As many of my readers know, my son Eric has been sick for a week and a half. Longest ten days I’ve ever known. On February 5th, a Thursday and my birthday, Eric called me from school mid-day and said, “I’m not feeling well, Mom. Can you come pick me up?” I brought him home and put him to bed. His temp was 102.5. Within two hours, it was over 104. And I gave him Motrin. We had no reason to be overly concerned. Viral infections were “going around.” The fever persisted but we were able to manage it. Friday-Sunday, an unusual rash developed, first on his face, then on his torso, and eventually on his entire body. Saturday, we started thinking it had been a fairly long time to have such a high fever, but he was drinking plenty, eating some, and didn’t seem to be critical, so we opted not to take him to the emergency room. Monday morning, I called to make him a doctor appointment. His rash had mostly subsided, but he began coughing a little bit and complained of a sore throat. And he was very weak. I practically had to carry him into the doctor’s office. And, at age fourteen, he’s bigger than me. The doctor ruled out strep and thought too that it was a viral infection. He did blood work, which was all normal except for a mysteriously alarmingly low platelet count. But he was drinking okay, so doc said we’d treat him at home. And to come back Wednesday for repeat bloodwork. Tuesday morning, his cough was worse, his fever persisted, and I was beginning to suspect he had pneumonia. And what was that odd purple bruise on his cheek? Knowing he couldn’t wait till Wednesday, I called the doctor and made the earliest appointment, 1:00. Around ten AM, Eric was sitting in bed doing homework. But around noon, the effort it took to get up, go to the bathroom, and get dressed was too much for him. He became very short of breath, and the 25-30 minute drive to the MD office was frightening. He struggled to get into the waiting room and I demanded he be seen right away or I’d have to take him to the ER. They did attend to him quickly and immediately began treatment; O2, breathing treatments. They drew blood, and now his platelets were zero. We rushed him to the hospital and admitted him directly to ICU. A chest x-ray showed pneumonia. He suffered through that first night here, so short of breath. I knew before the doctor even came in Wednesday morning that he’d have to be intubated and put on a ventilator.
Now it’s Monday and we’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions, fatigue, fear, and hope. His lungs have been seriously assaulted and who knows how much time they’ll need to heal. He's still on a ventilator and heavily sedated to allow his lungs to heal.The doctors are basically scratching their heads, wondering what has caused this. The blood and sputum cultures have come back negative. The inflammation is responding well to steroids and is clearing quickly. His platelets are back to normal. The fever has subsided. We just need his lungs to get better. And it might take time. But what happened? Bob and I have a theory. The doctors don’t want to entertain the notion. But we don’t think it’s a coincidence that he started an antibiotic, Bactrim, just four days prior to his fever starting. For acne, of all things. Every symptom Eric had was among the list of side effects on the package insert. Why didn’t I make the connection sooner and stop the Bactrim? We continued to give it to him until Monday night. We may never truly know what brought this all on. But he’ll never take a sulfa-based drug again. And I’ve learned an important lesson. Before starting any new drug, be familiar with the list of side effects and watch for them.
It doesn’t matter at this point how it started. What matters is that he recovers. And I have faith that he will. He certainly is covered in prayer. We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of genuine care, concern, calls, visits, offers of help, and, most importantly, prayers that have been showered on us from this community; our church, neighborhood, Eric’s school friends and families, teachers, friends in Pittsburgh, and friends we don't even know around the world. It’s an amazing thing to see. We are truly blessed to have so many friends. I’ll keep you posted on his progress.