Chicken pox is harmless...

>> Saturday, 5 January 2008

We've been having some fun and games here over the last day or so.

(I should say now that there are number of medical terms to follow; I'm not a medical person, although I've spent more time in hospital over the last couple of years than I ever thought I would, but in advance, apologies for any misspellings.)

As a child, and still occassionally today, I suffered from eczema. Not to a debilitating extent - although aged 15 when it was particularly bad around my mouth and in my hair, I would probably have argued that point, as it didn't do much for my self image - but enough that it has given me a pretty good understanding of the condition. So, when Boy #1 developed it shortly after birth, whilst it was upsetting, I could handle it.

We went from doctor, to specialist, to alternative practitioner, back to specialist again, in various attempts to get rid of it. But of course, eventually I had to accept what I had known for myself for some time, but had not wanted to for my Boy; sometimes you just have to manage these conditions and get on with it.

So when Boy #2 was born, I pretty much thought I was ready for anything in that department. That'll teach me.

Within 1 week of his birth, he was back in hospital with both jaundice (nasty enough on it's own), and stapphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. SSSS, for short. This is when a bug that lives naturally on the surface of most people's skin finds a way in (which it will if you have a dry skin condition), and starts to (apologies, but this is as gross as it sounds) eat your skin. It looks like a carpet burn - and spreads a whole lot quicker. Imagine seeing your 8 day old baby lying naked under lights (for the jaundice), covered in grease (for the dryness), with what look like burns on his stomach and legs, and with tubes coming out of him in various places (for the liquids and the antibiotics).

It wasn't the best time for us. Breast-feeding never really took off as a result; it's a bit tricky to breastfeed when they won't let you pick your child up for 12 hours because his bilirubin levels are off the scale, and the doctors think that even 20 minutes away from the lights could present a problem. And expressing only 8 days after birth when your stress levels are somewhat high can be challenging - if not impossible. (Consequently I don't have that much time for the breast-feeding police). On the plus side, I certainly lost a lot of that baby weight fast...

Of course, it was sorted out, and a week later we were all back home thanking our lucky stars. However, that wasn't the end of it. For the next 4 months we were back and forth to hospital (insisting on outpatients only, though; whilst I was grateful for the care he was given, if I saw one more person approach his bed without using the hand gel first I was going to scream), as that infection kept coming back for repeat visits.

The grand finale came when he was just over 4 months old and I went for what I thought was a routine appointment to check the results of the most recent test they'd done to check which of the two bugs it was (Staff or Strep) so that we could stop taking the antibiotic that didn't apply. When you're dealing with a condition as aggressive as SSSS they prescribe two types of medicine to cover both possibilities, until the tests tell them which it is. Belt and braces; a good idea, but it does mean every time he got sick he got a double hit of medicine. It's bad enough making a baby scream once when you force foul-tasting stuff down his throat, but having to do it twice? Four times a day?

Anyway, I'd gone in to out-patients to get the results and discount one of the two medicines. The charming young doctor (there have be to up-sides to every situation, don't you find?), went off to check them. He returned, pale, and steered Boy #2 and I into a side room. Alarm bells start ringing in my mind. He goes to get his boss. Shit. The boss returns, accompanied by his nervous but still quite dishy sidekick...

'Mrs Potty?'

'Yes?'

'Now, don't freak out.' (I'm starting to freak out - quietly. I don't want to scare the baby).

'OK.'

'Boy #2 has MRSA.'

I don't think I will forget that moment as long as I live. However, in the manner of all real-life situations, it was a lot less dramatic in person than it looks on paper. You just handle it, right? Much as I might have wanted to run around the room shouting, screaming, tearing my hair out and generally cursing, I decided that it wasn't the best plan if I wanted these people on-side...

And as it happens, this was the best outcome for us. How could MRSA be the best outcome? Well, it finally - FINALLY - after 4 months of being pushed around, meant we got to see the right people. And the MRSA was sorted, the eczema was dealt with - to an extent - and Boy #2 got much better very quickly. The pediatric dermatologist who cares for him now is outstanding, I have to say that. It's just a shame nobody called her up to the first floor 4 months previously when Boy #2 was first in hospital. (I know - I should just count my blessings. But I hold grudges like that when my kids are involved).

So, I've vented. Back to the point of this post. Boy #2 now has chicken pox, a pretty bad case of it. The poor thing is spot-tastic, and clearly very, very itchy. Which means he scratches his spots (try explaining to a two year old about scarring). And last night, in the bath, guess what I saw? You guessed it. Our old friend SSSS is back.

Thank god, this time Husband and I know how to play the system. After a lot of fast-talking, and explaining repeatedly to on-call doctors and telephone receptionists that;

  • yes, we know what the normal procedure is but
  • no, we're not going to follow it because
  • actually, we know more about this condition than you should ever need to
  • and no, we are not going to go to A&E and sit there waiting for a house doctor to see us, and then be fobbed off that there is no dermotologist on-call over the weekend
  • whilst all the time this burn spreads further and further over my son's chest
  • so please can you just phone the on-call dermatologist
  • who, by the way, we know exists, because our Consultant's secretary (based at the same hospital) told us so when I got hold of her last thing Friday night, so stop stalling and just f**king call them!
...we got to see the right person. This morning.

