Not Your Average Date Night

Since we began the new school year–a very short period of time, really, and not quite long enough to label it a tradition–Todd and I have designated Monday evenings as our date nights. During the day, from 7:30am-3:30pm, the kids and I occupy ourselves at our homeschool (Classical Conversations) campus for the weekly classes, and by the time we get home later in the afternoon, we’re all sort of brain dead. Because of this, it’s relaxing to be able to go out with Todd and spend a few minutes alone to share a meal.

This past Monday, however, we had the chance to spend a different kind of date night, and Ben was lucky enough to tag along as well. First, though, lwe have to back up to Saturday morning, when Ben presented us with some red dots he had on his leg and arm. He said he’d started feeling itchy on Friday, but didn’t say anything until they got really bad. They looked a bit like hives, but then not like hives, and the worst-case-scenario-gene in me immediately sprung into action. Although we haven’t had to personally walk through the evil that are bed bugs, they came to mind since we have known people very close to us who have. It’s amazing how quickly your mind can race ahead in roughly 0.00265 seconds: I had zoomed ahead to the long, slow, and often unsuccessful drudgery of cleaning every single crevice in our entire house (which, quite honestly, has had it coming for a while; its crevices could use a little extra attention) and fighting a tiny creature that seems to be almost indestructible. Thankfully, Todd doesn’t think that way and he helped catapult me back into reality. As we looked through different pictures of childhood rashes, what we saw online didn’t ever really match up with what we saw on Ben’s arm and leg, so we were understandably confused. It was Todd, a guy with considerable first-hand experience with the skin ailment, who first thought it might be poison ivy.   I was just relieved that it didn’t involve bugs.

Later that day he reported that he had new patches that sprouted up and that every patch was incredibly itchy. Benadryl didn’t seem to help and a topical ointment that had previously helped Todd’s poison ivy wasn’t taking away the need to scratch. He was growing more and more miserable.

Of course it seems that children only get sick in this house after business hours on Friday, so we had nothing to do really but wait until Monday to get him checked out. A friend who is a doctor looked at him before church on Sunday morning and she confirmed what Todd thought: it appeared to be some sort of contact dermatitis. Maybe not poison ivy, but something Ben had brushed up against was really causing him to react. (I was so relieved that a medically trained person had confirmed that it wasn’t any kind of bug. I’m really illogical when it comes to bugs. Perhaps you’ve noticed.) We tried to make him as comfortable as possible until we could see a doctor the next day.

Monday is our homeschool group meeting day, so we had to wait until after 3:00pm to visit the doctor, but Todd had set up an appointment for just before 5:00pm. I figured that we would see her just to make sure that we weren’t missing something other than poison ivy, but also to help him if it had gone too far and topical ointments weren’t enough.

Ben’s doctor checked him out thoroughly, but wasn’t positive that it was poison ivy. She said it looked like some kind of contact dermatitis, but that it also presented like a bite. Throughout the visit, she hemmed and hawed–surprisingly to me!–about putting him in the hospital to run stronger antibiotics than we could get at the pharmacy. She threw around terms like cellulitis and tissue death without stopping to explain them to Ben, and really didn’t like what she saw. I was more than a little taken aback: I thought for sure that we’d go in, she’d say “Yep, that there’s some mean poison ivy! Take this and you’ll be OK.” I was definitely not expecting any of this hospital talk.

After much internal debating among herself, she decided to let us go home to see how his skin reacted to the meds she planned to prescribe for him. Ben hopped off exam table as we were talking about the plan and after a minute or so, she stopped and looked concerned again. Apparently the area where his rash was the worst (a large spot on the inside of his ankle), had turned to a splotchy purple when he put weight on it. The doc said that could indicate circulatory problems and changed her mind altogether. Her recommendation was to go to the ER directly to have them check him out. She prepared us for the strong possibility of an overnight stay as well. By this time, I was more than a little confused, but Ben was trying his best to keep it together. He had heard words like “tissue death,” and was just waiting to fall apart once we left the office. He didn’t even make it up the stairs before he broke down in tears. “Is my leg going to die, Mom?!!” It suddenly occurred to me that we had been discussing all this without stopping to fill in (and reassure) the very tenderhearted Benny. I hugged him and assured him that right now we were just going to check it out to make sure nothing like that would happen. (Talk about Mom dropping the ball and feeling horribly about not sensing her son’s anxiety!)

I called Todd on the way back to the house and he was just as surprised as I was to learn that we were advised to take a trip to the ER, but he agreed to go with us. Not only were we going to miss our date night (not even a consideration at this point….Child’s health and well-being vs. happy hour half-price appetizers!? No contest!), but most likely we were going to miss a leader’s meeting for the upcoming small group sessions that are scheduled to meet at our house. Perfect timing, that’s how we roll.

