the cannula in)...what a relief to see him happy and playing once again.
Bertie in the bath tub!
We love you with all our hearts Bert, and we are so thankful that you have made a full recovery.
Stay well little man!
Mummy & Daddy