8.23.2012

Surviving salmonella poisoning 101: the toddler edition

Do you feel bad for me after reading that title? You should.

It's part of the reason I was absent from this blog for so flipping long. It's also part of the reason that I have a complex when putting my daughter in the grocery cart at the store, or say when letting her eat cantaloupe cut up at a local grocery store, or perhaps even when putting any food on any dish in my home.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

A little under one month ago, my husband and I had a fabulous New York weekend getaway planned. In fact, it was going to be our first time really, truly away from our daughter for a whole weekend. Of course we were going to miss her, but let's just say that we were SERIOUSLY excited for it.

After waiting three long months, the morning of our trip had arrived. Chubby Vegan Dad went off to work and I woke up ready to have an easy day with my little girl (I had taken the day off because I knew we'd procrastinate and not pack). And then, the puking started.

As soon as Pearyn woke up she threw up peas and blueberries (not a pretty combination folks) from the day before. For the next few hours she then acted like her regular self and I was prepared to chalk it up to an unsettled stomach and call it a day. And then, the puking AND pooping started. The projectile, uncontrollable variety. At about noon I called my husband in tears, mainly because I knew I didn't want to leave our little girl when she was this sick and so miserable and partially because I felt guilty because I was going to make us miss this amazing weekend my husband had planned.

Luckily, before I had to say it, my husband suggested we make the long weekend a staycation and let the little one recuperate. Then one day, say, when she was 17 year old, we'd just hold this over her.

What we thought was the stomach flu lasted a mere 24 hours and by the next day, our little one was acting like her old self again and starving. She visited her doctor for precaution, where we got the go-ahead to feed her the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet and to keep pushing liquids.

We thought we'd made it through the storm. Boy, were we wrong.

For the next week-and-a-half, our daughter would randomly wake up in the middle of the night every three nights or so and throw up once. Actually, I lied, she wouldn't even wake up, she'd just sit up and vomit, then fall right back asleep.

We were baffled. She had no fever, acted fine during the day, held down the majority of her food and didn't have loose stools. What on Earth was going on.

Naturally, we called the doctor. Because our daughter wasn't running a fever, acting sick OR losing her appetite, they told us there could be a couple different culprits: her stomach could still be trying to return to normal, her two-year molars were causing excess saliva and making her gag (she has an INCREDIBLY sensitive gag reflex, yay us) or she could be having a little bit of reflux. The told us to curb feeding her two hours before bedtime and to cool it with any acidic foods or fruit. Check and check.

Again, we thought we were in the clear, so off we went to Hilton Head for our big family vegan vacation. Our best friends and their daughter even accompanied us. The first two days seemed to be moving flawlessly and then, Sunday night happened. Our little girl had a busy day at the pool and the beach, she fell asleep around 10 p.m. that night on the couch while we all watched a movie. And sure enough, two hours later, she sat up in her sleep and SERIOUSLY projectile vomited. We're not talking throw up here, folks, we're talking vomiting worthy of "The Exorcist." This time though, she didn't fall back asleep. This time, she started crying and saying her tummy hurt.

We took her to the E.R. Sure, we battled with whether we were overreacting, but ultimately we decided that we'd rather find out we were being too careful than wait a few days and find out something was seriously wrong. They ran tests, did an x-ray, cathed her and took stool samples. She ended up having a partial bowel obstruction, something the E.R. doctors attributed to her swollen intestines from having the stomach flu. We were supposed to give her a liquid diet and some medicine for nausea. They'd call us if the tests showed anything else.

For the next four days, our little girl was herself again (albeit a bit crabby from not eating). And on the eve of our last night in Hilton Head, just as we were getting ready for our fancy dinner out, the E.R. doctor called to let me know the culture grown from our daughter's stool showed bacteria consistent with salmonella.

Our daughter, our vegan, has never had a bite of raw, undercooked or cooked meat in her life, had salmonella poisoning. Because she was feeling better, he didn't want to prescribe antibiotics, we were supposed to just monitor her and if symptoms returned follow-up with our regular doctor when we got home.

On our way home, it returned. The puking and the pooping, and after three weeks of this, I was so ready to have myself committed and my daughter hospitalized, because I just wanted her better. Luckily, her doctor didn't bother with more tests and put her on a dose of Amoxicillin that Monday morning. Thankfully, we've gone 12 days without any pooping our puking episodes, but it doesn't stop me from worrying that it's going to make a comeback.

To be honest, I doubted it was ever the stomach flu to begin with. Pear had been around far too many people for it to not have rubbed off on someone else: from her grandparents, our close friends, me, her own mother with my pregnant, compromised immune system, to an infant. Surely if this was the world's longest stint of stomach flu, someone else would have caught it.

A few days after Pearyn was diagnosed, a story hit the news about every state around us (and eventually our state as well) being hit with salmonella poisoning.

From CANTALOUPE.

Pardon my language, but fucking CANTALOUPE.

Turns out, there have actually been 15 salmonella outbreaks from cantaloupe in the last 17 years, who would have thought.

I surely didn't, because I was still under the assumption that salmonella grew from undercooked poultry, eggs and raw dairy. Unfortunately, it's easily, easily, EASILY spread to fruits, vegetables and even common surfaces, like cutting boards, counters and grocery store carts.

We shopped at one of the stores that had the recalled cantaloupe, I can't remember be 100% certain that she ate it from there that day, but at this point it's what her doctor and we suspect. It's the one fruit that no one else in our family eats, let alone touches, so the only place she ever gets to have it is at the grocery store when it's cut up for samples.

Just when I thought vegan cookie dough was safe ... I can't help but think again.

5 comments:

  1. So sad to read this. I hope you're all doing better.

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  2. I see this was posted a year ago but I found this in my google search for more information regarding salmonella in infants. My son just turned one ear old and has had salmonella for about seven weeks now. It feels like it will never go away. I was wondering how long it took for your daughter to have a negative stool test?

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    1. It took around 10 weeks to get the negative stool test, but part of this was because we didn't discover what it was until about a month deep into it. I will say it did take nearly four months for her digestive system to return to normal. In the few months that followed we dealt with a lot of either "backed-up" issues that resulted in partially-obstructed bowels or going too frequently, runny, sometimes bloody stool. Luckily the throwing up resolved at around 8 weeks. Originally we were advised at the ER to not follow any kind of "special" diet for her, just to let her eat what she wanted, but that was disastrous. We found the best outcome on the B.R.A.T diet, but made sure to not rely too heavily on the carb part, but to balance it out. Good luck, this is SO hard to watch them go through, but they WILL get through it!

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  3. Ditto to Mrs D. My 2 yr old has a salmonella infection. Admitted for IV fluids for 24 hrs because of dehydration. We have lots of questions & I don't know whether we will find answers... It's tough to see your little one so sick. Thank you for your blog, it helps to hear someone else's story.

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    1. It's truly very, very frustrating because there isn't a lot of information on it out there and it's actually five times more likely to affect a child than anyone else. Crazy, right? I hope that your two year old is feeling better. We had about 10 weeks this ordeal, four months for it to completely resolve, but she's had a perfectly normal digestive system for more than a year now (knock on wood!). The last instance we had of anything was LAST Thanksgiving. Try pushing as much liquids as you can and let them eat what they'll eat. For our own peace of mind, we had our daughter sleep in bed with us for about three months until we knew it was really gone and felt comfortable putting her back in her bed alone. Try to do whatever feels right and don't ignore that mother's instinct!

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