Needles and X-rays and Poo. Oh My.
To say the past week has been insane is an understatement.
It was about 9:30 am. I was talking to my mom on the phone. My kids were supposed to me watching a documentary about Africa for their homeschool geography lesson. About five minutes into the call, I heard my boys stomp up the stairs, but I decided to let it go. We could watch the documentary later. Moms, we’ve all been there, right? Sometimes you just need a few minutes of peace.
Shortly after they came upstairs, a scream rang through the house. “Hold on,” I told my mom, thinking that my youngest son was being dramatic. He’s prone to scream at the drop of a hat, and I was sure it was nothing major.
He pounded his little fists into my door, screaming again. I flung it open and asked, “What’s up, buddy?”
Tears streamed down his round cheeks as he sobbed, “I don’t want to die! My brother shoved a needle down my throat.”
“I gotta go,” I told my mom, and hung up without waiting for a reply.
“He shoved a needle down my throat!”
“And you swallowed it?”
“Yes!” he wailed.
“Get your shoes on,” I shout so all three kids can hear. “We’re going to the hospital!”
The kids scrambled to find their shoes, and I called the pediatrician to confirm that the ER was the place to go. She urged us to get there ASAP. I sent a quick text to my husband before pulling out of the driveway letting him know what was going on and asking him to meet us at the ER.
I spent the 30 minute drive filled with a stomach-roiling combination of fear and anger. What in the world were the boys doing? Why would my oldest put a needle in his brother’s mouth? Would my attempt to talk on the phone in peace cost my six year old his life? Shouldn’t my eleven year old have known better? I attempted to keep these thoughts to my self. Some of them stayed inside. Some of them I shouted at my eleven year old. “What were you THINKING??!!”
We were whisked back to a room faster than I ever had been in an ER. About 15 minutes later, my husband arrived. The staff took my son to get an X-ray, which I hoped would prove that he only thought he’d swallowed it. He bravely held still for his “picture”as the tech called it. I stood behind a small wall next to a computer monitor, which lit up with the image almost instantly.
I have zero medical training, unless you count watching every episode of Scrubs (which you shouldn’t). But I knew the second that screen lit up that there was a needle in my six year old’s abdomen.
“Oh dang,” I said looking at the screen.
“What did he eat?” the tech asked, a hint of shock in her voice.
“A sewing needle.”
“Oh, wow.” The responses stayed like this the entire time we were at the hospital. Lots of shock from the people who’ve seen it all. Another tech later seemed excited to get a chance to meet “The boy who ate the needle.”
Gathered back in the small ER patient room, my husband sternly asked the boys to explain how on Earth a needle ended up in my youngest’s abdomen. What they told us defies explanation.
Do y’all know what a stomp rocket is? I posted a picture below in case you’ve never seen one. Basically, it’s a tube with a pedal on one end. You put a foam rocket ship on the other end and when you stomp on the pedal, it shoots the rocket like 30 feet into the air. See those shocked little boys in the picture? They’re not amazed because their rocket went so high. No, no. They are flabbergasted that my boys removed the rocket from the end, shoved what turned out to be a sewing pin and not a needle (so one side is pointy, the other side has a plastic ball on the end) inside the tubing for the rocket. Then, they PUT THE TUBE IN MY SIX YEAR OLD’S MOUTH and my eleven year old stomped on it, launching it down his brother’s throat.
There just aren’t words for this. Why in the world did they do that? I’ll never know. To make it worse, they did it multiple times. The first few times, my six year old caught it in his mouth, spit it out, and handed it back to his brother to shoot in his mouth again. It was the third or fourth time that they misjudged and it flew down my son’s esophagus.
I asked my oldest what he was thinking. He responded, “He should know better than to trust me.” Ever the big brother.
The GI team tried to get the pin via endoscopy, but it moved out of their range before they could get it. Up to this point, I had stayed strong. We have medically complicated kids, so doctors and hospitals are not uncommon in our lives. When the surgeon walked way, I started to sob.
In the post-op room, my son woke up happy, thinking we were going to go home. The nurse sweetly explained that they couldn’t get the needle out of him. He looked at her and asked seriously, “Don’t you think it could damage my immune system to leave it in me?”
How can he be so smart and do something so dumb? I thought.
Then, for a horrifying 30-ish hours, it was stuck in the ileocecal valve, a valve between the small and large intestines that can be reached by neither endoscopy nor colonoscopy. We were told if it didn’t move, he would have to have invasive bowel surgery. Also, if/when it did move, it could perforate the bowels, in which case he would need to have surgery.
So we waited. And waited. And waited. My son was given a feeding tube that pumped massive amounts of something called “Go Lightly” into his stomach. And it made him go. Lightly would not describe how he went. I’ll leave that there. And we had to search though his poo. You know the expression, “looking for a needle in a haystack?” Yeah, I’ll take the haystack over the poostack any day.
He was unable to have anything but clear liquids, much to his chagrin. This boy loves to eat. I skipped as many meals as I could, not wanting to leave him alone to eat in the cafeteria and feeling too guilty to eat in front of him.
Eventually, the needle left the ileocecal valve and moved into the colon. Debate went back and forth for a day and a half about if he should pass it naturally or if the GI team should go back and get it via colonoscopy. I wanted them to take it out that moment, but they decided that it was best to keep him there, observe, and hope it came out. He had many, many x-rays tracking the pin’s movement. Finally, after four days, an x-ray showed that the pin had “evacuated,” and my son was allowed to go home.
In the middle of all of this chaos, something very major happened in my writing career. Stress and situation prevented me from being able to celebrate it, but I will share that news with you all soon.
I am beyond relieved that my son is okay. You would never know anything bad happened to him. I tried to make some jokes in this post, but in reality, it was terrifying. I am so thankful that my sweet son is safe.
But I took his stomp rocket away from him.