word of the day: intussusception

word of the day: intussusception

Yesterday, Savannah was really fussy all day. I thought it was teething – I can see her second tooth coming in – but when she refused to nurse or eat, I got concerned. She would be really fussy, and then she was fine. Then she would zone out and rub her eyes as if she was tired. I was somewhat concerned all day – I know the dangers of attributing any abnormality to teething without further scrutiny, because sometimes it’s something more serious.

At dinner last night, Savannah kept zoning out in her high chair. Both of us thought it was unusual behavior for her. It was 7:30 – an hour and a half before her bedtime. She was rubbing her eyes so I thought maybe she was just tired. I changed her diaper and put her to bed, and she fell asleep instantly. Meanwhile, Paul and I inspected the diaper – it was very odd. It looked like strawberry jelly. What did she eat today? Paul asked. I racked my brain but I couldn’t think of anything red that either she or I ate. Paul googled it, and the websites were the same – for a red diaper, combined with the other symptoms we’d noticed throughout the day, call your doctor immediately.

It was close to 8pm when I called our pediatrician. She said she suspected Savannah had an intussusception, and to get to the emergency room. An intussusception is when the colon folds in on itself, and basically blocks the waste from getting out (hence the diaper, which was actually bloody mucus and not strawberry jelly). I woke Savannah up and we left right away. Fortunately, the children’s hospital’s emergency room is fairly close to our house, so we were able to get there in no time. We got checked in, and before too long we were being seen by the nurse practitioner. We explained the symptoms and she agreed with my pediatrician and moved us to the emergency room doctor.

Everything happened fairly quickly (better than when we were at the ER in Massachusetts!) but the night felt long. We were taken into a room where Paul and I had to hold her arms and feet and they got an x-ray of her abdomen. (The nurse says, when she went to take off Savannah’s diaper and found a Baby Kanga: “Um, that’s a complicated diaper… Could you take it off for me?”) Savannah was NOT a fan of all this poking and prodding, and basically cried the whole time we were in the ER.

After the x-ray we were moved to a different room where they handed us a remote and showed us how to work the TV, and then left. I was thinking, does this mean we’re going to be here for a long time? But it was nice to have the distraction; we watched about 20 minutes of 30 Rock and then 2 other nurses came in. They put an IV in Savannah’s hand (can you imagine trying to put an IV in the hand of a little baby? Wow, I was amazed at his ease of finding the vein.) Savannah, meanwhile, screamed the whole time. They hooked the IV up to something – saline, I think? – and left. Paul and I were able to calm Savannah down enough that she fell asleep. She looked so tiny on the hospital gurney, her hand all bandaged with the IV. It broke both of our hearts.

After a bit, the doctor returned and said that they were concerned by what they saw on the x-ray. It looked like it was intussusception and the next step was an air enema, which would pop the colon back into place. The doctor left, and we nervously waited and sang to Savannah trying to comfort her. Another nurse came in and hooked Savannah up to those monitors that measure heartrate and blood pressure, etc. She started crying again. Then they wheeled her through the halls to the room where the air enema would be.

There, we transferred her to the x-ray table and they put a tube up her rectum. Poor Savannah! So invasive! This was part wasn’t painful as much as discomfort, and she was so tired as well. Paul and I then stood to the side and watched while the radiologist used the x-ray to blow air into the colon and pop it back into its correct shape. It was actually a fairly quick procedure, and I expected Savannah to scream a lot more than she did. I think perhaps she was just tired at this point!

The radiologist told us it was an intussusception (up until this point, there was still question) and that the procedure was effective. We were so relieved! She would have had to have surgery if it hadn’t been successful. Savannah was wheeled back to the room and we waited there to make sure everything was okay. She was almost immediately like her old self. Her eyes were completely swollen from crying, but she had stopped and was even smiling! I was able to hold her, finally, and so I sat on the gurney and cradled her. She perked up and started playing with all the wires attached to her. After a bit, the doctor returned and said that he was going to discharge us, and to make sure to keep an eye on her. There’s a 10% chance that it could happen again, and we should not hesitate to bring her back if we see any of the same symptoms. He gave us some Pedialyte to give to Savannah, and said to make sure she’s getting plenty of liquid. He also said to take Savannah to the pediatrician in the morning to make sure everything was okay.

The nurse came back and took out the IV, and we got our discharge papers and left. It was about 12:30am. We decided to stop at Kroger and pick up some disposable diapers, because I was out and they said that we might see a little more blood in her stool, and I didn’t want to deal with that in my cloth diapers. :-) At Kroger, Paul stayed in the car while I ran in. When I came back out, Paul tried to start the car, but couldn’t. Argh! Who do you call at 1am? Fortunately a guy was walking by at that moment and offered to jump the battery for us. That was successful, but then we had to drive around for a while to recharge the battery. It was about 1:30am when we finally got home. Thank goodness!

This morning, I took Savannah to our pediatrician and she said that Savannah looks great! She has definitely returned to her old self, playing and talking to herself. She hates being poked and prodded, though, and seems very wary of any stranger touching her. I hope she gets over that soon! In the meantime, I’m keeping an eye on her. I feel comfortable with how everything happened, though. I noticed that something was wrong, we acted as soon as we saw the bloody diaper. You know how you second guess yourself a lot as a mommy? Well I’m glad that my instincts that something was wrong were not lying to me. :-) Without proper treatment, this disorder is fatal in 2-5 days. So grateful we had a good hospital to go to, and doctors who knew what they were doing! She should be fine now, and doesn’t need surgery.

In the hospital

Slowly recovering from the intussusception

Swollen eyes from crying

11 thoughts on “word of the day: intussusception

  1. Oh, wow. What an ordeal you all had! So thankful there’s a happy ending. :-) Yay for your instincts and yay for doctors and nurses who are knowledgeable!

  2. wow! I’ve never even heard of such a thing! So scary. glad everything worked out. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thought anything about it and let her sleep all night. Glad you thought other wise!

  3. Why does drama follow you around?? :) Poor Savannah – I got chills when I read the diagnosis. Amazing how resilient babies are, huh? Praise God you trusted your instincts and she’s fine.

  4. Wow! Poor munchkin! I am glad everything worked out ok, and I am really proud and happy that you trusted your instincts! Way to go Ashley!!! I passed the information on to AJ and I think he called your mom to get the details earlier this morning (before you posted this). But we will be praying everything stays healthy! I think it is awesome that she snapped back to her happy playful self almost as soon as they fixed it.

  5. Oh, Ashley, this had me crying! Poor Savannah! I guess they didn’t put her out for that procedure?! Poor you, too. That must have been awful to have them doing all that stuff to your sweet baby. I mean, I know it saved her life, but… it’s just hard, especially when they can’t understand it.

  6. I read this while I was traveling and wanted to comment when I got back. Poor little baby. And bless your heart too! Must have been so rough!!! It is hard enough when they get a simple ear infection. Did she have any symptoms at all? Other than the crankiness? I had never heard of this before. Did the doctor say what caused this? Very very scary. Praise God for your presence of mind to take her in.

    Give her a kiss on her chubby feet from me.

  7. Annie: Apparently, it’s not incredibly uncommon for babies as young as Savannah to get this for no apparent reason. I was told they don’t even try and figure out “why” unless the child is older. Here are the big symptoms:

    * fussiness and inability to appease the baby
    * vomiting (Savannah never did this, though)
    * refusal to eat (that was a BIG one for me – she wouldn’t even nurse)
    * dirty diaper that looks like strawberry jelly (bring the diaper to the hospital with you)

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