A. Peevie takes Verapamil, a medicine that slows his speedy-quick heart-rate down. We try to give it to him in the morning, because he's already got a fairly slow heart-rate at night--but sometimes we forget.
One day last week we forgot, so I had him take it after school. Unfortunately, a few hours later when he took his other meds at bedtime, he took an extra dose of the Verapamil. This caused my own heart-rate to increase significantly.
By the time I learned about the double-dose, it was after 10 p.m. I called the cardiology service, and soon got the cardiologist on the phone. Unfortunately, what we needed was not a mere sub-sub-specialist like him (pediatrics and cardiology), but a sub-sub-sub-specialist, a pediatric electrophysiologist--a physician who specializes in caring for children with heart rhythm disorders. I believe there are eight of these docs in Illinois.
So the docs conferred, and they came up with a plan: They wanted me to check A. Peevie's heart-rate every two hours. If it stayed above 40 beats-per-minute (bpm), I would keep checking every two hours. If it dropped to between 30-40 bpm, I'd check it every hour. If it dropped below 30, I'd need to bring him to the hospital to be monitored for the rest of the night.
By the time we'd worked out the care plan, A. Peevie was already asleep and curled up under his blue camouflage comforter, snoring gently. I checked his heart-rate while he slept, and its strong, regular rhythm (about 50 bpm) soothed my mild anxiety. I crawled under the covers next to him, set my Treo to beep me awake every two hours, and went to sleep.
I am normally a sound sleeper. I can sleep through earthquakes, thunder-storms, most snoring, and early morning radio talk shows which are loud enough to wake Mr. Peevie but never enter my consciousness. But on this night I woke promptly to my Treo singing its descending arpeggio, "Din-ne-ne-ne, Din-ne-ne-ne, Din-ne-ne-ne, Neh" every two hours. Each time, I rummaged under the covers for A. Peevie's skinny wrist, found his pulse, and counted the beats for a full minute. If he shifted, I'd briefly lose the pulse, and I'd start all over again. It usually took me two or three tries--because I felt it would be prudent to be sure I'd gotten it right.
At one point, between Treo alarms, A. Peevie woke up and looked at me. "What are you doing here?" he wondered.
"I'm checking your heart-rate every two hours," I said.
"Because I want to make sure that your heart doesn't slow down too much."
"But you don't usually have to do that," he observed.
"Right," I said. "But you don't usually take a double dose of Verapamil, either."
"Oh," he said; and then he smiled at me, cuddled closer, and went back to sleep.
"Great," I thought. "Now he's going to double-dose himself on purpose just so I have to sleep with him." He's a cuddly ten-year-old who would sleep in my bed every night if I let him. Which I do not. He's far too pointy for comfort.
At every check-point, the tell-tale heart-rate was safely in the mid-40s, so we dodged yet another trip to the ER for this high-maintenance boy.
In the morning as we were getting ready for school, I was kind of a zombie. "What's the matter, mom?" A. P. asked me cheerfully.
"I'm just tired, honey," I told him.
"That's my fault, isn't it?" he asked.
"No, baby, it's not your fault," I reassured him.
"But you had to wake up at night to check my heart because I took an extra dose," he said. "That's why you're tired."
"A. Peevie, it wasn't your fault that you took it," I said. "It was an accident." I looked him straight in the eyes. "And besides," I said, "That's my job--to take care of you, and make sure you're OK. It's the best job in the world."
He smiled at me, the kind of smile that makes my eyes fill up with tears and makes my chest tight with gratitude and love. There is nothing better in the world.