Home » Stories from a Mama Bear » When babies get sick – Zoey’s Tale

When babies get sick – Zoey’s Tale

Zoey baking some pretend cookies.

My sweet little love nugget Addie turned two last month. I think it’s about time I begin to tell you a tale about sickness and hospitals; one that has shaped our lives into something different than we ever imagined it would be.

Just to be clear, this is not a recipe. This is a story about life as a Mama Bear.

November 22, 2017

It all started with a stomach bug.

A stomach ache, some vomiting and a lack of appetite. Puking was not uncommon for Zoey as she tends to get sicker than everybody else. When she catches a virus, guarantee she will be completely knocked out from it.

What was odd about this bug was my maternal instinct to take her to the doctor. Everyone I talked to said not to bother, leave it alone and let her get over it in her own time. She had no fever and besides the stomach bug symptoms, seemed fine.

I will never again ignore my maternal instinct.

Never again.

November 26

The stomach bug lasted three days, completely typical of that type of virus. Zoey bounced back and on day 4, seemed to be herself again. We went couch shopping, which she thought was the best thing ever! Zoey climbed up and down and was all over the store, checking out each couch and even the exciting bunk beds, while I toted little Addie around, only 6 months old at the time.

Later that evening we went home, set up the Christmas tree and took Christmas photos!

Yeap, I’m one of those weirdos who sets up their Christmas tree on November 25. No judging here guys, I LOVE Christmas and want a full month of it!

It was hilarious trying to get both kids to cooperate for said photos. Okay, it was a complete nightmare, but still hilarious. Zoey was my model while I set up the camera.

We managed to get one half decent shot but ended up giving away the real life photos instead!

After the ‘fun’ was over, we tucked our sweet little ladies into bed and hit the sack ourselves.

10:00 PM

Zoey woke up crying, we could hear her in the monitor.

Nick got out of bed to get Zoey and bring her to back our bed. “Aleta, she’s so hot!” Nick whispers, panicked.

Immediately my heart was in my mouth. My maternal instincts that I had buried came out full force once I placed my hand upon her forehead. Why was she so hot?

I grabbed the thermometer.


Okay, she was hot, yes, but not crazy. I decided I’d take her to the doctor in the morning and in the meantime gave her some Tylenol to bring down the fever.

We got tucked in together, nice and cozy, and drifted back off to sleep.

November 27

1:00 AM

I woke up hot, so hot. Why was it so hot in here?

Omg, it’s Zoey, she’s so hot she heated up our bed and room. Why was she so hot? She had Tylenol, she shouldn’t be so hot.

I checked her temperature again.


No no no the tylenol hadn’t worked?! Why hadn’t I taken her to the doctor when she was puking a few days ago?

There was no questioning it, I was taking her to the emerg. I honestly had no idea if I even consulted Nick, I had just decided that we were going and that was it. I packed her up into the van and raced to the emergency department, leaving Nick at home with little Addilyn.

Zoey was delirious as I carried her into the ER. Luckily it was the middle of the night and was completely dead in our small town hospital. The doctor saw us right away.

She gave Zoey Advil which finally helped to bring the fever down. But, of course, why was the fever happening? We were both concerned that Zoey had appendicitis because of the earlier vomiting and stomach ache. Added to that, the currently high fever.

She sent us home with a promise to book Zoey an ultrasound for first thing in the morning. All we could do was get some rest for now.

By the time we got home it was 3:00 AM. Zoey drifted into an Advil haze, but me? No, I couldn’t sleep. My anxiety was all consuming.

I woke Zoey at 5:00 AM with some Tylenol as the doctor instructed to keep the fever at bay.

7:00 AM

I must have drifted off because I woke to a phone call from the hospital, asking to bring Zoey in right away for her scan.

I end the call and reached over, she was burning up again, back to 38.5°.

All we could do is race her back to the emergency department to get some Advil before her scan; the stores weren’t even open yet so we are at their mercy as we had no place to buy some.

We checked into the ER and explain to the triage nurse the situation. Zoey read 39.3° and was completely out of it. I asked for Advil because the Tylenol alone wasn’t working and we didn’t have any Advil. All he said was “well you need to get some then” and sent us on our way to the ultrasound… without giving my feverish daughter any Advil.

For as long as I live, I will never forget that.

