Healthcare, Illness, Jack Tobias, Sick

A Week in Starship Children’s Hospital

I neglected to put up a 4 week post for Jack.  I’m sorry, but I had a good reason – for 6 days I rarely saw the outside of this hospital room while Jack was sick with RSV and bronchiolitis…

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Jack and I were on one of the paediatrics wards at Starship Children’s Hospital from Saturday till Thursday evening.  It’s not something I’d like to repeat anytime soon.  The hospital and staff were great, but being there and being separated from Chris and Joe for so long was not.

I took Jack into the Starship ER on Saturday when he started to wheeze.  He’d had a bit of a cold since Thursday night but was checked out by the midwife during her Friday home visit, so I wasn’t too worried.  Still, I kept an eye on him.  He went downhill pretty quickly on Saturday.  By quickly, I mean within 15 – 20 minutes.  I was nursing him when he suddenly began to bob his head and push back, then gave me a wide-eyed, almost panicked look and that was when I heard the first faint wheezing.  His looking at me like that + the wheezing scared me.  I made the decision then and there that we were going to Starship.  Apparently I concealed my anxiety pretty well, because after telling Chris that he and Joe didn’t need to come and heading out the door with Jack, Chris took Joe on a long, leisurely walk… without his cell phone… which meant that he didn’t have it on him when I was trying to reach him from the ER to tell him that Jack was being admitted, that he was on oxygen, that he had a feeding tube inserted, etc., etc.

Chris got home and checked his phone, then was flabbergasted when he called me and I told him what was going on.  He and Joe came in with a small bag of overnight things for me and for Jack, but I knew that we’d be there for more than overnight.

Like I said, it was 6 days that Jack and I were in hospital.  The 2nd and 3rd nights there were the worst – Jack was struggling quite a bit and at times there were 4 – 5 staff in the room with me, trying to encourage him to breathe more easily and to slow his heart rate.

Jack was on the feeding tube because nursing was too much work for him.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to express enough milk to keep up with him, but as it turns out I ended up having over a liter of extra milk by the time we left.  That was great – having one of the doctors call me a “good cow” was a little less great plus little embarrassing.  But the important thing, to me at least, was not running out of breastmilk and having enough for every tube feeding.  When the ER doctor told me that I shouldn’t nurse him any more and that he was to be on NG feeding only, my heart sank.  I was worried about Jack forgetting how to nurse but also wondering how I was supposed to calm him when he was upset.  The #1 way that I’ve always calmed Joe, and now Jack, was through nursing.  Walking and bouncing and shush-ing and using the pacifier only go so far.

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That first night, Jack was crying and crying and crying.  I kept saying to the nurse that I thought that he was hungry, but she assured me that he was getting the appropriate amount of breast milk for a baby of his age and size.  I told her that Jack usually nursed a lot and wasn’t there a way to increase the amount of the NG feeding?  I could understand their rationale – too much, and the tummy fills up and raises the diaphragm against the lungs, making it even harder to breathe.

However, after two hours of Jack crying and trying every trick in the book, I decided that I was going to nurse him, just to calm him.  Difficulty breathing and a raised heart rate because of nursing is one thing, but so is difficulty breathing and a raised heart rate because of crying for so long.  I nursed him and within 30 seconds he’d calmed down.  Within 2 minutes, he was asleep.  The nurse came in to check on his, shrugged her shoulders, and said she thought it was fine so long as he didn’t nurse for more than a minute or two.  Jack ended up spending that entire first night in the nursing position, even though he wasn’t nursing.  It was a long night, but worth sitting up in a chair if it meant keeping Jack calm and breathing more easily.  The next day, the doctor increased the tube feedings from 15mLs to 30mLs.  Then he increased the frequency.  Then the amount was increased again.  Then the frequency again.  Eventually, they had quadrupled the amount of breastmilk he was getting and I was nursing him more frequently in addition to tube feedings.  The doctor remarked that it was a bit out of the ordinary for a baby Jack’s age to eat so much.  Uh, not in our family.

So the first night saw me sitting in a chair for the majority of the time that Jack was asleep.  I did have a bed in the room, a single pull-down bed (which was much appreciated) but I didn’t spend much time in it for those first 3 days/nights.

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Did you know that hospital sheets and hospital blankets look the same the world over?  They do.

When Jack was awake, he was either being held or in his vibrating bouncy seat.  I remembered my mom telling me about one of my little brother’s being hospitalized.  She said that the hospital had a bouncy seat and he would sit in there and she’d just bounce him and bounce him.  I asked Chris to bring the seat from home and it worked like a charm.  The nurses all remarked on it being such a good idea to bring that seat from home, and how the vibration must have been especially calming for a newborn.  It was, and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it if I’d had to hold Jack 24/7.

Jack’s hospitalization was hard on Joe.  Chris did a wonderful job filling the role of both parents, but it was still hard.  Joe made a visit every day and on some days I was able to escape for 3 – 3 1/2 hours with him, but even then it was mainly to go home, feed lunch to Joe, putt him down for his nap, and then working to package up and mail the many things that I’d sold on TradeMe (I’d listed things in preparation for our move, and all of the auctions ended either the day before or the day that Jack was hospitalized, so I had a lot of work to do).  The first time that I was home with Joe and I put him down for a nap, he cried and kept saying, “Hug Mama!  Hug Mama!” and reaching out to me.  I thought, “I’ll bet he thinks that I’m going to disappear”, because he normally loves nap-time and can’t wait to sleep (night-time is another story).  I reached into his cot and told him that I loved him and that I’d be there when he woke up.  As soon as I said that, he was fine.  It was the same story the next day – lots of tears, then peace when I told him that I’d be there when he woke up.

