Coping With Your Kid's First Illness

We have been blessed in so many ways with our son Kellan. He was never once was sick in his first year of life.

That changed the week following his birthday (we think he partied too hard at his birthday bash). Within 18 hours Kellan went from "perfectly healthy" to raspy, coughing, and as hot as a furnace.

As new dad we didn't want to be "those" parents who freak out over their child's first illness. But Kellan seemed quite ill and it all happened so fast.


It started (of course) during the middle of the night. Kellan, a pro at sleeping, had woken up upset 4x before 10pm which he never does. We brought him into bed with us to try and calm him down which worked. But he was clearly getting sick.

The next morning, we decided to take Kellan to his pediatrician. His nurse thought he was getting "baby bronchitis" and prescribed two medications to be given four times a day via a nebulizer.

At the pharmacy, our insurance of course did not cover the nebulizer, so we bought it and the medicine, went home and gave Kellan his first treatment. He hated it. And we felt awful. The treatment took a solid 15 minutes. We knew Kellan needed the medicine but he was crying and pushing the mask away the entire time. As a parent it was heartbreaking, forcing a treatment medically necessary on your crying child as they didn't understand why the treatment was needed nor why they felt so crummy.

As the day progressed Kellan got worse. The nurse had warned us things would get worse before they got better, but he was lethargic, incredibly warm, and started fighting for every breath he took.

The thermometers gave us various readings. So we began contemplating going to the hospital. We tried calling the doctors office again, but it was a half day so it went to their answering service and we were not getting a call back. We began to feel a trip to the ER was necessary, but we also didn't want to overreact.

We decided to call our new neighbor, a retired doctor. He came over, and suggested we take Kellan's temperature rectcally as it would be more accurate. That reading was 103 degrees.

We decided our gut was right and verified by the latest temperature that we needed to seek medical attention so off to the hospital we went, and we were right to go.

Upon arrival we told the nurse we had a 12-month-old in respiratory distress with a 103 degree fever. They immediately took us back and quickly diagnosed Kellan with "Croup cough" a viral illness that swells the upper airways making it hard to breath and can cause sore throats as well.

By this time Kellan hardly had a voice, as if he had laryngitis. The doctor quickly gave him a nebulizer treatment only available in the hospital which contained epinephrine. The results were instant but only temporary. About 45 minutes later, he needed another one.


The doctor suggested we admit Kellan because he had not gotten sustained relief from the treatment. Meaning they look for longer intervals of time between treatments. He called upstairs for a pediatric consult, who came down and gave Kellan a long lasting oral steroid to lower the inflammation of his airways. She, too, suggested he be admitted overnight.

Once upstairs the pediatric unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital now affiliated with Johns Hopkins continued their amazing treatment not just of Kellan but for us as concerned parents.They made sure we understood what was going on every step of the way.

By the time Kellan was discharged, he wasn't fully better, but his fever was gone and he was "over the hump" ready to go home and continue his recovery.

As gay dads, we often feel pressure to make sure we get things "right" and not overreact for fear that others will label us as being stereotypically dramatic. In our case no one asked any questions or even blinked twice that we were gay dads in the hospital with our son. In fact one nurse shared with us she had been a surrogate four times over!

I'm choosing to share this story to remind parents, gay or not, to trust your gut. As parents, we have a natural protective instinct that should not be ignored. In our case, our decision to go to the ER was correct as Kellan was misdiagnosed and given medicine that was not going to help. Even if you go to the ER and the illness turns out to be nothing, that's ok too. You are being protective of your child so never doubt your gut feeling on your child's health. You may not be a physician, but you know your child better than anyone, and no one will fault you for playing it safe and seeking emergency medical treatment.

The bottom line is that your child's health isn't about you, or the opinion of others. It's about your child's health and as long as that is primary, nothing else matters.

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