An Anatomy of a Four Day Trip to Hell… and Back Again

Our story begins on Wednesday the 4th of May. Actually, I’m not sure when it really begins… incubation periods are tricky things.

That night, my thirteen month old daughter Alexandra – Lexi for short – fell asleep surprisingly quickly. She drank her bottle, and went to sleep in my arms before she finished drinking it.

This is a little weird. I’m not used to her going to sleep that easily these days. When she was a young baby, sure. Now? Not so much.

Still, at this point, I’m willing to take whatever sleep I can get. She’s teething, getting her bicuspids in. For a while, she tricked us into thinking that we could start getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time again – you know, like before she was born. Sadly, no such luck. My little bunny had faked us out, and had spent the last week or so waking up around 2am and screaming until we carted her into bed with us.

Not that we mind, mind you. We actually like sleeping with the bunny in bed with us – it’s comforting to wake up every 30 minutes or so and know that the little lady kicking us in the ribs, or lying stretched out horizontally across the bed is .. you know… alive.

For those of you who don’t have children, apparently the BIOS update your brain gets when they’re born comes with a built in timer. For the first nine months after they’re born, a little alarm goes off once an hour which tells you “Oh shit, they might have forgotten how to breathe", and off you plod into the other room to check that your baby is still a) alive, and b) hasn’t figured out how to get out of her crib like a scene from The Great Escape. (The “forgotten how to breathe” thing isn’t quite as silly as it may sound, given that when they first pop out, both of their eyes don’t even point in the same direction).

Not that it’s a particularly useful instinct. After all, let’s face it… checking once an hour isn’t exactly going to help much if your baby has forgotten how to breathe, unless they do so right before you walk into the room. But mother nature appears to have equipped us with all kinds of weird instincts like this. It’s very odd.

So we let Lexi sleep with us. She did every night for the first three months of her life, and most nights after that, to be honest. It’s more comforting – both for us and for her. Although it’s getting a bit long in the tooth now, because she hogs the bed.

So with a little annoyance (at her waking me up at 2am), and a little trepidation (because I function really poorly without sleep), I scooped up the bunny who was wailing out a storm, and plopped her down in bed between us. Wrapped her up in my arms. Done deal.

Around 3-4am, I woke up feeling really incredibly warm. Lexi was really warm. I was warm too. I kicked the duvet covers off, thinking “Damnit, I bet someone turned up the heat again”.

… and that was all I thought about it. In retrospect, I’m left wondering if this was one of the first signs of what was to come. That, or her falling asleep ultra rapidly the night before. Or maybe it was me driving home the night before, looking up at the blue sky and noticing that my white blood cell count was higher than normal* and thinking “Oh damnit, I have a conference to organize. I hope I don’t get sick”. Or getting a tiny blip of migraine aura fortressing the week before – I’ve not gotten regular migraines since I was a kid; the last one was 6 years ago accompanied by an immediate sense of impending doom, fortressing and everything going black & white for a second.

What was to come, you might ask?

That’s a subject for the next post. For now, let’s just say if you were really in a hurry, and you were meningococcal bacteria, and you just didn’t have time to stick around and cause meningitis, you might go for the all out nuclear option known as meningococcal septicemia.

And that’s what my daughter came down with, some time between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.

More to come. This is where it gets fun.

Spoilers: (select between the arrows to see… don’t do it if you want to experience this as it all played out for us) > this story so far has a very happy ending. I’m writing this from Lexi’s room on the General floor of Seattle Children’s Hospital. She’s doing fine. Stable. Sitting up. Ate some Jello. She’d good <

*I’ll post more on how to take a relative measure of your own white-blood cell count with no needles later. I’ve been meaning to write something about “stupid human tricks” I’ve figured out along the way.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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