Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sick Kid Chronicles

On Sunday evening, around 6:30pm, Gwen started acting a little off. We had just eaten dinner, and were reading a story together on the couch, when she sort of shut down a little. Just a little bit quieter, just a little bit stiller, just a little bit less engaged. I asked her what was wrong and at first she said she didn’t want to tell me. “Is something hurting you? Do you have an owie?” “I don’t want to tell you,” she insisted, which only caused me to worry more. I persisted, and eventually she told me her eyes were hurting. “Show me where,” I said, and she pointed to her forehead in between and above her eyes.

For the next half an hour, the pain seemed to come and go. After a dose of Advil I proceeded with getting her ready for bed, and when lights out came, she simply rolled over and fell quiet, without her usual insistence on stories, songs, cuddles, and so on. I stayed and snuggled for a minute or two, then departed. Not three minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sound of a child’s stomach being violently emptied.

Chris had just arrived home, so we both rushed upstairs and leaped into action: him stripping the bed and running a bath, me comforting Gwen and peeling off her pajamas. She was weeping and very uncomfortable. She got in the bath and immediately lay down. As I stroked her back and soothed her, I asked if she could sit up. She told me, “If I sit up it will hurt my head.” I was astounded at her ability to recognize this and express it to me so clearly.

After about 15 minutes in the bath, I got her dressed in new pajamas and tucked her into my bed. I lay with her for a long time while Chris waited on hold with the nurses’ line to see if we needed to take further action. I was really scared by the idea of a three-year-old with a headache – one that seemed sensitive to light, also. Gwen was exhausted and soon fell asleep.

Our discussion with the nurse that night was possibly the most helpful discussion I’ve had with anyone there. She was very attentive to our concerns and gave us clear instructions on what to look for and how to follow up. At one point, she did ask us to wake Gwen up and see how she was doing: was the headache still present? Was she shaking or having difficulty breathing? Was she lying peacefully or tossing and whimpering in her sleep? How were her colour and temperature? She encouraged us to check these things every two hours throughout the night and if anything changed, take her to the ER. As such, Chris slept on the couch downstairs and I slept with Gwen in our bed so I could keep a close eye on her.

The night passed fairly uneventfully after that, and no trips to the ER were needed. Gwen woke in the morning seemingly back to normal and has not had any further symptoms. However, I wanted to keep note of what she did and ate that day so that if this does come up again – if there is some kind of migraine trigger – I will be better able to track it down.

Sunday morning, we went to church. She had toast for breakfast. At church, she ate cookies and drank lemonade. We later went out for ice cream at Dairy Queen. We were briefly at my office to pick something up, and I worried that she’d touched the ant traps there, but Chris assured me that if that was the problem, it would have shown itself much sooner. We spent a quiet few hours at home – no unusual snacks that I can recall. We went out for a nature walk at Colliery Dam Park in the late afternoon. After that, we made oatmeal raisin cookies. For dinner, she had leftover Kraft Dinner (her “favourite noodles”). It was shortly after that the symptoms started; once of our theories is that the leftover KD was just a little too old.

It’s hard to know whether the headache caused the nausea or the nausea caused the headache. I was very touched by the encouraging and sympathetic messages I received on Facebook, and especially buoyed by the many people who told me that yes, kids this young can get headaches and in fact they remember being prone to headaches at a young age. Most striking was Chris’s aunt, who commented that one of her first long sentences was, “Mom, I have an owie right here,” and pointed to the exact spot on her forehead where Gwen pointed. The fact that it was one of her first sentences would indicate she was somewhere around Gwen’s age when this happened.

There’s something about kids and headaches that makes me really sad; I do remember having a lot of headaches growing up (especially as a teen) and I guess I have an association with not being trusted since headaches are invisible and what kid doesn’t want to get out of school for a day with an easy excuse? So thinking of many of my friends as children with terrible headaches breaks my heart, and I sure hope Gwen is not prone to them. However, after receiving all this advice and support I do feel that if it happens again I will be better prepared and better able to comfort her.


Tricia M. said...

Hey Laura, I did see this one facebook and it was one of those things where I didn't get to get back to comment.

Anyway, I find I can be triggered by too much over processed flour. For instance I can eat 1-2 pieces of licorice, but not 5 or more without getting a headache. You might want to just watch how much white flour she's getting and try to keep to the whole grains.

And the age thing, yes, I totally remember having headaches when I was young. I even remember one time when I was 6 or 7 when I was with my mom and dad over at my grandparents house having a headache. For some reason I figured out that warmth made it feel better so I got myself a ziplock bag (you know while the adults were talking) and I filled it with warm water, layed down on the couch and put it on my forehead. My mom suddenly saw what I was doing and went into a panic seeing me do this "It'll make it worse!" she exclaimed. Then my gramma said, "If that's what's helping her feel better, let her do it." I guess the point of telling you this story is that Gwen will definitly be able to help you help her.

And I hope (against all hope) she won't have to go through that again!

Sally said...

What you describe is exactly what my migraines felt like when I was little. Sitting up made it hurt more. Having a bath was soothing (in the dark). And I always threw up. Throwing up during a migraine is common.

My parents bought a black-out blind for my room (I think you already have this in Gwen's room, though) and I learned to use earplugs because even the smallest, most normal noise would aggravate me. After taking a painkiller, having a bath, and sleeping it off, I would be fine. I don't remember how often I had them though, or when they stopped (I very rarely get migraines now and when they do it's usually because of a combination of stress and overstimulation). I don't think we ever figured out what caused them.

Sue W. said...

Hi Laura,
Sorry to hear Gwen was so sick. The Mommy empathy cord is always stuck when you hear of a little one suffering.
I had two thoughts reading your blog. Cheese can be a trigger for migraines, so you can watch for that.
When I was 5 I used to have headaches and throw up at night, till they figured out I needed glasses. You probably have already taken Gwen for her 3 year old eye exam, but it was just a thought.
I'm thinking positive thoughts for Gwen.


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