When my eldest daughter was around four years old, we started noticing her urine was a strange colour. At first it was dark yellow, but over several days it became darker and darker and, in the end, it was dark rust coloured brown, almost red. Of course, I was concerned, it seemed odd. I thought she may be dehydrated, but she was fine in every other sense. Happy, energetic, eating and sleeping well.
It was because of this I didn’t seek medical attention straight away, and to this day I regret it. Had I spoke to the GP earlier, we could have probably sorted it with a course of antibiotics.
Instead, we left it a while until one evening I called the health direct line. The suggested I take her to a medical centre at the earliest convenience to check it out. They didn’t say what it could be, just that it should be checked out. It was a weekend so that would have meant sitting for hours in a medical centre and, given the fact she seemed well and happy, I decided to wait until we could visit our regular GP.
Fast forward to a few days later, we got in to see our GP who had a feel of her tummy and didn’t seem too concerned but gave us a referral to have an ultrasound to see what was happening in her bladder as her stomach was very tender. I believe at the time there were concerns about kidney stones or even appendicitis. I called the ultrasound place on a Thursday and made a booking for the coming Monday. Feeling happy it was going to be checked out, we set about enjoying our weekend.
Saturday was spent riding bikes and scooters, and all was fine. When I look back on photos I took of that day, I still feel emotional thinking of what was to come in just a few short hours. I look at them now and I can see she looked a little pale and her eyes were a little puffy, but there was no real indication that she was unwell. I now know that these were both signs of the illness she was ultimately diagnosed with.
That night she woke with a super high fever. The worst we had ever seen, and I don’t think we have seen another like it. She was shivering and insisting on having the blankets on, but her temperature was 40.9 and climbing. Panadol and Nurofen did nothing and after giving her both, her temp hadn’t decreased at all. My baby girl was really fighting something, and I was terrified.
I decided to take her to emergency. My husband stayed home with our other daughter who was one at the time, and I set off on every parent’s worst nightmare, emergency at 2am.
My sweet girl perked up while we waited in emergency. Her temp still hovered around 39 degrees, but she wanted to eat something, and she was chatting to me. We saw the triage nurse and described the past couple of weeks and so she asked us to provide a urine sample. I recall being really ashamed to hand over that sample. It was like blood. Her urine was so dark and so obviously wrong, and I couldn’t believe we had left it this long. I still feel guilty about this.
We were taken through to emergency and set up on a bed waiting to be checked out by the doctor. As I was talking to the nurse on duty, my girl suddenly said she felt sick and then proceeded to vomit everywhere. All over me, herself, her bed. At that point, we were taken through to begin treatment.
I cleaned myself up as best as much as I could and began what would be days of tests, antibiotics and terrifying conversations with paediatricians about what was going on. I remember so clearly talking to the head of Paediatrics and not understanding a word of her medical jargon. All I wanted to do was scream “Just tell me is she ok? Is she dying?” Really, that’s all I wanted to know. I have never been so scared in my life.
In the end, we found out she had Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. A rare and serious kidney infection that occurs after a strep infection. We hadn’t even noticed an illness or infection, generally this would have presented as strep throat several weeks earlier.
Having this diagnosis was a bit of a relief, but I was still scared and felt so, so guilty. As a mother, my job was to protect her, and I had missed this and let her get sicker and sicker.
We ended up staying in hospital for five days and four nights. It was a constant stream of intravenous antibiotics to get the infection under control. I look back on this time as a blur of what can only be described as hell. I was due to start my new job the week she was admitted but I obviously couldn’t go. My husband was working in a highly stressful and demanding job, and so was still going in to work every day. Looking back this seems ridiculous.
So the routine was as follows: My husband would spend the night at the hospital while I was home with our baby, in the morning I would drop the baby at day-care and bring a suit into the hospital for my husband who would change and go to work. I would spend the day there and then my husband would pick up the baby and come to the hospital after work where we would spend a little time together and then I would take baby home and we would do the process again. I don’t know how we did it. I really don’t.
We have a few photos from this time, they are heartbreaking to look at. She just looks so sick. Initially we were in a room with a few other kids and she was able to walk around with the drip still in place and spend time in the playroom. Unfortunately, she picked up a gastro bug in the hospital, so we then had to be isolated. Good in a way because we had a private room for her and her own bathroom but she wasn’t allowed out of the room so that made for some very long days. The poor thing was stuck to the drip and so moving around was pain, as was changing and going to the toilet.
To make things even worse, the drip had been put into the hand she usually sucked her thumb on. All she wanted was to suck that thumb, it was her comfort source and I wish I had paid closer attention to which hand they were choosing. Any parent who has had their child receive a canula will know just how traumatic the process is, so I wasn’t about to request they do it again in the other hand.
Somehow, we got through it. My daughter was incredible, she barely complained and did everything the doctors told her to do. I am so proud of her and I am so relieved we had good doctors who acted quickly to diagnose and help her.
An ultrasound revealed she had a lot of “debris” in her bladder and as she had lost so much blood through the urine (which is why it was the reddy, brown colour) she was severely low in iron. Not quite anaemic but well in the red, danger zone. We were told to get her onto some iron supplements but after speaking to our GP, we decided that would be a last resort as the side effects were quite unpleasant. We opted to try Floradix which is a natural supplement. We mixed it with orange juice because vitamin c helps with the body’s absorption of iron. After a few weeks her levels rose, and we had a few more check-ups with the paediatrician and all returned to normal.
No parent wants to go through serious illness and hospital stays with their child. I am incredibly grateful that this was the one and only time in my parenting years that we have had to do it.
Now at age eight, she loves to tell people that she was in hospital for five days. She thankfully doesn’t remember much about it. One day I will have to forgive myself and come to terms with it. I now trust my guy always and prefer to be overly cautious with illness.