Our daughter Emily came home from school one day with a lump under her jaw line. We went to the pediatrician who put her on antibiotics, but instead of getting better, Emily's condition worsened. We went back to the pediatrician and little did we know that the lump would lead us on an interesting journey that ended at Children's National.
Emily was initially admitted to another hospital where the doctors and nurses tried to kill the infection growing under our daughter's skin, but unfortunately the treatment was not working. At this point we were transferred to Children's National.
It turned out that Emily had a Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infected lymph node that was under her jaw. She was on three IV antibiotics at this point. The doctors determined that she could either have surgery to drain the node, or stay in the hospital for an extended period of time on IV antibiotics. My husband and I talked and decided that the best thing to do for Emily was surgery.
There are a couple of thoughts that I would like to offer up here. First thought is that the decision to discuss the seriousness of your child's condition with your child depends on the child.
Emily really felt a loss of control over her body when she was receiving treatment. She was eight years old, and people were doing things to her that she didn't like or understand. She had never been poked with all of those needles and she became very quiet and withdrawn. When I talked to her about why she was behaving that way she said "No one is talking to me and I don't understand what is going on." At that point, I decided to advise the doctors, nurses, and fellows that if they had something to say it needed to be said in front of my daughter. I also sat with Emily and we wrote a list of questions that she wanted to ask the doctors.
In addition, I asked the nurse if Emily could talk to a social worker, because at this point they had her listed as needle phobic. The social worker was great. She held a class for Emily and the other needle phobic kids on the floor. This class allowed the kids to place IV's in stuffed dolls and have some control over the care of someone else, even if it was just a doll.
The second piece of my recommendation is to make sure that you understand what types of bandages, etc. will be on your child after surgery so that they can be explained to your child before surgery.
After her surgery, Emily had a pressure bandage on top of the incision in her neck. She woke up very agitated and wanted desperately to remove the bandage. We knew that there would be antibiotic gauze packed in the incision that would need to be removed a little at a time but that was a little freaky for her as well.
Emily was in the hospital for a total of eight days. The care that she received at Children's National was excellent. The hospital staff is excellent, but sometimes you might have to pull aside a nurse or someone else to ask for additional explanations of your child's treatment.
Never feel like your questions, or your child's questions, are ones that should not be asked. The staff was always happy to answer the questions but sometimes you just have to remind them that you might be new to all this and need help. I noticed that the nurses and doctors were so focused on Emily's treatment, which was great, and I had to re-focus the attention to the fact that we were scared and needed to understand what was going on in spoken English.
No one knows how Emily got this infection. It could have been any number of things. But her infection is gone and she is a happy, healthy 10-year-old.
Good luck and God bless you.