Twyla Goes to the Hospital. (Now With Conclusion!)

The party line, of course, is that daycare is a boon to women. But has anyone investigated the possibility that daycare is an invention of the patriarchy aimed at killing off working mothers altogether?

We’ve all been sick more or less continuously since Twyla started in February. The weekend of April 5th, she got a nasty case of croup, and was home sick for a few days. Mostly recovered (little cough, slight snorfles, but no fever) she returned to daycare for two days at the end of the next week. I’d been feeling sicker myself and on Saturday morning I went to the doctor to see whether my pneumonia had returned, because I have nothing better to do with my limited free time than get chest x-rays. My pneumonia was NOT back, but there was a lot of frowning while listening to my chest, where the air was apparently “really slow” and “swirling,” which sounds very elegant and all but it turned out to be a very elegant case of bronchitis. I was given a stern talking to about “resting,” and how I should start doing it. That night, Twyla threw up twice (extremely restful). I thought it was probably snot-related. Sunday morning she was not very hungry (which is not a thing that happens to Twyla), and sat around holding a banana for a while before eating a third of it. I mentioned to Scott how odd this was—usually we don’t keep bananas in the house because Twyla has a Banana Problem and becomes unhinged when not allowed to eat the entire bunch, one after another in quick succession—and Twyla promptly threw up what little banana she’d consumed.

So all day last Sunday I sat in bed, trying to “rest” (I do not know how to sleep in the day), and Twyla slept next to me. Occasionally she’d stir and I’d give her a sip of water, and at one point after this she gagged again, and then fell back asleep. By three in the afternoon I was a concerned that something was amiss. Twyla was still sleeping. She sounded congested, and I wondered whether her cold from the previous week could have turned into pneumonia. No fever, though. I Googled “toddler sick sleeping all day.” At some point Twyla opened her eyes. I tried to keep her up. She sat up and drooped over again, falling asleep on her face. I carried her out to the living room. She seemed blank and not quite there, and kept drifting off. I took her into the kitchen and made her drink a little ginger ale. Then Scott and I noticed that her fingers and toes were dusky. We decided she needed to be seen and he took her to the ER.

The ER, by the way, is also our clinic’s after-hours care venue. We go to the primary care clinic at the Children’s hospital, which dates back to Simone’s NICU stay, when they asked for a pediatrician as we neared discharge, and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t believed I would get to take home a live baby, and if you don’t have a live baby you have little use for a pediatrician. So the NICU nurses suggested the clinic one floor above, and one of the doctors came down to meet Simone, and we have been very happy there ever since. It makes referrals to specialists easy, they are used to ex-preemies, and they also cover parts of the hospital service, like newborn checks, which was nice right after I had Twyla. The downside is that if something happens after office hours and they decide you need to be seen before Monday, they send you to the ER downstairs. For a long time this made me feel guilty, like I was abusing the system, but that’s just the way it is.

So I sent Scott and Twyla off, worried but also feeling like maybe I had overreacted (maybe her fingers and toes were purple with cold!), only it became clear pretty quickly, via the texts Scott sent to keep me updated, that I hadn’t. The triage nurse must not have liked what she saw, because when Scott and Twyla got back to the room a doctor and two nurses were waiting for them. If you have ever been to an ER for something that does not involve screaming or obvious continuing blood loss, you know that this is not usually the speed at which events proceed. They kept asking if Twyla could have gotten into any drugs or medicines. I knew she couldn’t have, but I ran around the apartment checking every prescription bottle anyway, panicking and having visions of CPS coming to investigate and taking the girls away because our apartment was Too Messy (I was not in the very most logical frame of mind). Twyla’s oxygen saturation was normal. They took blood, and urine via catheter, and placed an IV. Twyla barely cared about any of this, and went straight back to sleep after they finished, which I think we can all agree is not Standard Operating Procedure for toddlers, and by now I was a wreck. The doctors were worried and moving quickly.