Zoey was so sleepy and feverish she barely moved through the scan. It was over before we knew it and we went back to the emergency department to see the new doctor on call.

By this time Zoey’s fever was even higher and she would do nothing besides sleep.

The doctor saw her right away to give us the good news, no appendicitis, but what was going on? She immediately gave Zoey Advil and asked for a urine sample.. by this time Zoey hadn’t peed all day, and refused to do so in the hospital bathroom after we eventually rouse her from sleep. We began to assume she had a bladder infection.

We waited until the Advil finally kicked in but no, she still wouldn’t pee in the hospital bathroom.

The doctor suggested to try at home and bring her back asap before her shift was over. So, we took Zoey home with a sample kit and right away and she peed. Back to the hospital we went with the sample in hand.

Zoey fell asleep on my lap while sitting in the waiting room, so sick and pale, all we could do is wait for the test results while surrounded by other sick people.

The doctor came out and told us ‘her urine lit up like a Christmas tree’. She had a bladder infection and possible kidney infection.

How could I have missed this? I should have seen the signs! Thinking back to the previous week, she definitely wasn’t peeing as much as she normally would have, but I was so focused on the stomach bug that I didn’t even realize.

Feeling guilty as though I’ve failed as a mother, I took the prescription and carried my 3 year old to the van, who was still fast asleep.

1:00 PM

Zoey couldn’t keep down the antibiotics.

She was so sick she vomited as soon as they hit her stomach. Her fever was starting to peak again with the Tylenol running out of her system so we were panicking; what do we give first and how would she keep it down?

She wouldn’t eat, of course, would barely sip water. We continued with the drug fight into the evening when, by 5:00, she still hadn’t managed to keep any antibiotics down and her fever was raging out of control.

I was panicking.

This wasn’t working. What else could I do to help my baby? Back to the ER we went. I called my mom to come to the house to watch Addie so that Nick and I could both be with Zoey. She was a two person job at that point.

It was the same triage nurse from earlier in the day. He made me feel unwelcome, like he didn’t think my kid was that sick at all and we were just way over reacting. It was just a UTI after all, right?

They gave Zoey some Gravol to calm her nausea, another drug to add to our arsenal. It worked though, so we managed to get a dose of antibiotics into her, slowly but surely, millimetre by millimetre. Then some Advil, the same way, to make her feel better.

Suddenly the Advil kicked in and hey! Zoey’s back! Giggling, bouncing, happy Zoey! We got home, by this time it was 8:00PM. Zoey even ate some crackers!

The relief Nick and I felt was overwhelming. The colour was back in her cheeks with a silly smile on her face. Contagious, we all smiled and felt better; some of the tension had eased away.

We tucked both girls into bed, Zoey right next to us, and tried to get some sleep ourselves.

10:00 PM

I woke up to the sound of Nick’s panicked voice.

“Zoey! Zoey! Zoey wake up!”

I turned over in bed and saw Zoey convulsing in her sleep. Not shivering; full body convulsions.

I hopped out of bed as fast as I could, grabbed her in my arms and ran down the van; buckled her into her carseat faster than you can blink.

The 5 minute drive to the hospital felt like an hour, Zoey was barely responding to my frantic calls to her from the front seat of the van. I couldn’t see her face. I didn’t know if she’ was still convulsing … if she was breathing.. The few times I got answers from her throughout the drive were like little stars in the darkened night.

I got to the emergency department and again, they whisked me in straight away. The doctor assessed her and says there wasn’t anything he could do for her, besides keep us overnight in case anything else happened. He believed the convulsions she had at home were rigors, caused by the kidney infection and high fever.

I started to get settled with Zoey and suddenly Nick appeared! He called my sister, who happens to be an emerg nurse, and she raced out to stay with Addie so that Nick could be with us. #loveyousis

November 28 – the longest day

The entire day of November 28, 2017, plays through my mind like flashcards. Bits of pieces, broken up, with confusion, shock, timelessly quick and disorienting.

It came down to fever degrees, Tylenol and Advil doses, Where’s the puke bag?! “Honey, just one more temperature check, it’s okay, it won’t hurt”, “Zoey one more sip of water, please…” The doctor and nurses trying to explain that fevers aren’t harmful, they are just what the body does to fight the infection.

