Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Fevers, Ticks, and Swimming

This morning we went to the pool for swimming lessons. Rachel seemed to be feeling better (she even had a full-on fight with Miriam this morning—they haven't had a fight in days). She tagged along planning on just sitting on the deck, but she ended up wading in the baby pool with the little ones (and my friend Annie) while I taught the older ones.

After my pupil had gone home, I spent a few minutes working with Miriam while Benjamin played on the stairs and Rachel sat nearby. I felt a tickle in my ear just as I was helping Miriam into a back float so I kind of dropped her so I could get at the tickle. I felt a little guilty when she got some water on her face (she hates getting water on her face) but I was glad when I saw that I flicked out a big, ugly tick!

It was an adult female lone-star tick (they're pretty easy to identify) but it was unengorged (thank goodness) and obviously hadn't found a good place to bite, considering how easily it came out of my ear. Still. Ew.

I squished it to smithereens on the pool deck with a shoe. Miriam's shoe, to be exact. She said, "I don't care if you use my shoe. It's getting too small for me, anyway." And she hasn't touched it since.

But, seriously, how did I get a tick on me?! I haven't been out of the house in days! (Well, I went to a primary meeting last night but other than that I haven't set foot outside until today). I literally walked from the house to the van, from the van to the pool, and then was swimming around in the pool. It's not like I was, as my friend Stephanie said, "rolling in the grass and petting deer" all day.

Apparently ticks are especially plentiful this year because of the long and cold winter we had (by southern standards) so the ticks had more time to breed underground before emerging in plentiful herds. I don't know that that's the best source for information regarding ticks. But I also don't care because (a) we've found three ticks on various family members this year (and by various I mean me (2) and Benjamin (1—attached)) which is three times as many as we found last year. And it's early in the season! And (b) my sweet Rachel-girl is in the hospital with a raging fever which I, and various medical professionals, suspect might be Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is a tick-borne illness.

And I'm just sitting around at home.

It's was Andrew's turn to go to the ER. We take turns because that's the only decent thing to do. But what we'd really rather is to not go to the ER at all.

Seriously—what good is the nurse hotline? Every single time we call they're like, "Yeah, you should go to the ER." And then half the time we get there and they're like, "Why are you even here?"

Like with Benjamin when we went in last month and they're like, "Really. Throwing up every fifteen minutes for six hours isn't that big of a deal."

But apparently they're happy to have Rachel as a patient. You know, since she had a fever of 105°F when they checked her in...and had been sporting that same glorious fever since Saturday.

I only thought to call the nurse hotline after Andrew got home because I had been looking up information on lone-star ticks. When we took her in yesterday and the doctor wondered about tick-borne illness I assumed Lyme disease. But there's also Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and when I was reading the symptoms for that I was like, "This could be Rachel!"

And then I read "RMSF is a serious illness that can be fatal in the first eight days of symptoms if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people," and I flipped out because Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday!! That's five days!

"Why didn't the doctor just prescribe her an antibiotic yesterday if he suspected tick-borne illness?" I nearly shrieked to Andrew as Rachel writhed, lethargic, on the couch, mumbling something about how she's not sleeping but reading (she wasn't reading).

The nurse seemed to think it sounded like appendicitis and said to go in right away, but then they ended up sitting in the waiting room for a couple of hours because there had been a shooting and it was all-hands-on-deck for that and the ER was busy besides.

And what did I do while they were waiting to see the doctor?

I took Miriam swimming. That poor girl has a serious case of cabin fever. She began begging me to take her back to the pool the minute Andrew walked in the door (because she'd tried begging earlier in the day and I told her that we simply could not go before Daddy was home to stay with sick children (not only because of Rachel but because, oh, now Benjamin likely has an ear infection and is running a mild fever, rubbing his ears constantly, and being clingy and fussy, which is awesome)).

On the way home from the pool Miriam underwent a magical transformation due to a perfectly ordinary conversation:

"Thanks for being a good sport at the pool today," I told Rachel, who has a hard time staying out of the water...even when she's about fit for a hospital bed, apparently.

"You're welcome," Rachel moaned.

"Uh, swimming's not a sport," Miriam scoffed.

"That's not what being a good sport means," I explained. "It doesn't have to do anything with sports, necessarily. Being a good sport just means that you have a good attitude about something. And swimming is so a sport! I was on a swim team when I was younger, I'll have you know. Swimming is even an Olympic sport. Remember our friend Megan from Georgia? She tried out for the Olympic swim team!"

"Swimming is in the Olympics?" Miriam said, and I could tell she was drifting away on clouds of imagined gold medals. My girls are constantly scheming up ways to make it to the Olympics.

"Then I will have to work very hard!" Miriam said enthusiastically snapping out of her daydream to come up with an action plan. "I need to just get in the pool and do my rockets and my back floats so I can try harder and harder things until I make it to the Olympics. We have to go back to the pool! Mom! We have to go back to the pool!"

Let's just say that she hadn't put forth her best effort at the pool that day. She was beginning to feel as if she'd blown her chance for an Olympic medal.

And so it was that after dinner and after Daddy and Rachel had left for the hospital, a pyjama-clad Benjamin and a swimsuit-clad Miriam joined me on a walk to the pool. It's quite a long walk—a walk that I suppose you could legitimately get a tick from (even though we walked the long way...on the road...instead of cutting through the grass).