Simone and I played UNO and I tried to keep the both of us calm. She was still running a fever from her own version of whatever pestilence Twyla had been fighting off the week before, so I didn’t want to take her to the hospital if I could help it. I could have taken her to my mother’s and gone to the hospital myself, but at this point, as scary as everything was, there wasn’t the sense that it was time sensitive in a way that meant I needed to be there, which is my euphemistic way of saying no one thought Twyla was going to die in the next few hours, and I was having some severe PTSD-type reaction and every time I thought about going to the hospital I also thought I might throw up. I felt like I should go—god knows I’d be getting more complete information if I were the one talking to the doctors—and more than that, I felt like I should want to go, to race to Twyla’s side. But I was paralyzed with fear while also suspecting that I was making more of this than it really was, and I knew Scott would be able to keep it together in the ER, and I figured I could do more good at home than there, especially considering that if Twyla rebounded quickly with fluids—they knew by this point that she was dehydrated—there would be work and school in the morning for most of us.

People make snide comments about other people who post to Twitter when their children are ill, but being able to ask for support and receive it was amazing, and my friends on Twitter (and Jonna, who allowed me to text her about all of this as it was happening) were a great help to me, just by being there. 

I suppose around this point is when Twyla’s bloodwork came back. Most of it was fine, but her sugar was low and her lactic acid was high. They gave her some sugar in her IV and told Scott they would retest the lactic acid. I worried for a moment that she might be diabetic, but it wasn’t long before I hit upon another possibility—and this soon took on the feeling of an inevitable truth—namely that she had the rare metabolic disease that immediately comes up when you begin Googling Twyla’s symptoms and high lactic acid, a rare metabolic disease that often means death in early childhood. This had the ring of truth to me, because I have at times felt very superstitious about Twyla, because I am an absolute moron. Twyla, you see, was conceived so effortlessly, and then she LIVED, and the pregnancy chugged along* until she was born at term, and apart from dreadful colic and reflux in her earliest weeks she has been a dream baby. She is so lovely and has such a constant, goony smile that other people smile back at her everywhere she goes; she is happy and sweet and EASY, even during toddlerhood. So it seemed only natural to me, because of my previously referenced moronism, that something would go terribly wrong while she was still very young and she would die. Thus, even though the differential for Twyla’s symptoms and bloodwork was full of ordinary things, the most likely being “virus of unknown stripe,” I seized on to the rarest and deadliest and then, realizing how absolutely insane this was, didn’t trust myself to have any opinion on the seriousness of her condition at all. Twyla woke up. Her circulation was better. She ate part of a popsicle. The ER doctor decided to “leave it up to us” whether she should be admitted. If we lived further away, he said, they would definitely admit her, but since we lived so close to the hospital (about four blocks), it was our call.

Doctors, do not do this. Please, I beg of you. Maybe you think you are doing families a favor, giving us a place behind the wheel, but it feels as if you are asking us to make a decision above our pay grade and then live with the consequences. I will ALWAYS wonder if Ames would be alive if I had chosen differently when my OB gave me a choice of prednisone or lovenox, even though he made it clear that he didn’t think I needed either (and that he thought prednisone might cover some possibilities lovenox would leave unaddressed). I was tormented when the perinatologist on call the night of Simone’s birth asked me to decide whether to deliver at 25 weeks or wait to see if the contractions stopped on their own. And I was NOT thrilled at the idea of taking Twyla home only to watch her all night in case she became unresponsive (in…her sleep??) and needed to return to the hospital.

Luckily (?), I’d no sooner told Scott as much than Twyla threw up her popsicle, despite IV Zofran, and leaving was off the table. She was admitted.

I ordered a pizza for Simone and myself as I had been doing such an excellent job of parenting that I had forgotten about dinner and it was now 8 o’clock. We washed our hair and got into our jammies and ate. Simone was worried about Twyla. Most kids Simone’s age have a faith that doctors can fix things, and a distance from the possibility of death, that she doesn’t have because of Ames. She has asked, many times, why the doctors couldn’t fix what was wrong with him, and obviously this was different in a million ways (Twyla not being a 22-week-old fetus, for starters), but the possibility of Twyla dying felt real to Simone, which is not how it should be for a six-year-old. I was glad to be there with her. I reassured and cuddled and let her sleep in my bed. After Simone was out, Scott and Twyla Facetimed me from Twyla’s new room on the Peds Floor. She still didn’t look great, but she was awake, which was an improvement. I slept with my phone under my pillow.

*Typing this, I am realizing that my pregnancy with Twyla was awful–I had hyperemesis, gestational diabetes, polyhydramnios, was on daily blood thinner and weekly progesterone injections, started contracting at 15 weeks, needed terbutaline, etc.–and yet apparently all that need happen for me to regard a pregnancy as suspiciously easy is for no one to die during it.


