Dear Triage Nurse,
I knew it wasn’t right. My daughter has had gastroenteritis before and it had never presented itself like that. You looked at me in the eye as I mentioned the order of the symptoms, how I felt it wasn’t right, how I thought it might be something else and then you gave a sigh, raised your shoulder in a shrug and rolled your eyes. To you I was another over protective mother. Over reacting.
So faced with a 2 hour wait at midnight with a sleepy 5-year-old on my shoulder, no more vomiting, the promise that pain had subsided, I took her home again. I felt silly. You had been right. It probably was nothing.
Only it wasn’t, was it? The following night she screamed in pain for an hour. She woke up at 8.30am and was sick. I watched it all unfold again, all those symptoms and I leapt to action. We were off to A&E again. I was lucky to have a friend nearby who, although with busy day ahead, was willing to take The Monster whilst I took Pickle.
Lo and behold as we came into the A&E department, there you were again, eyeing me suspiciously as I repeated the symptoms and was sent to the general clinic seats just like I was 2 nights previously. Thankfully at 10.30am on a Friday morning it was much quieter than it was that night and we only waited about 40 minutes before we were called in. The doctor was brusk, but went through everything and when he felt Pickle’s tummy she didn’t cry out, she didn’t say anything, because unfortunately she was trying to be brave. I had forgotten to tell her that at this point, being brave was not what I wanted her to do. We needed to do a urine test and she was refusing to wee so we went off to wait in the chairs for a bit. The doctor shut the door and Pickle burst into tears. She cried for a good 30 minutes she was in such pain.
She did eventually do a sample and it was tested, no urine infection and this time, after I told the doctor about the pain, he did pay a bit more attention and he referred us to pediatrics.
Once there, and still in pain, we had to give Pickle an ultimatum to take some pain relief that she didn’t like the taste of. She did and she got a brave certificate and a bear. We were seen by a doctor and they picked up that she was being “guarded” and was in pain. They decided that Pickle had to have a blood test. She had some numbing cream and whilst me and her named things starting with “d”, she didn’t even wince whilst the needle was put in the crook of her arm. Brave doesn’t even come close.
Whilst we waited for the blood test results (an inflammation marker) she was sent down on the bed to have an ultrasound. She was so frightened and cried a little. She was fed up. The sonographer tried to make her laugh but he was a little weird, but ultimately it did take her mind of it.
We went back down to pediatrics where eventually the doctor came in and said that taking into account the inflammation level and the pain only on one side, they needed to operate. They were unsure if it was appendicitis (my concern) but something was going on so they needed to see it. No keyhole surgery for children at this hospital though, it would be a proper cut.
I’m afraid I lost my calmness at that point, as the doctor left to sort the paperwork out. I looked down at my fragile little girl, looking at me hoping for reassurance and I burst into tears. She did as well. This was everything I had suspected but everything I didn’t want. Maybe it had all been a big mistake and she’d be fine. I should probably take her home now. Then the doctor arrived with the form to sign. I hesitated, mumbled something about being silly but what happens if we decide not to operate, I then answered my own question and said “Oh don’t worry, I’m not thinking straight” and I signed. Cue calmness and reassurance. It was done now, I had to be the brave one.
We were admitted to the ward late in the afternoon. Told we were in a queue and due to a few emergencies coming in, we ended up being bumped back to 10.30pm. Poor Pickle did a few delaying tactics, such as refusing to put the operating gown on (we got a Nurse to ask her in the end) and then going to the loo and sitting on it for about 30 minutes “because I want to” and until I realised what she was doing. “They’ll just come and knock on the door, Pickle. We may as well just go and wait in the bed.
So she was incredibly frightened and quite frankly so was I. Hubby had dashed down from a job in Leicester and was there as well and we both took her down. I held her hand as the amazing doctors took control and made it all so easy for all of us, then she was put under, I cried as I left and we had to wait an hour. We ended up watching “Notting Hill” and it did do the trick, we weren’t pacing the whole time.
We were then called to go down for when she woke up, which they did and she was drowsy and we held her hand as she drifted off for another sleep. I turned to the doctor and said “So, what was it. Why was she so ill”? He replied “Yes definitely the appendix. Very long and VERY inflamed”. I felt my exhaustive fear wash off me. I was right! I was right all along. It was appendicitis. I had put PIckle through all of this and it had been the right decision. I was relieved. SO relieved.
I know you were only doing your job, triage nurse. I know you have to eye all of us mothers and fathers with a suspicious eye, but please don’t be so judgemental. You really have no better diagnostic device than that of the Mother’s Instinct.