A common illness can turn out to be serious, but you have to recognize it when it happens, and that can be hard to do.
Photo credit: Monica Beyer

When my youngest child, only 4 years old, woke up vomiting one Sunday morning not long ago, I wasn't terribly concerned. Since I began my parenting journey in 1995, I have been through more vomit adventures than I care to recall. They usually go the same way — one child gets ill, and after a day, she's better, but then the rest of us follow in her germy footsteps.

Not your typical illness

Very sick 1

Photo credit: Monica Beyer

She was sick all day, and all that night as well. My bed became a canvas for a gastrointestinal paint job. It was not pretty and it was not fun, but I was sure she'd be better the next day.

As I was fully expecting her to be well on the road to recovery 24 hours later, I was unhappy to realize that she was not going to be better after we got up for the day. I had to abandon all plans of work as I held my sad, vomiting child, and as we went to bed that night for another fun-filled sickfest, I thought that this would surely be over in the morning.

It had been 48 hours since this all began, and even though she was vomiting far less, she was still quite ill, and she was starting to not look very good. It became obvious that she was losing weight.

After another night of "sleep" with plenty of barfing in between our attempts at shuteye, my anxiety amped up a notch. It had been 48 hours since this all began, and even though she was vomiting far less, she was still quite ill, and she was starting to not look very good. It became obvious that she was losing weight — it felt like her backbone would cut into my fingers as I held her. Her skin started to take on a different tone, and while she didn't have a fever, she felt warm to the touch.

But she was still peeing, and peeing often. This reassured the RN I spoke to when I called the nurse hotline that day, and everything that I read indicated that dehydrated kids don't pee very often. So I decided that we'd stay home one more day, and if she was still ill the morning after, I'd take her in.

Mom alarm bells ringing

She was sick one time that night, but when we got up I knew that she was not only not right, but she was heading to "wrong" really fast. She was almost completely limp, had zero energy and her eyes, which had started to look dull and sunken the night before, were pretty alarming that morning — she looked like a completely different person. She was still taking tiny sips of water and was still peeing fine, but all of my mom alarms were going off and I called at 8 in the morning to get her in.

I found out that she had lost four pounds when she was seen in our pediatrician's office 20 minutes later, and an hour after that she was admitted to the hospital. The pediatrician said that she was not comfortable sending her home like "that" — the "that" being her sprawled out on my lap, glassy-eyed and motionless.

In the hospital

Photo credit: Monica Beyer

The nurse gave her an IV and took blood, which triggered a horrible sobfest, and a really sad one at that because she was so weak she could barely muster a whimper. Once she was settled with fluids trickling in, she lay quietly in the hospital bed, her tiny body barely perceptible under the blankets.

The pediatrician said that she was not comfortable sending her home like "that" — the "that" being her sprawled out on my lap, glassy-eyed and motionless.

She never vomited again, but she was still pale, motionless and limp for most of that day and night. She became afraid of the staff and every time they came in, she'd reach for me, chin quivering. I slept in her bed with her that night, and was happy to note that she slept through each vitals check.

The road to recovery

In hospital

Photo credit: Monica Beyer

She awoke the next morning in much better spirits, chattering and telling me she loved me over and over. She was allowed to try some food soon after, and polished off a small bowl of cereal and had some applesauce. Her eyes were swollen from the fluids and she'd developed an eye infection to top it off, but she was starting to fill out again and pink up. The sparkle was back in her eye and she smiled when our friends came to visit.

I had finally decided to rely on my own observations of her appearance and behavior instead of what her output was like.

She was discharged later that afternoon, the doctor telling me that it was probably "just" a stomach virus that she couldn't shake that left her significantly dehydrated. I had finally decided to rely on my own observations of her appearance and behavior instead of what her output was like (and when her urine was tested, it was full of ketones, protein and red blood cells — not normal at all). She was completely back to herself the next day, and continues to eat me out of house and home as she attempts to make up for lost calories.

At home

Photo credit; Monica Beyer

You know your child, and you know her well, and you can usually tell when things just aren't right. I'm glad I took her in when I did, and I do wish I'd taken her in sooner, but I was trying to help her get better on her own. Once I realized she was going downhill, we headed in. And I'm so, so glad.

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