A late night visit to Emergency with a fever

By Melissa Meehan

As the doctors and nurses piled into the cubicle it was obvious that it was more than a fever.

I mean, we were in emergency at the Royal Children’s Hospital because she was sick, but when they started talking about moving her to the RESUS area I really started to worry.

My nine-month-old has been whingey for a few days. Had vomited on the Monday night after dinner and again on Tuesday afternoon. But was otherwise her cheeky self.

I figured the vomiting was because of her being a greedy guts mixed with teething and her grumpiness caused by Leap 4.

But when she woke with a piercing scream just an hour after she went to bed I knew something wasn’t right.

She was drenched in sweat, burning up with a fever and miserable.

She refused to breast feed but was desperate for cuddles.

I had never seen her like that. Ever.

My normally happy and independent baby (not really a cuddler) wasn’t well at all.

And a 39C temperature cemented that thinking.

But the COVID-19 pandemic made me question our next steps.

We called the MCHN hotline (add their number to your phone, they were brilliant) and she advised we needed to see a doctor as she could hear my daughter panting through the phone.

She did suggest to stay away from the hospital if we could given the pandemic.

We called our local Superclinic who are no longer doing face-to-face consultations so we booked a Telehealth appointment.

An hour later we got a call and the doctor suggested we organise a visiting doctor or go to emergency.

As we hung up, a home visiting doctor we had organised prior turned up.

Desperate to be close to me, she slept at the edge of the cot while in hospital.

He checked her out and agreed that the best bet would be to have her seen at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

So I bundled her into the car and made my way to Parkville in the dead of the night.

As always, still with a mild fever she perked up once we were triaged.

But once we were in a cubicle she started to heat up again and her breaths became shorter.

They then noticed her heart rate was going nuts. Almost double the expected rate.

The nurse called the doctor in, and then another and another.

“Let’s move her to RESUS”, I heard one doctor say.

And another decided it was better to leave her where she was, with a nurse monitoring her every breath.

That nurse stayed in the room with us for hours until we were moved to the short stay unit.

Earlier, she had been swabbed for COVID-19 – as per new protocol, anyone with a fever must be tested.

So while we waited for those results to come back (it was negative) we were moved to the Dolphin Ward – a special isolation ward for those awaiting results of COVID-19 testing.

I was not allowed to leave the room, and doctors or nurses who visited wore face masks, gloves and gowns each time they came in the room.

There is nothing worse than seeing your child be unwell – that is other than having to hold them down while doctors do what they need to do.

She would tremble and scream when they took her temperature, listen to her breathing, and the worse part – insert a catheter to test for a urinary tract infection.

It was decided that a urinary tract infection was the cause of the high fever and elevated heart rate and a strong course of antibiotics would clear it up within a week.

And just to be sure an intramuscular injection of antibiotics was given to her in each leg before we left.

It wasn’t my first exposure to the amazing doctors and nurses at Royal Children’s Hospital.

But it cemented my belief that they are the best in the world, and we, as Melburnians, are lucky to have them at our disposal.

Especially in a time where we are battling a global pandemic.

It took a few days for Little Miss to get back to her smiling self. But she’s much better.

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