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“You need to be strong for your child, even if you are hurting inside,” says the author in this intensely personal account of inner strength.
I have no personal history with UTI (urinary track infections). The first time I heard about it was when this disease started haunting my grand mother, in her last few years. After battling with 60-70 odd hits of the bacteria building in her bladder, she succumbed to it. The infection spread from her bladder to her blood, a.k.a., septicemia.
She left us in 2012, and in 2014, I gave birth to a hail and hearty baby girl – Mysha. All went well till the day of October 13, 2015. I was in my hometown (Kanpur) and Mysha had mild body temperature. As seasonal allergies went hand-in-hand with my one year three month old then, I thought it was the commencement of another episode. It was already late at night, and I expected her to get up with a blocked nose. To my surprise, she sailed well through the night and woke up the next morning with no symptoms of cold or cough. She still had temperature ranging between 100-101 degree fahrenheit. Definitely, her body was fighting with some kind of infection.
On my father’s persistence, I took her to my family doctor. I still remember his prescription embedded in my mind, which stated ‘urine infection’ as the first possibility. My biggest regret – I did not pay attention. I was still stuck to the possibility of allergies, as that is what she was prone to. Also, urine infection was unheard and unbelievable for a toddler.
It was 4PM. I was preparing a milk bottle for my girl, while my mother was seated next to her on the bed. Mysha looked dull and pale, which we thought was a result of ‘not being well’. How wrong were we, how very wrong.
As I approached her, I saw her almost asleep. And then I felt her shiver vigorously, which sent a shiver down my spine. I did not know what was happening to her, and the idea of the unknown scared me. With heavy breathing and trembling lips I yelled – “Mummy! Call the Doctor”. I held Mysha to my chest to give her body warmth and frantically started making the rounds of my home.
After having a word with the doctor, my mother ran to the chemist and got the required medication. Meanwhile, at home, I was still making rounds. The shivering ended in 15 minutes, followed by 104 body temperature. Then came the vomits. She could barely keep her eyes open, and mine stopped to blink. The whole ordeal lasted about 40 minutes. We took her to the hospital to give her urine and blood samples. It was still to be known whether it was a viral infection or a brobdingnagian monstrosity. Whatever it was, the results were to be known only by the morning, which meant the dark night awaited us.
That night was the worst night of my life. Mysha was getting the ‘attacks’ every 4 hours. It had a routine – shivering, followed by high temperature, followed by vomiting, and then me forcing her to gobble Ibuprofen. It was a petrifying 40 minutes cycle, and it still makes my heart sink. I remember how my parents and I were seated next to Mysha that whole night. Shahzeel, my better half was in Hyderabad at that point and insisted to come to Kanpur. After a massive convincing from my parents, he agreed to stay back.
That night we all sat and observed, as the test results were not expected till next day. On the side table we had the required medicines, digital thermometer, her water bottle, spare clothes, cold water and bandages, and a mop by the side of the table. The waiting game is always very painful. Specially when you don’t know what’s in for you on the other side, and mostly, when the person in question is ALL YOU HAVE – your baby!
At one point at night, her temperature soared to 106 degrees and I thought we lost her. I actually thought so at that hour. Yet, tears did not flow, not even formed. We were busy doing cold-water bandages. With next morning, came the test results. It was a horrible hit of UTI. I could not believe it. She had suffered from UTI at such a young age? I am very particular about hygiene. I never make her use public bathrooms. In fact, I carry her potty seat, wherever we go. Some people laugh at my persistence, but I don’t let it come in my way. Yet, the test results were there and then we knew what we were dealing with.
I am fortunate not to encounter UTI in my lifetime, and at the same time, unfortunate to not understand what my little one went through. I could feel her pain, but she dealt with it, at one year three months, if I may add again. I had to read to understand UTI and when I did, I realized Mysha depicted all the classic signs of urinary infection– she refused to pee (because one feels the burning sensation), the appetite was lost, with vomits, and the high fever and chills.
The bacteria (E. Coli.) was so strong that it went from her bladder to her kidneys to her blood stream. She was given antibiotic injections, as oral medications would have not acted on bacterial growth that fast. Mysha came out of the realms of UTI after a week of proper treatment and care. It took more time for her to be her normal self, but the point was – she survived.
We took it as one of those instances, where she caught bacterial infection from somewhere. I learnt that a urinary tract infection is one of the most common pediatric infections. Hence, we were asked to be more careful, always wipe from front to back, refraining from using public bathrooms. We made sure the course of her antibiotic course was complete and that she drank a LOT of water.
Human mind is God’s biggest blessing. As horrible as that night was, I forgot about it as days went by. Mysha was doing well and she had no troubles in context of urinary infection, until – September 2016 – the anniversary of her first attack. As luck may have it, I was with my in-laws in Kanpur as both my parents and husband were out of the country. Mysha was restless since the morning, and had mild temperature. Like last time, I again banked on the seasonal changes. It was not until midnight that the trembling began.
