Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Time Sam had a 9 Month Fever


Did I ever tell you about the time Sam had a fever that lasted 9 months? I didn't blog about this at the time because I was having a difficult enough time taking deep breaths, much less string coherent sentences together.

It started July of 2009. John and I were leaving for Tobago to speak at a pastor's retreat (tough life, I know). I noticed Sam felt warm. We gave him some Tylenol and took off for the Caribbean.

We returned to a happy little boy...with a temperature. We took him to the doctor where he was diagnosed with an ear infection. "That explains it," we thought. Once that clears up he'll be fine. Nope. Then it was pneumonia. Again we thought once it cleared up he would be fine. Nope. By this time it was November and his temp was consistently 101.3. He acted fine. He just had a fever. All. Of. The. Time. Needless to say, I was worried.

(This was taken when Sam had a 102.5 temp. He doesn't exactly look like a sick kiddo.)

Google was not my friend. I actually created a designated "worry hour" once a week when I was allowed to google and let my mind travel to dark places. It was actually helpful. It meant that when anxious thoughts entered my mind on a Tuesday I could tell myself, "Hey now, Mandy, you'll have plenty of time to worry on Thursday." And it worked. For the most part. There were three instances when the worry was overwhelming.

The first came when we were looking for an infectious disease doctor to observe Sam. The first doctor we were referred to required a 2 day hospital stay with a battery of intricate and painful tests before she would even look at him. Apparently the symptoms Sam was exhibiting were similar to those of leukemia patients. We were hesitant to go this route. An acquaintance of mine took this step with her toddler a year earlier. Her daughter was ultimately declared healthy but she still harbors a high fear of doctors--even wetting her pants whenever she sees one. We heard of a specialist in Philly who would see Sam without the hospital stay. This doctor literally wrote the article on differentiating between leukemia and other autoimmune diseases. At the time I agonized over this decision to forgo hospitalization. Turns out it was the right call.

The second peak of anxiety emerged around Christmas. Leukemia was ruled out, but some of Sam's tests indicated a likelihood for rheumatoid arthritis. I woke up every morning inspecting his joints, looking for swelling. After 6 weeks or so we learned the test that had indicated an autoimmune disorder was a false positive.

The third peak emerged in the spring. Sam's temp was still 101.3, but it tended to skyrocket whenever he caught a bug. I took him to the doctor when it was at 104.7. "It's just an ear infection," we were told. "Take him in if it reaches 105." I took him in when it was 105.5. "Just a virus," we were told. "He seems to have a high tolerance for this kind of thing. You really only need to worry if it hits 106--that's when damage to the brain can occur."

You can probably see where I'm going with this. Fast forward to April. Sam woke us up in the middle of the night with a fever. A doozy. 106. He laid on our bed, staring at the ceiling, rambling about pink flamingos while John and I scrambled to pull things together for an ER visit. We drove to the hospital, windows open, shoving a popsicle in Sam's mouth.

Again, just a virus. "He tolerates high fevers very well," we were told.

It was nine months until we got our diagnosis: Fever of Unknown Origin. That's it. Just a fancy way for saying "Your-kid-gets-fevers-and-we-don't-know-why." The infectious disease doctor in Philly gave us the best advice: "This will probably go away as mysteriously as it came. In the meantime, don't bother taking his temperature every single day. It'll only drive you crazy." You think?

He was right. The fevers are gone.

I didn't realize how much these fevers had wiggled their way into Sam's understanding of his own identity until yesterday. He was so young when he battled these fevers that I wasn't even sure he remembered this stretch of time. Just yesterday, however, Clara was a bit fussy and I decided to take her temperature. "Oh dear," I said in a singsong voice, "She has a bit of a fever."

"NO!!!!" Sam yelled. At first I was touched that he didn't want his poor sister to be sick. And then he added, "I'M THE ONE WHO GETS THE FEVERS!" The kid thinks he's got the corner market on fevers...and for a while there, he did.

So that's the story of Sam's 9 month fever.


1 comment:

Megan said...

MANDY! I can't believe you went through this! So glad to hear that everything is fine. Way to go designating a weekly 'worrying hour'. Genius. The Internet can be a horrifying place when we're trying to diagnose our children! (And as always, Sam cracks me UP!)