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Hi My name is Claire Salmon, or wash your hands, kids!

April 14, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Adams, Claire, health, Parenthood

Remember when your mother shrieks from the other room, “Did you WASH YOUR HANDS???!!!” And you called back that you had but really didn’t? Remember when you’d splash some water on them so they’d be moist in case she felt them? Remember how most of the time she’d know you were lying, and you never understood the big deal. Well, I’ve got a story for you.

Claire’s Papa had been scheduling a surprise visit to Arizona for her birthday the first week of April, and he was to arrive Monday, April 4th. Well Sunday afternoon Claire began to feel a little under the weather and was not enjoying her time with a friend who was visiting. She was a little warm and we both were a little concerned since Papa flew in 24 hours later and hoped to help her ride her bike, swim with her at our local pool, play games, take walks, etc… Of course Papa knew she would attend school every single day he was here, and he could see her afterward (Boy, was I wrong!).

By Monday’s end, Claire wouldn’t play with her friends at kid’s express and just sat there after school. By the time Donna picked her up and got her home, Claire only wanted to go to bed. I was picking Papa up at the airport, and we planned this whole unveiling that was quickly forgotten. Later Monday night she woke once and was confused but happy Papa was there. By now her temp was between 101-103 for a day, and she was not attending school Tuesday. Tuesday she also went to the pediatrician who believed it was viral as were a lot of cases they’d seen recently. She was regularly vomiting and having diarrhea by this time. She stayed home Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Wednesday she didn’t want to get out of bed at all and refused to eat or drink anything at all. Back to the pediatrician’s office we went Thursday morning. She was down a pound and our regular pediatrician told Donna and her father to take Claire to the ER immediately for fluids.

I met them Thursday afternoon at the ER, and Claire already looked better. The fluids perked her up but they took blood and stool to check just in case. After a few hours, Claire came home and was back to “normal”. She was not permitted to attend school on Friday, her birthday, but she was doing well. Now she had a good excuse to spend her entire birthday with Papa! I came home at noon Friday, April 8th, to spend time with her and make sure she was ok, and she looked great. Friday we went to the pediatrician’s again, and the doc said it definitely must’ve been viral (which I had a really hard time believing by this point!) and Claire looked great. Friday we celebrated. Saturday she and her friend spent part of the day together for her birthday, and then she and Papa spent the evening together. Sunday we took Papa to the airport and said our good byes. Even though Claire was on the couch a lot sick, they did get a lot of time together.

Before going to the airport, the ER called. They said a test came back abnormal and she had to go back in. Donna and I decided that would happen after the airport. We felt it was routine so I went about my own pre-planned event for the afternoon while the three of them headed to the airport. I told Donna to email me at my event if there were any issues or if they wanted me to headed to the hospital after my event if they were still sitting (as people do often in ER waiting rooms).

Around 4:00pm Sunday, Donna texted me and it read: “Salmonella. Sending home on antibiotics.” My reaction was “yuck”, but who the heck gets salmonella? This is something your mother threatened so you would take a bath before bed, or your Mimi threatened you with because you would not get out from under her feet while she cooked a nice chicken dinner.

I told my wife I’d meet them at home, and then I kept doing my thing. Someone at my event talked my ear off for half an hour, and then I got in my car to head home. I glanced back at my phone almost an hour after the last text. This one said “Infectious Disease not letting her leave. Being admitted. IV antibiotics.”

My response is not appropriate for a PG-13 blog post.

I channeled Mario Andretti while frantically trying to call my wife’s mobile and/or my mother, the nurse. Donna’s response (almost always calmer than my own) was to go home and get together a list of stuff she and Claire would need, and then grab dinner before heading to the hospital. That made sense to me but I was a little strung out. I was worried about what we needed and when we’d go home and why was she even in the hospital in the first place. She was fine. She looked fine. She felt fine. She was sick last week, not now. This did not compute.

I arrived at the hospital Sunday evening three hours after she arrived, and she was still in an ER room. Neither of us was too happy and expressed our concerns to the nurses outside of the room before Claire was finally taken upstairs. Now this isn’t a bad hospital and overall we’re happy with them. Donna even picked this hospital in the first place was because it’s the new “children’s hospital” five minutes from our house.

That evening it was assumed Claire would be at the hospital for 48 hours while we waited for the test results. The goal was that by Tuesday the results would be negative and she could leave. This would pretty much mean that any salmonella in her streams was transient and we would worry less. In the mean time the CDC wanted her on aggressive IV antibiotics, and the doctors prescribed more fluids since she was still a little “dry”.

