A Night of Abject Terror (or StarGirl goes to the Pediatric ICU)

First off, everyone’s ok — StarGirl’s fine, Sue’s fine and I’m fine. Or at least, we’re mostly fine.

I got a call at 3:30 Monday from Sue, who was in hysterics and was on her way to St. Luke’s in Bethlehem. Seems that StarGirl had turned absolutely white — no color in her lips or her extremities, and scared the crap out of Sue. She called our pediatrician, who told her to take her to the hospital immediately.

When I got there an hour and a half later, Sue and StarGirl had been admitted, and they were running different tests on the baby. Mostly they were trying to pin down her heart rate, which seemed high. Well, one EKG later, and they knew that it was high. Way too high. Her normal heart rate should be around 140-160, something like that. Hers was twice that — it was running around 250 to 280, with spikes to an absolutely horrifying 300.

The cardiac pediatrician was concerned — heck everyone was concerned — and they spent an hour or two trying to get an IV started so they could give her medication to bring the heart rate down. When they couldn’t get it started — and when other techniques failed to keep the heart rate down — they Medevac’d her to Lehigh Valley Hospital, which has a pediatric intensive care unit. That’s right. A freaking helicopter.

We followed in our cars, and by the time we got there, she’d stabilized. Actually, she’d done that in the air, and her heart was beating at a saner pace when they got her in the Pediatric ICU. They checked her heart with an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok … it was. They also hooked up enough tubes and wires to her to make her look like a Borg. Or one of those babies from The Matrix.

But she was calm, happy, and was able to eat, and that made the wires invisible to us — at least until we had to move her (easily a two person job).

They began administering a medication to keep her heart calm, and she stayed in the hospital overnight for monitoring. They released her Tuesday with a prescription for the medicine and a portable heart monitor. The monitor — a small black box about the size of paperback — is hooked up to five electrodes covering her chest. The goal is to record another 24 hours of heart activity to see if there are any other cardiac hiccups while she’s at home.

Based on what the cardiologist said Monday, StarGirl’ll probably be on the medication for a year, and will have a few new doctor’s visits that she wouldn’t’ve had before, but aside from that, things should revert to normal. And after a year on the meds, she should be able to stop taking them — this is apparently something that most kids who get it outgrow.

If you’re wondering what caused it, your guess is as good as ours. The doctors say its something that “just happens”, most of the time without any set trigger. If she has additional episodes, we may be able to pinpoint the cause, but if that doesn’t happen, it could simply remain a mystery.

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