We checked into the UK Emergency Department at 6:15. Because of my illogical bug-mindeness, I immediately noticed that the waiting room seats are cloth. REALLY!?!? Even after more than one report about bedbug problems at the UK Library and at least one dorm? UGH. I decided that we’re not going to sit back against the cloth part of the seats and we would be just fine. After the first hour of sitting, I changed my plan slightly and decided that I’ll just throw every article of clothing into the dryer once we get home and kill any nastiness that may have thought hopping on us was a good idea, and slumped against the back of the chairs.

Waiting in the ER is always an interesting opportunity to people watch.  The characters for entertainment that night did not disappoint…like the boy who was waiting for a CT scan because he fell and hit his head–and was passing the time by jumping from stool to stool. There were what looked like truly sick children as well, but as I looked at some of the people with them, I thought “Next time we have to go to the ER, I’m doing it right and showing up in my jammies!”

It was about 8:45pm when they called us back to an exam room. The irony of postponing treatment that we could have started as soon as we left the pediatrician’s office three hours earlier was not lost on me. So far Ben had had no relief and was still itching. On top of that he hadn’t eaten dinner and was pooped after an already full day and he was ready to go home. In other words, people watching hadn’t been as entertaining for him as it had been for me.

The first nurse who asked us questions looked at his most visible patches and only said, “WOW. What do you suppose THAT is!?” You can imagine how at ease we were after hearing that. Did our son catch something exotic that would put in a medical journal of never before seen skin rashes?! Probably not, but still. If I had a survey to fill out about our ER experience, one thing I’d feel like suggesting is “Don’t freak out the patient with exclamations.” Just maybe.

Next to enter the room was the med student, complete with his little notebook. He was wholly unimpressed with whatever Ben was presenting with, and called it a simple case of poison ivy. End of story. He left after asking Todd if he was medically trained after Todd had thrown around some important-sounding words like “topical ointment” and “scratching.”

It wasn’t too long before the med student reappeared with the resident in tow, and the two of them looked over Ben’s spots. The older doc wasn’t as convinced that it was straight up poison ivy and she saw signs of infection, though early, but still wasn’t seeing anything threatening. They talked for a while about how it looked a little strange and then left. Ben went back to watching TV.

Soon after that, three docs came through the door: the med student, the resident, and the attending physician (does that sound like the start of a bad joke?). The attending doc got called out of the room twice by her pager, but still had the same reaction as the nurse and the resident: WOW. Her definitive (while saying he had symptoms and signs of multiple different possibilities) diagnosis was contact dermatitis with initial cellulitis. Basically poison ivy that he’d scratched and gotten infected. We caught it early, thankfully, and they thought we could fight it with antibiotics alone without needing steroids. I was happy to do that; steroids are better left alone if at all possible. It was mildly disconcerting to leave close to 10:00pm and have such differing reactions to his rash. Our doc had made us alarmed while the ER staff seemed to wonder why we thought poison ivy necessitated a trip to their possibly bedbug infested waiting room. I have to say I was thinking the same thing while walking back to the car that night, but after further reflection, I knew that we did what we had to do. The doctor had recommended that we go, and it would have been taking a risk to go against her wishes. I know I would have been watching him very closely throughout the night had we not gone, so to have made the trip and gotten a better reaction about the whole thing allowed us all to sleep well that night.

As it turned out, he responded very well to the antibiotics. The next day, he complained about his leg aching, which was one of the warning signs they’d given me. We made a quick trip back to the doc to let her look at him, but when he had no fever and his spots looked a little better and smaller to her, she felt better as well. Another doctor looked him over and had the same reaction: “Wow.” They talked about how it was sort of a little of this rash and a little like this one–a mystery. While we were there, the doc cultured a spot on his leg just in case. She also advised me to take pictures daily to compare from one day to the next and sent us home.

By Friday, his skin looked completely better. Perhaps we had overreacted in the first place, but the ped said she’d seen cellulitis spread quickly and have bad things happen in as little as a few hours. At the end of it all, since Ben was feeling better and his skin looked so much better, it seemed to be worth whatever we did.

And, at least it wasn’t bedbugs. Right? Am I right?

Just for the record, I felt like things were crawling on me the entire time I wrote this post and I still feel itchy all over. Marvel at the amazing power of suggestion. Is that something on your shoulder??


3 Comments (+add yours?)

    Sep 17, 2011 @ 19:29:14

    Wow Deb, that is some event. I can totally relate….whatever happens to your child you must make sure all the angles are covered. Let’s hope this date night is better.
    Love, Jane


  2. Nonnie
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 20:16:14

    Yes, by far better than bed bugs. Take it from “someone close whose had them.”


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