Sarah and I just had the longest four days of our lives.
Last Thursday, Owen woke up with a weird bruise on his head. We assumed he’d just racked himself on his bed while taking a nap. The next day more bruises appeared, as well as some weird red spots. We called the doctor and they guessed it was just an allergic reaction, and that we should just keep an eye on it. Saturday morning the red spots and bruises were all over, and he had a dark spot on his tongue.
We took him to the urgent care clinic. They didn’t know what to make of it, so we were sent to the emergency room at UCLA Santa Monica. We were there for hours and hours, during which time four of us had to pin him down for 15 straight minutes as he screamed and cried during an IV insertion. After getting some initial bloodwork back, the doctor informed us that it was probably not leukemia (which exhibits similar symptoms). I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. He guessed that it was something called ITP, a rare disease in which a foreign body (such as a virus/bacteria or something) tricks your body into destroying its own blood platelets. They couldn’t be sure, however, and wanted to send Owen to the UCLA Westwood facility via ambulance.
We arrived at Westwood and remained in the emergency room for hours. We were told that Owen’s platelet count was dangerously low, and that we must ensure that he not hit his head on anything or they might not be able to control the bleeding. Owen was feeling fine, so he was climbing, jumping and thrashing as per usual, as we tried to keep him restrained in a room just slightly bigger than most bathrooms.
He was finally admitted late Saturday night, and Sarah stayed the night with him as they gave him the first of two platelet infusions. Mike and Jeff helped out immensely by babysitting Stew on super-short notice.
The next day was a “waiting” day, spent trying to contain Owen in a small hospital bed. That night they did the second platelet drip.
Monday morning they checked his blood levels. Still very low. Not enough to be released. The only other solution would be to give him steroids, but in order to do so, they’d have to take a bone marrow sample to 100% eliminate the possibility of leukemia.
Owen woke up and wanted food, but we couldn’t give him any. Had to have an empty stomach for the procedure. We walked him into the operating room and saw that one of the doctors was playing GameCube. Sadly, this put me immediately at ease. We held his hand as he went under, then went back to his room to pace nervously. Twenty minutes later he was all done. We took him back to the room, gave him some french fries and watched The Wiggles.
They told us that we’d have results in by 3 or 4pm. The wait was honestly the worst few hours of my life. My whole body was shaking and my heart was beating in a full-on panic attack, as I imagined worst-case scenarios. I felt like I was truly about to have a heart attack.
At 4:30 the doctor come in. “All good news,” he said, and Sarah and I could finally breathe. It was most definitely not leukemia, but looked like a clear case of acute ITP. His platelets had jumped from 7,000 to 55,000 and he was getting back on track. We learned that healthy people typically have at least 150,000 platelets at a given time. 100,000 is a cause for concern. 50,000 is dangerous. 10,000 is critical. When Owen was admitted he had 2,000.
We were free to take him home right then and there, and were told that it’s extremely unlikely that this will ever happen again, but if it does, we now know what we’re dealing with, and which drugs can set things right.
My mom cried when she heard the good news. Our families let out a collective sigh. We packed everything up, thanked the nurses and headed out. Owen and Stew were reunited a few hours later, and their parents proceeded to pound beers.