I am not trying to be coy or create drama—Twyla is fine!—but I really am out of writing time. I am not even sure why I bothered to write all of this out, as it is no doubt EXTREMELY BORING, but now that I have, I might as well post it and keep going. I will finish up the rest tomorrow.*


*By which I meant a month later. Click here for the thrilling, belated conclusion!


  1. Myra says:

    I’m snorting about the definition of an easy pregnancy.

    Glad to hear she’s okay now. Can’t wait to hear what happened.

  2. Meg says:

    My fingers and toes turn lovely shades of purple when the ambient temperature is lower than 65F. I’ve had to wear gloves in some offices. My blood pressure doesn’t feel like moving, sometimes, so my circulation just . . . takes some time off?

    It is not boring! It is riveting and scary but THANK YOU for saying that she is fine now. (No, really, if you hadn’t, I’d’ve been frantic. This is what I get for paring down my Twitter.)

  3. Sonya says:

    How frightening for you all – both the trauma of Twyla being admitted and so ill and the PTSD symptoms I am sure you suffer from your previous experiences. I am so glad to hear she is doing well now.

    My daughter, now 20 and seizure-free for almost 15 years, used to be admitted to hospital with status epilepticus, which occurred without warning, only whilst she was sleeping, and for which the treatment caused her to stop breathing (non-treatment = brain damage; not breathing isn’t a good thing either). To this day I am the world’s lightest sleeper and get up several times a night, even when she is NOT in the house. There are some things you just never get over.

    Also, daycare is the worst germ cesspit in the world.

  4. Janet S says:

    I also thought of PTSD as I was reading. Small consolation while events are happening, but you express yourself so beautifully that it would be a shame to not put it into words.

  5. Alexicographer says:

    Oh good heavens, I am glad all is relatively OK and also that you live near a hospital AND that she was admitted. Still, what a thing to have to go through, and especially after all you have all already been through.

    I have not experienced anything like what you did, and yet all the emotions you describe make perfectly good sense to me.

  6. Amelie says:

    How scary! I’m glad Twyla is okay now. And I’m so sorry that this brought up PTSD in you and all those fears in Simone. So very understandable, but sad and stressful.

    But your definition of an easy pregnancy is great.

  7. Fran says:

    Not boring at all! I am glad to hear young Twyla is doing much better. It’s a terrible scare and brings back strong emotions.

  8. Swistle says:

    People criticize people who talk about their sick children on Twitter? You know, I am starting to think that there is a special system set up to make sure EVERYONE is criticized for EVERYTHING at ALL TIMES.

  9. jen says:

    I am so glad Twyla is okay. I saw your tweets and I was so happy you continued to let us know how she was doing. I was worried for you guys and thinking of you.

    My now 1 year old was admitted to the hospital when he was 3 weeks old (staph infection, luckily the responds-to-antibiotics one) and the best thing about the pediatrician was he simply said “You are taking him to the hospital. Pack a bag, call someone for your older one, and go now.” There was no debate, no leaving it up to me. I can’t imagine if he had left it up to me. You poor thing.

  10. KathyM. says:

    NOT BORING! Everyone following this has cared what happened to Twyla (what a lovely name), and I thank you for sharing in more detail what happened. Poor baby! Poor you! No wonder you feel sick at the thought of going to the hospital.

    I vividly recall the evening my 8-year-old developed a fever, and since he had one sinus infection after another, I took him to urgent care, where he threw up all over himself, and promptly lay EXTREMELY still. Whereupon, the doctor announced he had a “nasty” bacterial infection, and they gave him shots of antibiotic and both doctor and nurse looked very serious. I imagined myself on the prairie with no miracle drugs and thought he probably would have died back then. I, too, like to go to an extreme and frightening scenario, even when I have to go back in time to create one. The antibiotic worked wonders, and I was sent home to watch him all night (!), and naturally my husband was out of town. My son recovered nicely, largely because it was 1988, not 1888.

    I won’t call your account boring, if you don’t think mine is (and by the way, if you need more detail, I could provide it. Fascinating stuff!).

  11. Leigh says:

    I am so very sorry, and glad she’s better. I can totally understand why going to the hospital would make you want to vomit!

