Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hospital Results Take a Long Time

My little second cousin is in the hospital. That doesn't seem very closely related, but she's one of the few relatives my family has in this area. Most of my relatives are back in India. Besides, she's only...I think 5 years old?

Anyways, a few days ago, she was with a babysitter or something after school, and she began complaining of a headache. By the time her parents arrived, she had already vomited four times. The headaches (the back of her head, at the top of the neck) made them worry might be meningitis, so they took her to the hospital.

The doctors decided to do a lumbar puncture to find out whether it was bacterial or viral (if it was in fact meningitis). The problem? It hurt a lot. Even the injection of anesthesia hurt her, and after that, they had to try multiple times to get the cerebrospinal fluid. Afterwards, she complained of horrible pain, so much that she would lay still for hours because she was too afraid of the pain to move. The hospital had to give her morphine every three hours to fight off the pain. The first CSF test came up negative, but the fluid was pink. Whether that was because there was a problem initially or some damage was done by the repeated poking is still unknown.

She's getting better, or at least the pain is decreasing, and she's walking around and playing and eating a bit again, but the doctors decided to take an MRI. The room was booked yesterday, so they kept her in the hospital and took it today. Now the results are finally back, and it's negative. Except that there's one blood vessel that is apparently in the range of normal variation, but the doctors still want to ask a specialist to get a second opinion. Which can't happen until after the weekend. At least it seems negative.

I've been worried for both her and her parents. I'm worried for her because I want her to be okay, and I'm worried for her parents because they're worried for her. How can they stand it, constantly wondering what the result of the test will be, still uncertain about what exactly is happening with their daughter? They haven't left her side for more than an hour, and even then only one at a time, to come to our house, get some food, maybe take a bath, smile for a minute.

All we can do is offer them support, a shoulder to cry on, some home-cooked food so they can be with her all the time. I wish it were easier and faster and cheaper to diagnose a problem. At least they get to go home now for a couple of days, get some rest, and be in a more familiar environment. I hope all will go well.

Edit: She's okay now, back to normal. She was having fun dancing at a friend's graduation party recently, at least, and the pain is gone. They're still not completely sure what caused the pain in the first place, but I think they've settled on viral meningitis.

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