Benjamin sat strapped in his stroller hugging his bus while Miriam and I got in the pool. He didn't seem to mind just sitting there enjoying the fresh evening air, watching all the kids play, so I just left him.

Miriam did surprisingly well. She didn't cry once (she usually always cries) and gave everything a serious try. By the end of our half hour she was doing a mediocre "rocket" (a front glide—though she still won't put her face in) and was floating on her back by herself.

She was also jumping into the pool by herself (with her floaty on) and swam all the way to the deep end and back (also with her floaty on). I was quite impressed.

It was past bedtime when we left the pool, which meant the fireflies were out. The kids enjoyed watching them dance around as we walked home.

Miriam was too worried to go to bed without Rachel and Benjamin was too clingy to go to bed nicely so I put Tangled on and we finished that at around 11:30 (Benjamin passed out long before it was over but Miriam stayed awake to the bitter end). Now that they're both in bed I have quite a bit of tidying up to do.

Rachel is currently enjoying an IV. She's managed to keep down a single piece of toast since she had breakfast on Saturday morning (she's turning into a regular bag of bones—the last time we gave her a bath was scary and I'm used to skinny children) and was pretty dehydrated, though she hasn't thrown up since Tuesday morning and has been pretty good about taking fluids.

A vein blew on the first IV attempt and that traumatized her. There was blood spurting all over the sheets and her poor little arm is quite bruised. They had to bring in a second nurse to basically just hold her down so they could get the IV in. "But," she told me proudly on the phone, "I didn't kick anyone!"

This girl hates needles. A lot.

They're still planning on doing an ultrasound to check out her appendix a little better than just by poking her tummy. Her pain is in the right place for appendicitis but they don't feel it's "acute" enough to be appendicitis and her symptoms aren't following a typical timeline for appendicitis. But, really, she was born on a triage table because I was like, "I wonder if this is labour. Maybe I'll just stay at work all day and see if it gets worse."

And when I broke my arm when I was two I didn't even cry about it. And come to think of it, my little sister Josie didn't cry about her broken arm either.

And my grandma died of cancer because she was in inordinate amounts of pain for months (perhaps years) without ever letting on (we found out later because of her journal but she never told a soul until it was far too late to be treatable).

Gracefully ignoring huge amounts of pain seems to run in my family.

If one of my kids falls and scrapes their knee I would totally expect them to cry (Blood!? Agony!) but if something serious actually happens I wouldn't be surprised if they put on a stoic face and quietly go about their business. Don't ask me why it's that way but it seems to be. So I'm glad they're checking for appendicitis further.

They also had her give them a urine sample and Andrew told me that she peed all over his hand accidentally. I don't think he's ever helped a child pee into a cup before, now that I think about it, let alone a girl child (being female simply makes giving urine samples more difficult than it is for males, let's face it).

They're also doing some blood work for a bunch of stuff and unless something obvious shows up they're planning on putting her on an antibiotic, assuming it's a tick-borne disease of sorts (not necessarily RMSF because ticks carry all sorts of things) and letting her come home to see if she gets better (but at least giving us something to try rather than sending us home empty handed).

And in case you, like me, were worried about the "treat within eight days or else death!" statement on the CDC's website, I will leave you with this CDC website, showing that while rates of RMSF are going up fatalities from the disease are actually going down (like, a lot). In fact, "RMSF cases resulting in death...has declined to a low of less than 0.5%."

They might want to think about putting that tidbit of information front and center on their less optimistic page, just so panicking mothers can soothe their nerves a little faster.

Also, look at this map of reported cases. 535 cases in North Carolina ten years ago. Utah is why I kind of laugh at my friends when they freak out about finding a tick on themselves after hiking in the mountains, posting public service announcements on Facebook about always remembering to check yourself after hiking or camping.

I'm over here like, "Forget checking for ticks after hiking. I check my kids when they come in for dinner!"

And occasionally when we're in the swimming pool. Just because. You never know.


  1. There is definitely something going on with ticks this year because I am hearing all about it from friends on fb. So it's not just you.

    Get well soon, Rachel!!!!

  2. Love you. Sorry you are going through this. Hopefully answers will come soon.

  3. Love you. Sorry you are going through this. Hopefully answers will come soon.

  4. Um scary time! Hope she is ok and fast! The last time we went to the emergency room when Peach had to be admitted J took her because Cheetah was still nursing and then that whole time she was in the hospital I didn't even get to see her because you couldn't bring kids up, and Peach freaked every time J tried to leave so we could never trade. IV's are the worst and having a vein blow is horrible and I think you just never get used to that. It doesn't help that the area will be sore for a long time after though. Every time you bump it you think, "incompetent nurse" although truth be told maybe at least in my case it is just super sucky vein genetics :)

  5. I'm sorry you have a kid in the ER again! I hope they figure it out and that she's feeling better soon!

  6. I am so sorry Rachel and all of you are having such a hard time. Please give her a hug from us even though she won't know who it is. Tell her she has lots of people who love her in Utah and just want her to feel better really soon <3

  7. I hope Rachel is better today. Been praying for her.

    And I have lived in NC for a long, long time, and have never heard so much about ticks liking people as I have from you. Maybe they just like folks from Utah/Canada more. Sorry about that. Hope they leave you alone!!