Her spirits were good, and her new room was more like a suite with a pull out bed for Mama and a TV with tons of kid’s movies, games, and even the internet on the TV. We determined I would work the first half of each day and then relieve Mama who went to work from the afternoon into early evening before going home to get work clothes for the next day before settling into the hospital at night. Donna’s college is across the street from the hospital, so this worked out for everyone.

We quickly got into a pattern of me getting my sub and heading up in the late mornings, and Donna showering in the hospital room’s bathroom. Even though Claire was definitely in good spirits and utterly asymptomatic, by Tuesday we were done with this hospital thing. We wanted to go back to our normally schedule lives. (Remember by then Claire had not been at school in 7 school days).

But it was not meant to be. Claire’s test came back positive. Two more days in the hospital, Mr. Groundhog. So we continued. The days meshed into each other, and I was in the hospital by noon each day and didn’t see fresh air again until after dark. Dante, the dog, was spooked because our home felt so empty since it was just me from about 9pm-6am each day. People sent well wishes and hoped she felt better soon, and I had to remind them that she felt totally fine… that we just needed to kill the salmonella swimming in her blood before anything really bad happened. Donna worked later and later, trying to fit 8 hours of work into 4, and we waited.

We knew that when they reran the blood tests Tuesday that there was no way we’d be home until Thursday at the earliest, and when the Infectious Disease doc came into the room, I got him to tell us that outright so we could plan our week.

We also asked him how she got sick and what it really meant. He said that it’s not uncommon for people to get Salmonella in Arizona (one strain is even named after the state!), but many people who get it are adults. Many times they don’t even noticed it. He said it could come from reptiles or amphibians. He said it could be found in unfiltered water. He said it is in nature. He even said it could be found in peanut butter!

My response was “what if Claire was recently playing in a creek, in the forest, down stream from a cattle ranch, eating peanut butter filled pretzels and playing with crayfish far from a sink where she could wash her hands?” He looked at me and said “that’d be the perfect storm.” Little did he realize that over break, while camping, Claire did exactly that. Even the incubation period matched with when she became symptomatic.

All the while, each day, we’d email Claire’s teacher, principal, kid express’ teacher and attendance officer. She received several nice emails back, a wonderful gift from Donna’s colleague, a beautiful card from my student’s mother, and even a personal call from her principal. We got homework done, played games, and watched television. By Tuesday the fluids were done, so she was not tethered to a machine 24/7. (Better for us all as she kept moving around the room, and we were worried she’d yank the IV out of her arm.)

C in hospital

By the time I arrived at the hospital on Wednesday, the preliminary culture was still negative. The doctor said after 12 hours of negative growth, the chances of the culture staying negative increases with each passing hour. We were pretty happy about that. If by Thursday the culture was positive, we need to start examining her for bone disease or Meningitis (in other words, we did NOT want the test to turn positive!).

By the time Donna returned Wednesday night, we felt really good about Thursday. We had so many well wishes via texts, Facebook, Twitter, and phone calls to us or Claire in the room. The thoughts and prayers were flowing in, and Donna packed up most of our belongings in the hospital room for me to bring home. Each night Donna had picked what Claire would have for dinner, and I’d order it each afternoon. That night as Claire had her dinner, we began laughing out loud! Donna had ordered her Salmon without thinking. It was hilariously coincidental!

Thursday morning, it was a matter of waiting. I had my own drama to deal with at work, so I didn’t stick by my phone much until 10:30 am when I had a new email that simply said “We’re Outta Here!”

It’s Thursday afternoon now, Donna’s back at work, I’m at home with Claire for the remainder of the day, and Claire’s excited to get back to school tomorrow just in time for her first kindergarten field trip and a relaxing weekend. She even had a gift waiting for her. Mimi ordered Claire stuffed bacteria. This company makes these stuffed animals that aren’t really animals. They come in the shape of bacterium or viruses but they’re plush and magnified by 10,000,000. (They’re about 4″ long and 2″ wide.) Guess which one Claire got in the mail? Salmonella. Three of them living in a petri dish. Very funny.

C & her salmonella!

  • Michaela C. Burns

    You are definitely not the only one who has been dissatisfied with the “state of the art and top children’s hospital”. Both my good friend (her infant was sent home with RSV and a 103 fever) and my niece (skin infection called a “rash”) had not-so-good experiences.

    Glad Claire is feeling better!


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