Sleepless Nights in Nuketown

What a weekend. It started with a fun game of Settlers of Catan, and ended with a 2 a.m. trip for StarGirl to the emergency room.

It started on Thursday, when StarGirl became cranky and moody. She was drooling too, so figured she was getting another tooth. But with 16 teeth already, we were surprised that she’d be getting any more at 16 months.

Friday night she had a terrible time sleeping, and was even crankier. Sue took care of her that night while I headed to Lance’s for some board gaming (our first run of Cities and Knights of Catan) and while Lance, Jon and I struggled for control of the virtual island, StarGirl slept and woke up three or for times. By the time I got home at 1:30 a.m., she was crying again. I took over from Sue, who was utterly exhausted, and the baby finally went to sleep at 2:30, with me following at 3.

Saturday it was more of the same, only StarGirl’s naps lasted for a fraction of the time they normally do, which hampered our ability to take naps of our own. By Saturday night we were feeling scrapped thin, a feeling that only intensified as StarGirl woke up every hour on the hour Saturday night.

Sunday wasn’t any better. Knowing I had to work on Monday, and had to get something resembling sleep, Sue took over StarGirl watching duties that night. I went up to our third floor guest bed, and tried to force my overtired brain to shut down. I finally managed it around 1 a.m., but a half hour later I was awakened by a sudden burst of light as Sue entered the room with StarGirl looking worried. Very worried.

“Feel her chest … it feels like it’s racing again,” she said, or words to that effect. “She’s been touching her chest,” she said, tears forming. I did laid my fingers against her chest … and it did seem that her heart was pounding. I tried to count the beats, but after 10 I couldn’t keep up any more. Shit I thought here we go again. Fourteen months earlier, when StarGirl was seven weeks old, she’d had a heart racing episode and had been diagnosed a rapid heart rate (cause unknown) She was on a medication to regulate her heart beat for a year, finally going off it last April.

And here we were again. The now familiar spike of terror hit me as I felt StarGirl’s heart pounding against my hand, but it was replaced by resolve. We needed to get to the emergency room right away.

Lilo and Stitch in the Emergency Room

It took us a half an hour to get to the emergency room at Lehigh Valley Hospital, which is where StarGirl ended up last time around. Then, she’d been airlifted from St. Luke’s in Bethlehem to Lehigh Valley’s pediatric intensive care unit when they’d been unable to get her heart rate under control. Then, her heart rate had transitioned back to normal while in the helicopter; this time it happened as she feel asleep on I-78. By the time we got to the hospital, it was normal again.

We took her in anyway, just to be sure. What followed was about 45 straight minutes of crying as StarGirl hollered at the nurses and doctors who applied numerous monitor wires to her chest and leg. Watching the Disney Channel’s Lilo and Stitch helped calm her down, but only marginally so. We were there for an hour, maybe an hour and a half, and StarGirl’s heart stayed within normal ranges the whole time. The doctor’s discharged us when it became clear that she wasn’t in any danger, explaining — as was the case before — that the problem probably wouldn’t happen again that night. Hell, it might not happen again for six months — or it might never happen.

The only thing we could do was wait and watch. And go to our pediatrician for a follow-up visit the next day. We left, and at 4 a.m., we were finally home. The pattern of the previous two nights continued, only now StarGirl was crying in her sleep. Sue leapt from bed several times to comfort her, hoping that she could keep her from waking up fully.

This tooth was going to drive us crazy. Only it turned out it wasn’t her tooth at all.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

By Monday morning, it was pretty clear that something was going on more than just another tooth coming in. We caught glimpses of a white sore on the back of her mouth, and the blisters on face were getting angrier. Plus now she was getting small blisters on her feet, as well as on her hands.

Sue remembered hearing from one of her friends about a virus going around called “Foot and Mouth”. We’d never heard of it (Hoof and Mouth, yes, but that’s something that affects hoofed mammals). We had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon anyway so we figured we’d add these blisters to the list of things we needed to ask about.

After a grueling day of crying, long walks, swinging in the park, and even less sleep (I’d taken off after it became clear we weren’t going to get any more sleep) we finally had our 4 p.m. appointment. The doctor told us what we expected hear about StarGirl’s heart — we’d just have to wait and see. If it happened again, we should take her to the far closer St. Luke’s Hospital and have them immediately measure her heart rate, to see if we could catch it happening.

As for the blisters, Sue was right. It was the “Hand, foot and mouth” virus, also known as the Coxsackie virus (which, if you’re curious, you can find more about here. It was highly contagious, usually affecting kids (especially little ones) during the summer, and harmless (well, except for the sleep depredation, which of course was only temporary). Changing her diet way from citrus and dairy products, and giving her soft foods like Jello and sherbet would help alleviate her discomfort.

Last night was hopefully the final one of the weekend-long siege. StarGirl was up until 1:30 a.m. again Monday night, but we were all able to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep last night. Now StarGirl’s feeling better, I’m back at work, and with any luck normalcy is once again descending on the thermonuclear burg.

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