I watched her breathe and counted her breaths. Too fast, too hard, and too many. Her normally sparkling eyes were sad and heavy lidded above her feverish cheeks. She laid listless in my lap, not even wanting to breastfeed.
I looked at my husband and tried to hide the increasing fear I felt. "Think we should bring her to the hospital?"
It was 9 p.m. and the baby had spiked a fever. She had had a cold for the previous couple days but nothing to be concerned about. Then, out of nowhere she became upset and feverish. Her cry changed. She wouldn't play or nurse or even smile.
She wasn't herself.
We called the on-call nursing service and were told to keep an eye on her. Any increase in symptoms was to trigger us to bring her to the emergency department. Within 20 minutes of hanging up with the nurse, we watched our baby get sicker.
"Yes." My husband replied, my fear reflecting in his eyes.
"Why don't you stay here with Elsa," I said. She was asleep and waking her to bring her baby sister to the hospital would have scared her immensely.
I quickly gathered what we would need as my husband started my car. Aria laid on the couch, struggling to take a full breath and coughing so hard she would choke. Every tiny grunt made me move faster.
"My baby is struggling to take a full breath. We think she may have pneumonia." The woman at the registration desk at the hospital took down all of our information. I was trying my hardest not to panic and cry. She gingerly attached an identification bracelet to Aria's ankle and told us that someone would be out to get us soon.
I paced the waiting room for what seemed like an eternity. In reality only a few minutes passed until a nurse led us into the triage room. She was sweet and spoke directly to my scared baby. She let me keep her in our Tula baby carrier, snuggly strapped to my chest where she felt safe and secure.
Before too long we were brought to our room and the parade of medical professionals began. We saw nurses and the ER doctor. We saw a respiratory specialist and an x-ray technician. There were tests and questions. Medications and breathing treatments, all done with her either in the carrier or in my arms.
The staff was kind and worked swiftly but with great care not to scare my sick baby. They introduced themselves not only to me, but also to Aria. They made sure she felt safe and taken care of. They answered my questions thoroughly and reminded me that I did the right thing by bringing her in.
They told me what a good mother I was and what an exceptional baby I had.
In a word, they were amazing.
Four-and-a-half hours after we arrived shaken and scared, we left. I felt confident in her diagnosis of pneumonia and our treatment plan and she was happily sleeping with my heartbeat as her lullaby.
So frequently, I hear complaints about Western or modern medicine. I hear people mock the small town hospital. But this night, after our experience, I was so thankful for modern medicine and grateful for the kind and understanding staff at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department.
They treated more than my baby's symptoms. They treated her scared momma. They treated her fear of the machines and being surrounded by strange faces. They made sure I left confident and comfortable and without a single doubt or question unanswered.
The care we received that night was nothing short of terrific.
It has been three days since our ER visit. Aria is back to scaling the table and laughing hysterically at her sister. Just as fast as the pneumonia set in, it has lifted. Hearing her laughter and seeing her eyes sparkle with mischievous delight are not things I am taking for granted. As I finish writing this, she is climbing all over me.
"Hi Pea!" She says, giggling. (Pea is my nickname she has given me. Short for "Sweet Pea, which is what I call her.)
"Hi Sweet Pea!" I say, trying to make her and my laptop comfortable.
She nestles into my arms and breathes an adorable sigh. I smile at her. She isn't the only one who is breathing a lot easier now.