If you’re squeamish, maybe this isn’t the blog entry for you. I’m about to write about bodily fluids. This is not everyone’s idea of a good read.
Our story starts at 1:00 AM. Helaine was asleep. Steffie was watching TV. I was in my upstairs office, playing online poker.
It’s difficult to describe the sound of someone throwing up, except to say it’s pretty distinctive. Stef was throwing up.
I went to see her, but was rebuffed. She wasn’t feeling well, but it wasn’t a big deal. Everything was fine.
It was not.
Before long she was back, leaning over the toilet, letting loose.
Stefanie is 19. She lives in a dorm most of the year. Late night barfing is commonplace. Her own stomach distress wasn’t a major concern – even though she hadn’t participated in the usual pre-throw festivities that make college life so… well, college life.
Within 10-15 minutes she was back.
We tried Pepto Bismol pills and some soda, to replenish the fluids she lost. As quickly as they went down, they came back up. Her forehead went from warm to cool with each episode.
Helaine and I were getting nervous. We had never seen Stef like this before. Upstairs, we spoke about what to do, while downstairs Stef moved between the family room and the bathroom.
I started talking to Stef about going to the hospital, but she would have none of it. “People don’t go to the hospital because they’re throwing up,” she said.
I totally see her point. She knew she wasn’t feeling well. She also thought you had to be in much worse shape to demand any ER attention. The ER is a place where people come with limbs hanging off.
But things weren’t getting any better. Stef was out of solids in her stomach and quickly depleting herself of fluids.
“We’re driving, or I’m calling an ambulance.”
With Helaine, Stefanie and an oversize kitchen pot in the back seat, we set off for Yale/New Haven Hospital. I was driving fast. I already had decided what to say if stopped by the police.
We navigated our way through New Haven to the ER entrance. The receiving area has a small circular driveway with a cement island in the middle. I pulled up onto the island and shut the engine.
Stefanie plopped in a chair as a technician entered some rudimentary patient information into a computer, put a blood pressure cuff on her arm and pulse monitor on a finger. It’s tough to put in words, but this was done in spite of Steffie’s being there. She was obviously in distress and continuing to heave, but the cuff and monitor went on as if they were in some parallel universe.
A wheelchair was rolled in and we made our way to an examining room.
Emergency Room is a misnomer. At Yale, it’s a sprawling area of many rooms with dozens of staff members, visitors and patients. We turned right, just past the nurse’s station. Along both walls, patients laid in gurneys.
The first held a man, no shirt, with an intricate tattoo covering his arm and some of his chest. I didn’t see the rest. I looked away. Helaine later told me, she did the same.
We made a left, into a small room. To our right, in a doorless small room divided by a flimsy curtain, a man on drugs, alcohol or both, incoherently babbled about his hate for his mother and how he wanted to get home to go to sleep. He was loud and angry. I’m not sure where he belonged, but it wasn’t on-the-street without supervision.
Stef’s exam room was small and dingy. Let’s assume it was clean. It would have seemed cleaner with a fresh coat of paint.
A succession of nurses, physicians assistants, technicians and one doctor came and went. Each was confident. Each had a job to do. We think they were happy to be taking care of someone whose distress was not self imposed – certainly not the babbler across the hall. No one could possibly relish the thought of quality time with him.
One of the nurses brought in an IV bag, and a drip was started. Whatever else they’d find, Stef needed to be hydrated. It’s sort of Gatorade in a bag, minus the sugar.
Through all this, there was no change in Stef. Every few minutes she was back with her head down, holding a pan the hospital provided to replace the kitchen pot we’d brought.
The first attempt at treatment was an anti-nausea drug injected directly into her bloodstream via the IV. When there was no change, in went the next potion. We were told there were a half dozen they could try…but they didn’t have to.
If you’re a parent, I don’t have to explain this moment to you. If you’re not, there’s no way I can explain it. Stef began to respond. She was still talking in monosyllalbes , but now there were a few strung together. She leaned back and put her head on the pillow. It looked like she was out of distress.
You don’t go from as sick as she was to ‘pink of health’ in an instant, but this was still a pretty rapid turnaround. There was no guarantee, once the medicine wore off, she wouldn’t revert – though she didn’t.
By now, whatever was the cause of her nausea was long gone. The body is amazing, knowing perfectly well how to expel those thing which might harm it. A best guess is food poisoning from chicken she had eaten earlier. Though Helaine and Stef had eaten together, it was Steffie’s first meal of the day. Any pathogen was going to find little in her stomach to dilute its power.
As Steffie rested, we waited for the attending physician, the ER’s ‘boss,’ to come and say it was OK to go home.
I can’t begin to tell you how impressed we were with the professionalism that marked the care Stef received. It’s always possible whatever celebrity I have here could bring more attentive care, but this was beyond that. Every person who touched Stef was confident, well spoken and obviously well trained. There was never a moment when we didn’t feel they warranted our trust.
We got home long after the Sun had risen on a beautiful June morning. As I type this, 12 hours after we walked into Yale’s ER, Steffie is weak, tired and well.
Your child can grow up, but she’s always going to be your baby. Sorry Stef – that’s how it works.
Blogger’s note: Originally, I offered up to Stefanie, this would be something not shared in the blog. She asked why? So, here it is.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s don’t wait. If you’re considering going to the hospital, that’s probably all the evidence you need to go!
The photos were taken after Stef felt better.