Zoey was so dehydrated and delirious she didn’t even notice the IV that went into the crook of her little arm. They decided to switch the oral antibiotics for IV antibiotics in hopes that would help progress the fight against this UTI. She got a little arm board to keep the IV straight and a mesh net that surrounds and protects the IV.

Morning came and the doctor decided that Zoey was just too sick to stay at our small town hopsital. He got her a spot at a children’s ward, a whole city and ferry ride away.

Who would go?

In all honesty, leaving Addie wasn’t even a thought that ran through my head. Zoey was too sick, my mind wouldn’t even let me think about missing my 6 month old. My sister said she and my mom would look after Addie so that Nick and I could both be with Zoey.

I believe this to be the only time that I was grateful Addie stopped nursing at just 4 months old.

It was decided that I would ride in the ambulance with Zoey and Nick would drive behind with our van. I ran home to pack our bags; the doctor said it would only be a day or two until the antibiotics worked their magic, so I only needed a few things. When I got home my little Addie was there, hands up to accept a hug from her momma, all smiles, completely unknowing what our family is going through.

Tears streamed down my face, I gave her back to my mom and turned away; I couldn’t look into her little face any longer. I finished packing, full panic as I didn’t know what was going on with Zoey at that moment; my need to be right beside her was overwhelming and all consuming. I finished packing and raced back to the hospital to be with my sick baby.

We were packed into an ambulance to make the trip into the city. No one ever thought to give Zoey Advil or Tylenol before we left and I had no idea the ambulance would not have any!

By the time we got to the ferry Zoey’s fever was blazing.


By the time we were loaded it was 40.5° and once the ferry ride was over, she was too hot to get a reading. We covered her with ice packs but it didn’t make a difference. She was spiking out of control. Zoey was still puking but there was nothing left.

That didn’t stop her body from trying.

Zoey in the ambulance, strapped to a gurney, fevering out of control.
Zoey in the ambulance.

Zoey was so white she was almost green, as if her pale skin couldn’t get any paler so it changed colours instead. Her hair was slick from sweat and she started to speak gibberish… she was completely delirious.

I’m going to lose my baby.

The thought came creeping in, rolling just on the edge of my periphery, touching, tasting, but I could not let it in. I wouldn’t let it take hold.

I was not allowed to hold Zoey as we crawled through the traffic to the hospital, it’s against the rules. I had to be strapped to a bench while my baby girl shivered and spoke nonsense, just out of reach.

The ambulance attendant sat in her designated seat, unable to do anything for Zoey. I wanted to scream “Help my baby! Can’t you see how sick is?!” But of course she could, she just couldn’t do anything about it. Plus, it was just a fever caused by a UTI, right?

The ride to the hospital was the longest 20 minutes of my entire life.

I had never been so relieved as when we finally arrived at the hospital. I followed behind as the ambulance attendants pushed Zoey’s bed through the unfamiliar halls and doorways, up an elevator and finally arrived in the children’s ward.

The nurses transferred Zoey to her own room, slid her onto the bed and immediately began to assess her. They couldn’t get a temperature reading either because her fever was so high.

Zoey freshly transferred from the ambulance gurney to a bed in the childrens ward at the hospital.
Just before we strip Zoey down to pack her with ice.

We stripped Zoey down and packed her with ice to bring her fever down until they were able to get Advil and Tylenol into her system.

Once her fever broke, the anxiety broke along with it. Maybe this was the last one, it had been almost 24 hour since the first dose of antibiotics and she had now been on the IV antibiotics for 12 hours. It should be working.

We met with the on call pediatrician and he reassured us that Zoey would start to feel better soon. Even if the infection had moved to the kidney, the IV antibiotics would work quickly and we should be home within a day or two.

The only thing to do was wait.

Our evening was spent watching the clock, paying close attention to our sleeping child, to when the shivers would start up again and her temperature would soar into the 40’s, again and again. The relief always hit when finally Zoey threw the blanket from her, a sign the fever had broken again. She still needed both tylenol and advil to bring the fever down to a bearable low grade fever of 37.8.

The pattern was endless. Sleep impossible. Neither Nick nor I could close our eyes, afraid of anything and everything that could happen as the light started to fade into dark, then from dark into light.

November 29

There were IV checks by flashlight every hour and the continuous heart monitoring and temperature checks.

The fevers were relentless. They weren’t losing their intensity nor were they spreading further apart. Every one that hit sent a sharp jolt of panic through our little room. They should have stopped by now. It had been 24 hours since the IV antibiotics were started.

