Saturday, December 28, 2013

Going on a Bear Hunt~How to Get your Child to Drink a Charcoal Milkshake

I’d like to think it will never happen again, but I've discovered that I’m human and I can make mistakes…BIG mistakes…

It was September of 2007.  I was going to be a returning student seeking a degree in Special Education at Edgewood College.  This day was my FIRST official day of class.  I was quickly getting Evie ready for daycare and Jeff was getting himself ready for work.  

Evie was on two medications for her blood pressure at the time. Because she was still quite young, only three years old, she was getting the liquid versions of those medications.  At that particular point in time, we had just increased a dosage and both of the medications were in the same sized bottles.  Same color bottle, same size bottle, taken at the same time…for those you keeping score at home, you know that this can equal TROUBLE.

I quickly squirted the first syringe full of medicine into her mouth.  I noted the bluish and bubbly consistency of the medicine.  Then I squirted the second syringe full of medicine in and my heart stopped.  I had just given her three times the dosage of one of her medications.  The blue one, the blue one, the blue one; it was only supposed to be half a syringe and I had just given her waaaaayyy too much. 

“Jeff!!!!  I just gave her the wrong one!”  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't know where to go first.  I thought, at first, it was going to have an immediate effect on her, but then I realized that it would take a while to set in. 

I picked up the phone and called 911 while saying in a strained whisper to myself, “What did I just do?  What did I just do?” 

The operator at 911 said she’d call Poison Control; she stayed on the line with me to listen to our dialogue.  The Poison Control operator did some quick calculations using Evie’s weight, age and the dosage she had received.  To my horror I heard her say to the dispatcher, “You’ll want to get an ambulance over there, she’s at risk for….”

The ambulance came, we decided that Jeff would go in the ambulance to the hospital and I’d call my professors to explain why I’d be missing the first day of class.  Then I followed behind to arrive in the ER shortly after they had been admitted. 

Next we had to feed Evie charcoal.  Have you ever had to feed your child charcoal?  It’s pretty surreal.  I’m sure many of us would HATE to find our child with a blacked, soot-filled smile…and yet we had to do this voluntarily!  

The staff mixed the charcoal in with chocolate milk.  They said it was how they normally got kids to drink it…a charcoal milkshake.  However, Evie did not drink from a straw yet, and after two sips of the charcoal milkshake, she determined this was not her beverage of choice.  The nurse informed us that if we couldn't get her to drink it fairly quickly, they would have to pump her stomach.

I looked at the nurse and said, “Do you have any syringes?”  The nurse confirmed she did.  “We can get her to drink anything out of a syringe.”

The nurse quickly brought back a large syringe and we sucked up some of the milkshake into it. 

“Okay, Evie!  We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one…Uh-oh!  Mud!  Brown gooey mud!  Can’t go over it, can’t go under it…we’ll have to EAT IT!!!!”

And down went the first syringe full of charcoal milkshake.

One “bear-hunt” chant at a time, one syringe full of charcoal milkshake at a time, and we had that beverage polished off. 

“Can I call you guys the next time we need to feed this to a toddler?”  The nurse asked. 

You betcha…

Evie, circa 3 Years Old
Evie was admitted to the hospital for observation for the day.  They wanted to ensure there wasn't a reaction before the “half life” of the medication had come and gone.  There were no effects of note, and for that we were extremely thankful. 

The next morning, I went in to wake up Evie for another day.  She was still in diapers at that time, and I’ll never forget the vision of seeing how charcoal comes OUT of the body.  There was blacked soot in her diaper, up the back of her pj's, and on the sheet of her crib.  I had those little pj's as a future reminder to go slow, pay attention, and clearly mark all of our medications.

  • Have you ever had to pull any miracles out of your bag-of-tricks as a parent?
  • Have you ever felt like a failure, having done something that put your child in immediate danger?
  • How do you manage the volume of medications you have to give to a loved one with special medical conditions?

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