As Jack continued to improve, Chris and Joe spent a bit longer at the hospital.  Starship is amazing.  They have a giant indoor playground which Joe really appreciated.

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There was also a Play Therapist who visited and gave us 4 or 5 books courtesy of Barfoot & Thompson (a real estate firm in New Zealand).  Joe loved those and probably thought the hospital was a fantastic place, aside from the fact that it meant he was separated from his mother and little brother.

We were so glad when the doctor gave the A-OK to go home on Thursday evening rather than having to spend another night in hospital.  Jack was pretty pleased to have the O2 off and the NG tube taken out!


He’s doing much better now.  I’ve kept him on semi-quarantine here at home.  By that I mean that he doesn’t leave the building, though Chris, Joe, and I have all been out at various times.  The two weeks following an RSV hospitalization are apparently the most sensitive for little ones, when they’re most susceptible, so we’re being extra-vigilant about hand-washing.  We have to go out tomorrow to apply for Jack’s passport (the appointment was moved back because of his illness) but other than that I don’t intend to take him out anywhere anytime soon!

*A brief note about the care that we received: it was wonderful and I’m very thankful.  I was praying the whole way to the ER that there wouldn’t be a line.  In my mind I was thinking, “It’s a weekend, so GP offices are closed, and it’s winter… great combination for a high volume of patients in the ER.”  But there was no line and we were ushered right back.  When they had Jack hooked up to so many machines and I was seeing his low SpO2 levels and his high heart rate, I prayed again and again that if God wanted to take Jack back home that He would help me accept it but to please let it be His will that Jack stayed with us.  It seems a bit melodramatic to say that now, but I was pretty scared in the moment.  Throughout our entire stay, I knew that our friends in New Zealand and our friends and family around the world were thinking of and praying for us, and I felt it.  There was one night in particular where I felt pretty exhausted, but then I looked out the window and saw the lights of Auckland and was reminded that we weren’t alone.

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The view was even more impressive in person 🙂

There was never a question of insurance or payment throughout our stay.  All the hospital required was Jack’s proof of right to healthcare (in this case, his NZ passport).  The staff did a great job of supporting me and making sure that I was looking after myself as well as Jack, and they were wonderful with Joe whenever he was on the ward.  I owe them all a big thank you!

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12 thoughts on “A Week in Starship Children’s Hospital

  1. I hope he’s doing so much better now. And glad to see you all made it back home ok – hope you’re settling in well. And just think, all the choices available at the grocery store!! No more ridiculous capsicum prices and better selection of cereal (imho). You’ve missed some crazy shakes this weekend, but all is fine. Just trying to get through winter in July.

  2. You poor thing! I can’t imagine how terrifying that experience must have been. Good for you for listening to your instincts and nursing him anyhow – that seems like what he needed in the moment. I’m sooo glad he improved. You must be exhausted though!

    I know you must be very busy, but I do have a question about a website in New Zealand – I was wondering if you might know if it is ‘sketchy’ or safe to order from. My horse has lyme disease and needs extensive antibiotics and they are very expensive. I found this site in New Zealand that would save me hundreds of dollars (and my vet is willing to send them an Rx) but I don’t know anything about New Zealand and I don’t recognize their security seal – it could be a scam? Anyhow, if you have a moment, my email is varunner7 at aol dot com.

  3. So glad Jack is doing better, praying he continues to improve every day as he gets back to full health 🙂 Give him and Joe a hug and kiss from me. Miss you guys so much already!

  4. I’m so sorry you all had to go through that! And, I am so glad that Jack is feeling better. I hope things go more smoothly for you with your move just on the horizon. Sending many prayers your way.

  5. So glad to hear that little Jack is on the mend. I know it must have been difficult for you and your family. Keeping you all in my prayers and hope your move back to the States is a smooth transition.

  6. So glad Jack is doing better! We had a similar experience when we were overseas. Callum was hospitalized when he was four weeks old and we spent 3 or 4 days there. Its scary to see such a tiny baby in the hospital! We didn’t find out until after he had been released that he had had viral meningitis. I’ll be praying for you as you finish us your time in NZ and transition back to living in the States!

  7. How very scary! We are so glad Jack is better and you all are home. We are praying for all the details of moving to come together well for you.

  8. You know, I just happened to be scrolling through my blog list earlier today and wondered how you were all doing as I noticed you hadn’t posted in a while. Of course, I figured you must have been really busy caring for your toddler and newborn (I know how time consuming it is!) and then thought about how much other stuff you must have on your plate with your move back to the States coming up… so now I am really sorry to hear that it was because Jack has been so ill 🙁 How scary!! I am so relieved to read that he is recovering well and that you had excellent care at Starship. God was certainly looking after him, but I can just imagine how tiring and emotionally draining it all was for you and your little family. Will pray that he continues to get better and better with every day and that you all stay healthy. Thinking of you, Jennifer

  9. Oh I am so sorry and so glad that Jack is doing better. How scary is right! I’m sure you must be so happy to be at home again with your family. Take care!

  10. Wow! How scary for all of you!! I’m so glad that Jack is doing much better and I will keep you in my prayers over the next few weeks. I hope he doesn’t pick anything else up. And I hope Joe stays healthy too!! Thank goodness for awesome hospital staff! Take care!

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