So here's what happened on Friday night:
At 11pm Annika ran out of her room. I was still awake, so I heard her murmuring to herself as she ran for the bathroom, "Oh, please, Mama, please please, Mama." I followed her into the bathroom to join her for the first session in an all-night diarrhea fest. She was up every 30 minutes to use the toilet, until 3:30am. Which was when she added vomiting into the mix. She had a fever, but it never topped 102, which is pretty unusual for her.
After a doctor's visit, blood draw, and stool culture (collected by me! fun!) in the morning, she began to perk up. By that evening she was already feeling much better, so I'm thinking either the world's wimpiest GI viral infection, or else she ate something just a little off that day. Either way, we were pretty pleased with the short run. Annika, however, thought that she should probably get to spend the night with me again. I explained that, no, that was only for when she was sick. Unconvinced, these were her cheerful last words to me Saturday night:
"Good night! I love you! See you in the middle of the night!"
So Annika was admitted to the hospital as scheduled on Sunday evening to prep for her transjugular liver biopsy. They did labs, again (2 sticks), and started an IV (another 2 sticks). She called me at 9pm to tell me all about it. It was the second time she had called me since arriving at the hospital at 4pm. The phone rang again at 7am. Annika. I almost never hear her on the phone, since I'm always with her, and I was shocked to hear how heartbreakingly sweet her little voice sounds over the telephone.
It was strange to have Jörg go with Annika to the hospital this time, as my role has usually been "hospital parent," especially when any overnight stays were required. But it's also been great watching Jörg and Annika's relationship develop and change as she grows older and more independent. She sorely missed his presence during his recent conference trip, in a way that Frankie is not quite old enough to grasp. First, Annika cried all morning long
on the day that Jörg was to leave. She wanted to come along to drop him off at the airport shuttle, but getting her back into the car to drive off was a huge effort. Especially since she was wailing and screaming, "No! Nooooo! Please! You can't do
this to me! Please don't do this to me!" (I know! What a dramatic turn of phrase! I swear I do not watch any daytime soaps around the girls and have no idea where she gets her swooning elocution.)
A few hours later she had calmed down. But as the days wore on, she began to hatch a plot to ensure that Scotland would never again steal away her father for 5 whole days. This is what she came up with:
"Mama? You know what? When Daddy gets on a plane to leave Scotland and to come back home? They are going to put up a big sign on Scotland that says, 'No more coming to Scotland! Stay away! You are way too STINKY
. Go home. Don't come back, ever.' "
So if you are wondering about those apparently anti-social billboards dotting the borders of Edinburgh, now you know.
Staying home gave me the opportunity to catch up on the laundry, but also to focus my attention on Frankie in a way that's just not possible with the megawattage of Anni's personality always shining over her. She loved the chance to sit and tell me about all her toys, and astound me with her new ability to name colors. Well, OK, she says everything is "gween," but she gave herself away when I actually showed her something green. She gave me a very sly smile and pronounced it blue.
And, by the way, did you notice that Frankie said "gween"? Yes! Consonant clusters
! (That is
what you were thinking, right? Because we are all linguistics geeks.) She even pronounced the word, "Grandma," perfectly, although I hope she doesn't stop altogether calling her "Baba."
Plus, she is talking in complete 4-word sentences. ("Mommy tickle my tummy!"). She is pretty much the epicenter of a language explosion right now.
Given that she is relatively advanced verbally for a 22-month-old child, when she refused to wear a diaper on Sunday, I decided not to debate the issue but instead begin the long trek toward potty training. I got out Anni's old potty chair, and sat her down on it, explainng that she was to put her pee-pee and poopy in there. I turned on Sesame Street to entice her into sitting on the chair. Some 10 minutes later, Frankie jumped up off the potty and announced "Pee-pee!!!" And I watched her urinate right in front of the potty chair. OK, so chalk that one up to "still unclear on the concept."
It occurred to me that my relationship with Frankie is, by necessity, very different since Annika is in the picture, too. She certainly does not get as much undivided attention as she was clearly enjoying these past few days. And part of me was a little sad about that. But pity the parent who doesn't understand that their
relationship with their child is just one part in the grand scheme of social networks that go into that developing personality. Frankie's relationship with Anni is also a huge part of what makes her a happy, joyful little being. And vice-versa for Annika.
The first time that Annika wanted to call home, she only spoke to me for a very brief couple of minutes before she was asking to talk to Frankie. "Put Franko on the phone, please!" I handed the telephone to Frankie, and she listened very intently. Then smiled. Then squealed. Noone, not even Grandma, has gotten Frankie to squeal happily on the phone before.
And I see how much Annika is influencing Frankie's behavior, even when she's not here. Sunday evening we went out to pick up a few things at the store. Frankie heard a very tiny baby start crying. Sitting there in the seat of the shopping cart, she started to sing, "Baby, don't cry," which was a song that Annika made up to sing to Frankie when she was a tiny baby crying herself. It was a lovely moment, remembering how Annika would stroke Frankie's head as she sang her own little song of love. I wonder if Frankie was remembering that, too.
So Annika is home now, sleeping in her own room again. Jörg tells me that they had to have 2 tries to get her IV in, and again 2 tries to draw blood, and then several sticks to check her hemoglobin after the biopsy. Overall, though, those aren't bad poke stats. There were no NG-tubes involved in this stay, and no urine catheters, so she's not too unhappy with the trip. She got to have her Favorite Nurse of All Time, the beloved Beata, and I hear that she also made great friends with Donna, another of my favorite nurses there.
Anni also got to meet the adorable Natalie
, another liver kid, who was recently transplanted and has had a very rough post-transplant time. She and her parents have been in the hospital far more than home since her transplant back in February. I was sorry to have missed meeting them finally.
Annika did not have a single room for the first time in over 3 years, but this makes sense as she is doing so well. The single rooms need to be saved for the sicker, more long-term patients who need the peace, and also the protection from outside infection that a single room provides. And, of course, patients with infectious diseases need single rooms. So I understand why Annika ended up in a double. Still, I like the fact that many children's hospitals are moving to single rooms for all
Annika was sharing her room with the toughest of all roommates: a small baby in the hospital without parents. Again, it makes sense to try to give babies roommates as, clearly, small babies are not built for being left all alone in a room. But it can be tough when the baby wakes up in the night, and there's noone there to pick him/her up. Of course, the baby's nurse will eventually come, but sometimes it can take a little while. And I know that my little Annika is a sensitive creature, and I worried that she would come home with a broken heart, seeing a baby who didn't have someone there to hold her when she needed it, right away.
I'm so glad Annika has never had to spend a night alone in a hospital. But I know better than to judge those parents. We are lucky enough to be able to afford to take time off work, and to have me work only sporadically. If we need it, my parents would always drive up to help us out so we could be there with Annika. The fact that parents are sometimes forced to leave their babies alone in the hospital has more to do with the general inequities in healthcare and social support in our country than with bad parenting. It makes me furious.
So that's it. Anni is home. We don't yet know the results of the biopsy, but should by tomorrow sometime.