This is part 1 of a 9-part series describing my perspective as my son was diagnosed with and treated for an Atrial Septal Defect. Other installments: Preface, Discovery, Fear, Choices, Anticipation, The Knife's Edge, Just Breathe, Recovery, Home, Epilogue
On a chilly December Saturday morning in 2006, about a month before my son's first birthday, he had a particularly nasty diaper blowout. As any parent can tell you, these things happen on occasion, and you just have to clean it up and move on. But this one was fairly insidious. My daughter and I had gone to Krispy Kreme that morning to get some donuts, and we brought some home for Mom and baby brother. He had been eating a donut with chocolate icing, so when we saw his pinky was covered in brown, we wanted to believe it was just donut mess. But, curiosity got the better of us and my wife and I found ourselves having a "does this smell like sh*t to you?" conversation over by the sink. When I went back and picked him up, it was obvious what had happened. It was everywhere -- on his back, on his leg, all over the high chair cushion. So I took him straight to the bath tub and rinsed him off while my wife took all the fabric-based stuff off the high chair -- both the pads and the seatbelt straps -- so they could go into the washer. We had a good laugh about our plight (we've developed a saying that "There are four body fluids of the apocalypse: pee, poop, blood, and puke. On a good day, you only have to deal with two.").
The next day, the high chair straps still weren't dry, so we just put him in his high chair and figured the tray would keep him in well enough (and he wasn't known to climb anyway). Being Sunday, we were getting off to a slow start, and he wound up dozing off in the high chair after breakfast. So we took the tray off to give him a little more room -- both of us having forgotten that he wasn't strapped in. I went upstairs to do some Christmas shopping on Amazon.com, and a few minutes later I called my wife in to look at something we were considering for one of the kids. Then we heard it: Thump. Waaaaaaahhhhh!
I think we might have touched maybe 3 stairs on the way down to the kitchen. He was laying on the floor screaming. He had woken up and leaned too far out over the side of the chair, falling about a foot and a half to the floor. But the bad part was that his head appeared to have hit first. Within moments, he developed a goose egg the size of a golf ball above his left ear. We called the ER, and they said we should bring him in just to be sure. By that point he was back to playing with his big sister, but we packed up the family and drove to the ER at Children's Hospital.
Once we finally got in to an exam room, a nurse practitioner came in and gave him the once-over. The bump on his head was high enough above his ear that she knew it was over the thick part of the skull. Also, since it was bulging out (no dents) and not really bruised, it wasn't likely to be a skull fracture. So she suggested we keep an eye on him, but didn't recommend we get any X-rays or anything. While she was getting his vitals, though, she just nonchalantly tossed out "oh and you guys know he has a murmur, right?"
Well, no. We didn't. Should we be concerned? "No, probably not a big deal. Just have your pediatrician check it out on your next visit."
So we left the hospital, happy that our kid wasn't broken. By this point he was exhausted, and our daughter had been very patient for a 4-year-old, so I took her to a local park to play for a bit while he took a nap in his car seat with Mom in the front seat.
We decided pretty quickly that we were just going to keep the murmur to ourselves until after we knew what it was -- no sense worrying the grandparents and the rest of the family over something that might be minor. Christmas was rapidly approaching, and we mostly didn't think about it again until his 1-year checkup the next month.