The pediatrician shared the same concern. He sent Zoey for an ultrasound where it was confirmed she had a kidney infection.

It was decided she would stay, hooked to the IV, until the fevers stopped.

Helping Zoey fight through a high fever with snuggles from Mama.

November 30 – December 2

Five days.

She fevered on and off for five days.

Those five days were the longest of days. No one could believe she would be so sick from a kidney infection. Zoey gradually began to fever less and less, with time in between to feel well enough to want to colour or play with toys in her bed.

Snuggles with Daddy, colouring in bed.
Long afternoons spent colouring.
Snuggling with Daddy, holding hands while watching a movie.
Long afternoons spent watching movies and snuggling Daddy.

Nick and I had the job of trying to get Zoey to drink fluid in the hopes that we could remove the IV once the fevers stopped so that we could go home. Terri sent us photos of Addie every day.

Little Addie with Aunty Terri.

Zoey was yet to be able to get out of bed so she was back to wearing diapers. We had to weigh each diaper and measure how much liquids she was drinking, all to be written down on her chart to make sure she was getting enough fluids.

Zoey didn’t eat until day four when my mom and sister brought little Addie into the city for a visit. Holding my baby in my arms was like feeling the sun on your face after a month of darkness.

Addie visits Zoey, gets some sister snuggles in bed.
Addie visiting her sister Zoey in the hospital.

Because we had been at the hospital for so many days, we needed some supplies. Food, clothes and toys, because Zoey was starting to get bored now that she had begun to feel better.

Taking the chance to shop with Terri and my mom there to support Nick, I carried Addilyn in my arms the whole way there and the whole way back. I refused to put her down even though my arms felt as though they couldn’t hold on. They held.

Passing Addie back to my sisters arms, watching them walk away, down the hall and back to our small town, will be burned into my memory as long as I live. I’ll never forget the feeling of my heart ripping into two.

December 2

Zoey was great!

The last fever broke 12 hours before so we were fingers crossed that that was the last of them. Zoey had eaten a little bit and had drank enough liquid to be to taken off the IV once the IV antibiotics were no longer needed, which was necessary, because the IV that was in her arm was starting to fail. IV’s usually only last a couple of days before needing to be changed, so hers had already lasted longer than expected.

We got Zoey up on shaky legs to let her walk for the first time since she became ill.

Watching her walk down the hallway to the big toy room was as hilarious as it was horribly sad. She had drunken sailor legs, barely able to balance after so long stuck in bed.

The IV was ridiculous in that room. Besides pulling it everywhere, it was constantly being caught on toys and yanked on her arm, plus she couldn’t get very far into the play house while attached to the machine.

Discovering the toy room!

December 3

Zoey’s IV failed the night before as her night time dose of antibiotics was being given. The liquid pooled into her arm causing pain and unfortunately that meant it was not absorbed.

The nurse had to remove the failed IV. She talked to the on call pediatrician to see if they wanted a new one started, but, being that Zoey was possibly in the clear soon, they decided on antibiotic injections instead and to reassess in the morning.

The injections were horrible. Two nurses did them at the same time. There were two of them, given one to each thigh, right into the muscle. They stuck bandaids on afterwards which had been a new point of caution for Zoey. “Watch out for my owies!” she cried every time we put on or took off a diaper or pants.

The pediatrician saw us and how well Zoey felt, so was just as excited as we were. He wanted another ultrasound done just to be sure that everything was okay, as fevering for 5 days from a kidney infection was not common.

After the ultrasound we immediately returned to the toy room. It was such a relief to be able to spend some time out of our little hospital room which has begun to feel like home, and to do so unhindered by the IV.

The pediatrician, accompanied by two other doctors, meet us in the toy room, watching Zoey with sad smiles while they delivered the ultrasound report.

Zoey had nephronia which is basically a kidney abscess. This is a super rare condition, one that requires 14 days of IV antibiotics to clear.

She was going to need another 9 days of IV antibiotics.

9 more days.

9 more days stuck in that hospital. 9 more painfully long days without my youngest baby.

It also meant another IV start.

Nick and I felt like we’d been punched in the stomach, yet again. All hope that we were going home was shot down in the blink of an eye.

The nurse came to let us know that Zoey needed to get another IV asap because she was due for her next round of antibiotics.