Thank god. We're not out of the woods yet, but the feeling of panic has subsided somewhat.

Lucky we know how to play the system, huh?

11 comments:

Kaycie 5 January 2008 at 23:51  

Bless your hearts.

Two of my three children have eczema badly enough to see dermatologists. I know how helpless you must feel. Sending good thoughts your way and hoping for your sweet boy's speedy recovery.

Frog in the Field 6 January 2008 at 00:03  

Eczema..the two youngest had it..allergy to Dairy was the cause.
Try some goat milk for a while.
Poor thing, children is hospital is horrific, we've had our share and you never forget it.

Listen, it's not going to snow for ages, really. Take the hat back. Get one from Millets to go with the Timberland Boots.

Frog in the Field 6 January 2008 at 00:04  

ps. Bloody good for you insisting like that, well done.

Iota 6 January 2008 at 01:13  

Poor you. It's so awful when children are ill, and you really feel that every minute counts. Poor poor you, but well done on spotting it quickly and pushing through the system. Sometimes you just have to have balls don't you?

Hope he gets better soon. I take back all I said about it being good to get chicken pox early in life. You/he didn't really need this, did you?

Amy 6 January 2008 at 01:42  

Hiya. I'm visiting from the Rotten Correspondent.

MRSA is so scary, but it seems you've handled it pretty well. It's encouraging, actually.

My daughter had a staph infection a couple of years ago. She recovered quickly, but I sure kept an eye on her for a while. Eek.

The Rotten Correspondent 6 January 2008 at 03:57  

Oh, my god, how frustrating. But yes, thank goodness that you do know how to work the system and that you have the guts to stand up to all the pinheads who think they know better than you. Poor all of you.

I'm so glad you caught it so fast. Well done, and I hope he's up to speed really fast.

Potty Mummy 6 January 2008 at 14:57  

Hi Kaycie, thankyou. I read recently that 30% of hospital referrals in the UK are for skin complaints, it's amazing how many of us affected, either directly or via a member of our family.

Boy #2 is on the mend though, so things are returning to normal

Frog - you're right. The hat is going back next week. I know this is the right decision because I haven't had the nerve to actually show it to Husband yet - always a bad sign...

And as for insisting with hospital - we learnt the hard way that it's the only thing to do. Thanks for the goats milk tip too; unfortunately we've tried that already, to no avail. Ho hum...

Iota, hi. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? If I knew before he caught it, I probably would have held my horses on that one and insisted on the vaccination, but at the time I didn't even know such a thing existed. Oh well, you live and learn!

Amy, thanks for the visit. Staph's a nasty one, isn't it? Still, they will probably both grow up none the wiser and when they get older will wonder what all the fuss is about and hugely resent us for all the creams etc we rub in every day... If you want gratitude, don't have kids!

Thanks RC. I wrote this post knowing that people in ER probably hate parents like me and Husband, pushing our way up the chain like that, but in my defence the dermatologist did say we had done the right thing - and I would do it again. But then, you do, for your own kids, don't you? Having said that, I normally hate pushy parents. Scary to suddenly become one!

aims 6 January 2008 at 15:50  

You are the epitome of "A Mother's Love"...good for you.

May your little one get better soon - I'm sure he's tired of it too!

Pig in the Kitchen 6 January 2008 at 19:12  

oh poor poor you and boy number 2. Eczema is so bloody awful, but what you're dealing with sounds a gazillion times worse. I almost cheered when I heard how you browbeat them into submission, hurrah.
Fingers crossed and feel for you...Pigx

dulwichmum 6 January 2008 at 19:57  

You poor darlings! How dreadful for you. I will be thinking of you all this week. I hope you are getting sleep.

Potty Mummy 6 January 2008 at 21:29  

Aims, thankyou. Not sure about being the epitome, but I try... (Unless of course Boy #1 is screaming for tv whilst Boy #2 is throwing fruit around and I'm trying to get lunch. Not feeling too much love right then, I'm afraid...)

Hi Pig, it is awful, but it's amazing how quickly the drugs do work in cases like this. Am hoping that by Tuesday the SSSS - if not the chicken pox - will be receding into the background. And an opportunity for a bit of righteous brow-beating always feels good, don't you think?

DM, sleep? Not a lot - but that may also be due to the fact that instead of doing the sensible thing and going to bed at 10.00pm and making the most of Boy #2's rem sleep, we leave it until midnight as we just have to watch the next episode of 24 on DVD. So serves me right, frankly.

(We are actually having a break from Jack tonight. Both Husband and I have a bad case of CTU fatigue. It's Top Gear all the way...)

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