  12. betttina says:

    I was following along on Twitter and it was so scary to think about tiny Twyla in the hospital. Reading your account just makes the whole thing even scarier. I am so very, very glad she is well.

  13. betttina says:

    PS – When I tried to click on your homepage from my work computer, the website is blocked due to “alcohol:” “The nature of the website you have requested has been identified as Alcohol.
    The consumption of alcohol as a minor is not only illegal, it can lead to a lifetime of side effects such as: addiction, mood swings, difficulty thinking, problems with school work, and harm the overall development of your body.”

    Thanks, Work, for irrationally judging me when I’m trying to read about a sick baby getting better! (Also, I am not a minor and haven’t been one for over a decade.)

  14. Maggie says:

    Am delurking to say so glad Twyla is fine and how stressful! Also to minirant about how very much I hate it when doctors leave medical questions up to me. I’m not a doctor. I haven’t even had a science class since college (two decades ago), why on earth is the doctor even asking my opinion, never mind asking me to choose? Jeez, YOU’RE the doctor. Tell me what to do medically for heaven’s sake and someday when you have a legal question I’ll tell YOU what to do about it. Sheesh.

    OK done ranting. I *may* have had this problem before ;-)

  15. sal says:

    Nope, straight up not boring. Add me to the list of complete strangers who were following on twitter, hand-wringing on your behalf and sending all the groovy good vibes your way. Such a relief to hear that Twyla is okay. Also….as always, your writing is wonderful.

  16. Robin says:

    Oh sweet god… I can’t imagine how you held it together!

    I had an episode a few months ago where I managed to convince myself that something horrible was going to happen to my daughter — but in the complete absence of any illness, symptoms, or otherwise empirical indication. The curse of a vivid imagination? But I had those same absurd thoughts of “I love her too much, so therefore she will be taken away from me.” I’m sort of relieved to hear I’m not the only one..

    So glad she’s ok! Hope you’re ok, too, and not too shaken.

  17. Erin says:

    Not boring at all. I’ve been wondering what happened since I saw your tweets that night. So glad to hear she’s fine.

  18. Ellie says:

    Oh not boring at all sweetie! Your writing is never boring and such an illness is terrifying! Plus, this is your blog and of course you’d want to write about it. And yes, PTSD very understandable! Phew. I hope she is ok now and am very curious to know what the verdict was?? Flu/strep/freaky virus? Also, the not waking up is one of the cardinal BadSigns. Don’t feel like you’re overreacting if you can’t wake a child up (whether they went to sleep with or without signs of illness).

  19. MJ says:

    So glad that you have the Twitter feed on the side of your blog so that I can tell that Twyla really is okay (or at least okay enough to slow dance with Simone), since you didn’t “finish up the rest tomorrow.” But I guess we can forgive you, seeing that you’ve had a child in the hospital and all.

  20. HereWeGoAJen says:

    That’s my definition of a successful pregnancy too. A friend of mine mentioned that she was impressed that all our moms club pregnancies that year had had good outcomes except for one (she was referencing a baby born with Downs) and I immediately started hyperventilating asking her who had died. Alive baby=WHOO HOO. Bonus points if the baby is also cute.

  21. Miz Kizzle says:

    I?m glad Twyla’s okay. I completely understand why you were convinced she was done for. When my son was 10, the school nurse had me come get him because he complained of having the worst headache ever. I was convenced he had an AVM and was about to die(I knew it would be silly to think it was a brain tumor. Brain tumors can be benign. AVM is scarier.) The nurse looked at me as if I was completely insane when I told her what I thought it was. Turned out to be just a headache.
    Later there was the time when I was convinced he had Von Willibrand’s Syndrome because his gums were bleeding.
    Sooo what was wrong with Twyla? Did I miss the diagnosis, or wasn’t there one?

  22. Ali says:

    So glad to hear Twyla is recovered! I, too, know the joys of living close to the hospital. There’s something reassuring about knowing you can be there in 5 mins flat.

    And, a huge, wholehearted ‘YES. THAT.’ to doctors placing (what often seem like large, life-altering questions, event though they may not be) in the laps of family members. I appreciate a seat at the medical-decision-making table, for sure; but please, not at the head of it.

    I hope your house is now pestilence-free and thriving!

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