To be honest, I was not expecting another urinary infection, but here it came with its claws wide open. I got gipped, but I was prepared. Witnessing the same pattern, I immediately gave her the antibiotic doze. In October 2015, I had my family next to me, but I was not aware what I was fighting against. This time I knew what I was dealing with and I was not ready for it to take control over my daughter. Managing the night with Ibuprofen, I did not give her body temperature a chance to exceed 102.5 °F . The very next morning I sent her urine sample for testing and sure enough it was UTI – again.
Though Mysha did recover from this one fairly quickly, thanks to the timely treatment, it led us to assess the reason behind her recurring UTI. Was she just prone to it, or was there something we needed to know? After taking the MCU (micturating cystourethrogram) scan, Mysha was detected with Primary VUR.
In our daily basis bodily function, urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters (tubes) to the bladder. A valve at the end of the ureters forbids urine to backflow. However, in some kids the valve is not well developed by birth and it allows a part of the urine, carrying bacteria, pass back to the kidneys. When your child gets chills with fever, means the bacteria has reached her kidneys. If not treated, this can damage the kidneys in the long run.
VUR is a genetically inherited shortcoming; strangely no one on both sides of the families had/have this defect. Honestly, I did not care how this happened. All I knew was that we were aware why it was happening. Apart from being a reasonable, educated, medically equipped woman, I am a mother. The last word has its own insecurities and mind. A mind, which fails logic at times, a lot many times. How? Like this – till the time I did not know she had VUR, I kept blaming diaper usage and restroom hygiene. After knowing that she had a reflux problem, the mother in me acted crazier. There was a point, when I felt that I was at fault for not carrying her in my womb long enough, for her valve to be fully developed. Beat that!
A mother can’t be rational all the time. I mean how could she? She is a mother!
Taking control of myself, and acting mature, I then knew what had to happen, would happen. Instead of contemplating, you need to take the next step – the constructive one. I read a LOT about UTI since last October, and let me tell you – UTI is one of the most common problems in toddlers and one third of those children are diagnosed with VUR.
Once the correct diagnosis is made, you can take the corrective step. VUR has a grading system of I to V; higher the grade, more severe the reflux. Lower grades usually resolve by the time your child is five. It’s the higher grade that needs attention. Earlier surgery was the only option for treating VUR; now Deflux injection is the big thing. To understand Deflux, read here.
Mysha was diagnosed with grade I/II and III on left and right side respectively. After checking her reports – ultrasounds, MCU scans, DMSA scan – our paediatric urologist suggested that she be treated, instead of waiting for her to outgrow the reflux. In April last week, this year, we took Mysha to the hospital, with an open mind for either surgery or Deflux. Truth being told, I had disturbed sleep for many nights, before that day.
She was in my hands when the doctor gave her an anaesthesia shot, in the hospital. After she got unconscious, they took her right out of my hands and proceeded to the operation theatre. Do you know how one feels when someone pulls your heart from your chest with his/her bare hands? I felt it at that hour.
Mentally, I’m a very strong person. I did not howl when she was given injections, or when an IV drip was placed in her hand, or when a catheter was inserted up through her urethra and into her bladder (MCU test). She cried, and cried like a baby, but she also looked directly in my eyes. I always make sure I am in the room when she goes for any test(s) and I need her to look into my eyes. I can’t have pain and fear in them, as she reciprocates my feelings. She knows me from within; she was there for entire nine months. What I depict, is what she learns. While my stronger better half melts listening to his daughter wail, I stand right there without any remorse. The idea is ‘someone has to be steel’, and being a mother I am doing that bit.
It’s not easy. Not easy to see your little one dressed in the operation theatre gown. It’s not easy to see the intravenous injection plugged into their hand. It’s not easy to see them look at you and say “Mummy, ghar jana hai.” But I know I have to make her strong. This is a part of life she has to be prepared for. I still remember what I felt when I gave her birth, and the doctor said, “It’s a girl.” In that immense pain, all I thought was – She will go through the same, in maybe 30 years from now. I want to be there to support her, take care of her, but at the same time, she should be able to take care of herself.
The doctor found that Deflux was the best for Mysha (at that stage) and he went ahead with that. We have to monitor her in future and, yes, it scares me (at times). But like I said before, a human mind is beautiful – you forget the worst of your days and pray for better ones. We are doing the same.
This is a long overdue and a long run post. As it was immensely painful, I was procrastinating writing it for a long time. While writing this one, I stood holding burning Mysha in my arms again, I went through all the daunting scans again, I stood outside that operation theatre again. Words brought back all of it – the good and the bad. No matter how hard it was, it had to be done. The story had to be told, and I want maximum people to benefit from it. I am writing for that mother, who feels helpless right now. For that father, who is looking for hope. For that relative who is finding a cure for his little one. When I read, I got so many virtual shoulders to rest on, the chance to hear their stories, to know that there are people out there who are dealing with the same situation. This is for all those who need my story, my love, and my best wishes.
Remember, you are your baby’s power bank; they will always bank on you.
Published here earlier.
Image source: Saumya Srivastava
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