We didn’t lie to Zoey, she’s much too smart for that, instead we helped her to be brave as they set up for the IV.

This time was much worse.

She wasn’t that deliriously sick kid anymore, she was fully aware and stronger than ever.

The IV team had us strap her down and press her into the bed with all of our weight on her. She screamed and screamed and screamed and eventually passed out from either the effort, shock, pain or all three.

They were just finishing the tape and protective net covering for the new IV when Zoey came to. She took one look at her new IV, this one in the hand of her drawing arm, which would make colouring near impossible.

Her scream of mourning is one I will never forget.

Zoey was still sobbing in our arms when the IV team came back in. They forgot to take a blood sample and said they need to draw blood, from the arm of which just had the IV taken out.

This time I lost it. That’s going to be a hard Hell No. I sent them packing; completely refused to allow them to touch my daughter again.

It’s the only time I was not strong in front of Zoey.

I may have cried long and hard into the pillows when it was dark and the sound of her breathing was deep from sleep, but never had I let her see me break down.

The nurse came in to explain why they needed a second blood sample. They had taken two blood samples from our home town hospital when they had started the first IV, one of which came back positive for infection in the blood.

This was serious.

But wait, only one sample came back positive; the other negative. The nurse explained that it is possible the one that came back positive was contaminated. Infection in the blood could mean Zoey could go septic, but wouldn’t both original samples be positive?

They wanted the third sample to rule it out.

It’s still a hard Hell No. There was a lot of thought, guilt and protectiveness that went into that decision, with a lot of different professional opinions. It was talked out until we came to the conclusion that it was 100% protocol that they had requested the third sample.

Clinically, Zoey was on the mend, feeling better than ever. If she had an infection in the blood, she would not have been improving like she was.

Again, that’s a hard Hell No.

The nurse said we had to verbally refuse medical advice.

So we did.

December 4

Since Zoey was feeling better there was nothing to do but wait. She was up and walking around with her IV; we spent hours each day in the toy room or wandering around the hospital toting around the IV pole.

10:00 am

My sister arrived with Addie.. to stay!

I couldn’t handle any more days without little Addie. As Zoey started to feel better and better, my heart hurt more and more for Addilyn. She was 6.5 months old and even though her Aunty Terri is an incredible fill-in mom, she needed her Mama.

There was space in the hospital room for a playpen, so while we counted down the days in our little hospital home, we made it Addie’s home as well.

Sister snuggles
Sister snuggles. It’s nice to be together again.

December 11

There was a surprise at the hospital today… not only did Zoey’s big sister Payton come to say hello, but there were a couple of working dogs who came for a visit!

Zoey's big sister Payton comes to visit as well as some working dogs!
Puppy in training gives Zoey a fun filled afternoon!

December 12

Finally, the day arrived to go home!

Sister snuggles!
Zoey feeling 100% better!

The nurse removed Zoey’s IV for the last time and brought in a special gift they had made for her. It was paper with a sweet farewell written to Zoey and a couple of Christmas chocolates tapped to the paper.

Good bye gift from the nurses.

Although we were anxious to leave, we knew we would miss the nurses who had been so special and caring.

The pediatrician wrote us a prescription for one week of additional oral antibiotics and we were free to go!

Driving out of the hospital parking lot was both exhilarating and terrifying. We were officially on our own. What if she spiked a fever again? I thought I would feel nothing but relief to be home but no, I was so scared.

There really isn’t a lot more horrible than when your babies are sick and there is nothing you can do about it.

Looking back on this major life changing event that happened a year and a half ago now, I am surprised at how crystal clear these memories still are. Not just the big stuff, but the little moments as well. I remember all the toys in that little toy room, what puzzles they have and the titles of their vast DVD collection. Mind you, this wasn’t our only stay in this hospital.

No, it wasn’t.

Part 2 – Addie’s Story.


  1. Sheila Enger

    Wow… that was incredible Aleta….I can only imagine how awful that was for you and Nick….such a scare for you all… you are an Amazing Mama Bear….you did everything right for Zoey…. she knew she would be alright with her Mama and her Papa by her side… thank you so much for sharing your story sweetie. Love you

    • Thank you so much Sheila. Looking back to tell the tale, it feels so overwhelming. In the moment you just want to get through each moment, each hour, each day. She’s a fighter, though! Thanks for your comment <3

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