baby's first emergency room visit

Yesterday my opening Twitter was “needing a little more inspiration to get out the door on such a wickedly cold day.” If I knew my inspiration would come in the form of a trip to the emergency room with my one-year-old, I never would have expressed the need!

I guess a clue might have been the blood-soaked crib sheets yesterday morning. While I am not exaggerating, it sounds and looked worse than it really is.

My son has a small hemangioma below one eye. (Let me just stop here and acknowledge that my vocabulary has grown tenfold since becoming a parent. Hasn’t yours?)

It started out at 10 months as a little red speck on his right cheek and has grown to a little smaller than a pencil eraser in a couple months. My family doctor expressed no concern, but referred us to “plastics” for a consultation to ease our minds.

Our visit last week to Dr. Chris Thomson, a plastic surgeon here in Saskatoon, was somewhat reassuring. He said hemangiomas are fairly common in infants. In fact, some online sources say that between 4 and 10 percent of Caucasian infants have one or more of these benign tumours. Most appear earlier than my son’s did and grow more rapidly than his has. Dr. Thomson said he has seen these lesions grow to the “size of an orange” for some babies.

Evidently most small hemangiomas like my son’s regress on their own within five years, so the risks associated with removal at this point are not worth considering. He did warn us that it might start to bleed and applying pressure should do the trick.

Now that you are caught up, I’ll come back to yesterday’s events. The blood in his crib was from where his hemangioma had ruptured in the night. By the time we went into his room yesterday morning, the blood had stopped flowing and he had quite a bit of dried blood on his face. A soaking in Dual Power Spray 'N Wash and a cold water wash removed all traces from his sheets and jammies.

I kept putting Vaseline on the spot on his cheek throughout the day, which was another recommendation from Dr. Thomson. It definitely helped to loosen up the dry blood that I was afraid to scrub at around the area. By the evening, it was looking pretty good.


(This picture was taken early in the day, before the following events unfolded.)


My sweetie-pie of a husband was watching the boy and cooking supper while I worked out in the basement. I went upstairs to get into the shower and had just pulled off my lululemons when I heard, in the shakiest voice I’ve ever heard my husband utter, “Laura can you please come down here . . . now!”

I rushed down the stairs in my underwear and saw my husband sitting on a sack of salad with my bloody-faced baby in his arms. I was surprisingly calm at first because I knew it was a possibility that this could happen again until it fully healed from the rupture in the night. I helped him clean up a bit and get set up with a clean compress.

Of course, the little guy was screaming. He’s not a big fan of washing his face after meals, let alone holding still enough for us to press something firmly under his eye. I broke out the board books and this temporarily calmed him.

Fifteen minutes went by and the blood was still pouring. We called Former Nurse Mother-in-law, who recommended cold compresses. I started wetting them and putting them in the freezer. They were turning red pretty quickly and things were not slowing down. I also smelled smoke . . . our abandoned meal on the stove.

Fourty-five minutes had elapsed, and the blood, my baby’s patience and his parents’ composure was steadily running out. At this point, we first started considering going to the emergency room, but as I mentioned before, it was a wickedly cold night and we couldn’t fathom at that point how to get him into a snowsuit and car seat while maintaining pressure on the wound. It’s tough on the best of days.

We called Nurse Sister-in-law and she recommended adding a cold compress to the back of the neck in addition to the cold compress on the cheek. She also told us we should not be peeking. We should try to hold it down for 30 minutes without looking and add compresses on top if it became soaked through.

How were we ever going to keep him still for 30 more minutes? A bottle of milk worked for maybe eight minutes max. Now what? I miraculously thought of his Baby Einstein farm DVD. (Despite the zings from the Canadian Paediatric Society and other moms in our playgroup, these DVDs do serve a greater purpose in times like these.) He instantly calmed, and actually grinned when the cow puppet appeared, so were able to hold the compress below his eye for an additional 30 minutes and feed him the top layer of meat and corn that hadn’t burned on the stove.

At the end of that 30 minutes – an hour-and-a-half total if you’re keeping up – we peeked and the blood still was rolling down his cheek like big, frightening tears. “If you were bleeding for this long, I would have insisted you go for stitches,” I told my husband. Agreed.

We put a Band-aid on to see if it would allow us all-hands-on-deck negotiating of the snowsuit and boots. The bandage quickly filled up and started backing up into his eye. Not a good plan. We just had to let the blood run. (His Rider-green jacket looks a bit more festive now with the addition of red.) I took a minute to put on a jacket, shoes and pants (I was in my underwear remember?) and run out the door.

Luckily, Nurse Sister-in-law was working St. Paul Emergency last night. We were in a room immediately and J’s beloved auntie was able to take his vitals and help keep him composed.

Over two hours from the time it began, and 30 seconds before the doctor came in, the blood stopped! The very nice doctor (I cannot remember him telling us his name) took a look and said there was a pretty sizeable tear in the hemangioma. He recommended a dabbing of silver nitrate (the stuff often used to stop nosebleeds) to cauterize the wound so it would hopefully not start bleeding again in the night. The only side-effects he cited would be an initial burning sensation and a short or long-term black stain on his cheek.

We gave our little boy another bottle of milk, my husband held his arms and I held his head as the doctor dabbed the chemical on his cheek with a narrow wooden stick. There was screaming and crying, but it was short-lived. Almost immediately, J began smiling and being his normal playful self. {big sigh of relief}

It’s 5 a.m. the morning after, and I can’t help but keep peeking in to make sure he’s okay. I just keep thanking God that we have a healthy child, and that his wounds and potential scars are superficial. The next line of these prayers is an appeal for all the children and parents who face more drastic and frequent emergency situations.

May God grant each of you health and peace today.



2 comments


Anonymous said...

Yikes! Thinking of you and wishing you and all well as you recover from this exciting/scary event. You are blessed to have a good sense of humour and a level head.

-Cathy S.

Anonymous said...

Why am I just finding out you have a blog? We really don't keep up enough. miss and love ya, Kristy

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