Monday, February 22, 2010

Our Experience with E. coli, Part 1

I have seen way too much of toilets in the past week. We have been dealing with E. coli 157 (want to know more?). This is an evil bacteria, causing diarrhea the likes of which I have never known or imagined could exist. Fortunately, I personally have not contracted it yet, but believe me - more than once have I wished and prayed that I had it instead of my child(ren). The thing that is most frustrating to us is that we have no idea where it came from. Let me go back:

On Saturday, February 13th, the boys had a basketball game. They missed the previous week's game and the subsequent practice due to a cold, but by the time Saturday rolled around, they were well enough and they seriously needed some exercise. We hadn't gone to church on either Wednesday night or the Sunday before since they had been sick. They aren't in school or daycare, so the basketball game was the first time they were in contact with other kids for a while. After the game, Chris informed me that George had had to make an emergency trip to the bathroom during the game to go poo. Not big news to me, the kid has been regular for as long as I can remember.

On Sunday we missed church again due to me having a migraine. George seemed pretty normal that day. Then overnight that night, he got up a few different times to go to the bathroom, as well as many times throughout the morning. At one point, he told Chris he was sorry because he tooted in his underwear and got it dirty. Chris inspected it and noticed that there was blood as well. This was around noonish on Monday. A handful of bathroom visits later (each involving blood in the stool), we knew something was really wrong. He also had horrible cramping pain each time. So around 2:15pm we packed up the entire crew and headed to Urgent Care. Once we got there, they said that they had just accepted their last patient of the day as they were closing early due to the fact that the weather *might* get bad. At that point in time, there was no precipitation and the roads were perfectly clear. Grrr. So we headed down to Children's Hospital.

We spent the next 3-4 hours at the ER. We did a whole lotta waiting. Considering how long we were there, and that we had burned through all of the snacks pretty quick, and that Blake didn't get a nap that day, and that George had to go running to the restroom every 20 minutes or less, the boys did surprisingly well. They took blood and urine samples, and the dreaded procedure of taking blood. George has never been a very good patient. Always freaks out at the smallest of things, even before they happen. But this time, he did awesome. He did cry a little bit when the phlebotomist drew his blood, but she was great with him and he did follow her instructions to keep still.

We had to wait for the lab results, which were normal. They sent us on our way and told us they would contact us once they got the results from the other specimens. Monday night was a little better for George - he only got up maybe 2-3 times. Then around 3:00am, Josh woke up to go. And again at around 6:00am. And that began his journey with the evil illness.

Tuesday afternoon we got a call back informing us that George had contracted E. coli 157. I was shocked. Stupefied. Puzzled. How? Where? When? She said that we needed to give him probiotics twice a day until the diarrhea cleared up, and avoid fruit juice and fiber, etc. I decided to start the whole family on the probiotics right away just to be safe, and we cracked down even more on the kids' handwashing habits (which are pretty darn good already). George still had to go a lot, and Josh had to go a lot more than normal, but only a speck of blood here and there, and he didn't complain about having cramping like George did. Josh has always had a hardier constitution than George, it seems.

Wednesday was a blur. Blake had a couple of nasty diapers early on, but seemed OK after that.
Thursday I took George back down to the ER for a follow-up visit, which turned out to be another whole goat rodeo having to wait, go through processing, and all of that. We waited for an hour and 15 or so, and they finally called us back to go to a room. I was surprised that they didn't just send us to the lab (the nurse I had spoken with led me to believe that this would be a quick, "fast-track" visit, with just a blood draw). I asked if we'd be able to get it done by 4:30pm (it was 4:05 or so at the time), and the nurse laughed and said, "umm, I highly doubt it." So I politely let them know that I would have to leave by 4:30, as my husband had to leave for a job and our other two little kids were at home so I had to get back. After hassling with the nurses, registration, and some phone calls to Chris, we ended up leaving (after 4:30, mind you). So we didn't get seen, we had to drive back during rush hour traffic, we'll still get charged the $100 ER co-pay, and we wasted all of that time. Grr.

On Friday morning, I got a call from the Public Health Department. They always follow up on reported cases of E. coli and the lady had some questions for me so they could try to help track down the source. Here is where I will say that there is much more about this piece that will be included in Part 2. For now I will press on. Blake had started pooping more this day, after we had thought he had gotten better. During one of the conversations I had with the PHD, Chris was changing Blake and saw some blood in the diaper. Just great. Fan-tastic.

Friday night was horrible. From about 8:00pm until about 3:00am, Blake had no less than 10 bouts of painful poo. What's worse is that since he is not toiled trained, his bottom was getting increasingly raw. Every time we tried to wipe him or put cream on, he screamed in pain. It was an extremely rough night. And it has been rough since. The frequency has gone down each day, which leads me to believe that he is getting better, and his appetite is good and he is drinking his fluids just fine to stay hydrated (as are the other two).

George and Joshua seem to be fine, though we're not completely out of the woods yet as there is a risk of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) in children under 5 which can show up 5-7 days after diarrhea stops. There are lots of symptoms, but simply put, HUS could cause renal failure. So George has an appointment on Tuesday to get his blood checked so they can test his kidney function. Josh had the diarrhea for a much shorter time frame and got better pretty quickly, so we'll see how George's test results come back before we decide to get Josh tested as well. We'll be getting an appointment for Blake though, as he is the smallest and probably the most at risk.

Chris had some tummy trouble for a couple of days, but for some reason I have been the only one who has not gotten it at all. I am hoping we are at the end of this awful sickness, and will be posting again soon about the other development this has incurred.

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