Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rat Bite Fever

*Disclaimer* this is a really long post with mostly unrelated pictures of a strangely obscure disease...*

By early October Ethan still had not recovered from the illness he had since the beginning of September. He kept getting worse and I would take him back to the doctor. I took him to his pediatrician and she would send us back to the emergency room. And they in turn would send us home with instructions to give him acetaminophen or ibuprofen for his fevers and joint aches. His joints were so red, hot, and inflamed. He couldn't move his fingers, wrists, shoulders,  ankles or knees without a lot of pain. He was still breaking out in more of that awful rash.  Everything they did test for came back negative, and the doctors kept insisting it was a "classic case" of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, which they never actually tested for...

{Unrelated photo* Feeding ducks at a friend's house in September}
But that diagnosis just did not sit well with me. The more I researched about it, and the more sick he got the less peace I felt about the whole situation. My child was much much sicker than that virus should have made him, and it was lasting for much longer than it should have. Plus the symptoms, while similar, just didn't match up. I felt like they were just giving him a label without being sure of what it really was to shut me up. 

{Unrelated Photos* Emmett fell asleep on the side table after standing and inspecting the little green snake Rodrigo found and brought home to show me}
In October, one full month after he became sick, his pediatrician sent us back to the emergency room and they finally decided to have Ethan see a few specialists. So they admitted him (us! I stayed with him at the hospital and Rodrigo stayed home with the other children) to Children's Hospital on a Monday evening and he was scheduled to see an infectious disease doctor, a rheumatologist, and a dermatologist the next day. The three of them after their initial exams all agreed that it was most assuredly NOT hand, foot, and mouth disease, nor had it ever been. Initially the infectious disease. Dr  and the Rheum. Dr thought it might possibly be Juvenile Idiopathic Rheumatoid Arthritis, while the Derm. Dr  thought it might be chronic bacterial meningitis. The I.D. doctor said that since it did not appear to be in his realm of expertise he would not be seeing us again. He wished us luck and said goodbye. The testing was begun on Tuesday morning for J.I.R.A. and bacterial meningitis. 

{Unrelated Photos* Box Turtle found while hiking in the woods with Daddy} 
On Wednesday morning at 8:00am someone knocked on the hospital room door and it was the infectious disease Dr  again... He came in and said that after doing more reading and researching he could not possibly agree with the possible meningitis diagnosis, and that he was seriously questioning the Rheumatoid arthritis answer now. Which kind of made me happy, because I really didn't feel that it was either of those either after spending the night in the hospital reading everything I could find on the internet about both of those. However, I still needed to know what in the world was wrong with Ethan! I kept praying that if God didn't just simply heal him outright, to please give the doctors enough wisdom to figure this out and help him!  So the doctor sat in the room with us and asked a million questions about Ethan and the whole family, and even about people Rodrigo worked with, our shopping habits, our travels, our schooling and friends, our pets and farm animals, I mean that man asked us about everything! Finally he said that he had a few ideas and left and promised to come back in a few hours. A couple of hours later he showed back up and asked if we had a pet rat. We did. And then he directed me to a medical journal article about Rat Bite Fever. The more I read and the more we talked about it the more confident I became that this was it. Samples for testing were taken and we were finally able to go home with a PICC line inserted in Ethan's arm and a huge amount of I.V. penicillin to give him 4 times a day around the clock. I felt at peace for the very first time since this whole sickness began back in the first week of September! 
{*Source* Picture of a PICC line catheter- a very scary looking thing that leads straight into my baby's heart! }
Rat bite fever is apparently extremely rare. There have only been about 200 known cases in the United States since the early 1900's. However doctors believe that it is much more common than that. It is just that is very hard to diagnose and is often misdiagnosed as hand, foot, and mouth, rheumatoid arthritis, bacterial meningitis, even syphilis! It can have a really high mortality rate of 10% (Some research claims as high as a 25% mortality rate)  if left untreated, but apparently with massive doses of I.V. penicillin it is almost always completely curable. 

{Unrelated Photo* Emmett was riding on his Daddy's shoulders while hiking when he decided to grab a tree in passing and not let go. Rodrigo took another step before realizing what had happened and that Emmett has dangling in mid-air behind him. Thankfully he had a firm hold of the baby's feet!} 
Ethan is feeling so much better now! He has finished his second week of antibiotics. The PICC catheter in his arm was removed last Wednesday. The fever was gone and hasn't returned since within 12 hours of his first dose of antibiotics. The horrid pustules covering his hands and feet are gone now, and he has an appetite and some energy for the first time in over a month and a half! The arthritic swelling and pain has disappeared from all of his joints. He has been going outside to play for a little while everyday, and now is feeling frustrated because he doesn't have the stamina and strength he did to keep up with his brothers like he did before he got sick. 
{Unrelated Photo* Claire walking Zombie, one of our English bulldogs. The boys named him...of course!} 
And no his pet rat didn't bite him, but it can be passed via saliva or urine, both of which he had been exposed to many times while holding the rat, and then cleaning the cage. The rat is no longer here, and I am sure we will never have another pet rat in our home. That makes us all quite sad since she was actually a really sweet pet, but I just can't have a carrier of such a scary (potentially fatal) disease living and playing with my children. I would have never allowed it if there had been any indication that it could harm my children in some way. And she was a very pleasant little pet, who never soiled outside of her cage, never bit, never hurt anyone... Everything you ever see or hear about domesticated rats is that they are super clean, intelligent, sweet pets, and that only wild rats can carry disease.These rats have been in captivity for so long that they pose no threat whatsoever... or so the story goes! 

{Unrelated photos* A trebuchet that Matthew built last week. Acorns and pebbles have been flying around non-stop since then!}
So that is what I've been dealing with for the past month and a half. Ethan is now almost completely back to normal. I really don't like to give my kids antibiotics, preferring to let them fight sickness off themselves if possible with the help of good food, rest and herbal medicines. Several of my children have never even had antibiotics in their entire lives. Ethan had only had them one other time, before he was a year old. But in this case I was so happy to have that medicine available for him! I, on the other hand, am still trying to recover from the stress and constant running and being away from home that having such a sick child involved. I have had to say no to invitations from several dear friends lately, and am trying to cut every single thing that isn't absolutely needful from our schedule so I can just stay home and rest and wait for this little one to come. Today there are only about 2 and a half weeks until her due date! 
Related Posts with Thumbnails