The One about the Hospital

A children’s hospital is a place you don’t really want to have to visit on Christmas Eve. And until a few days ago, close to twenty years into parenthood, I had not had the occasion to do so. But this year, this lovely little when-will-life-get-back-to-some-semblance-of-normal year, we apparently decided to change things up a bit.

As previously revealed, Melina was diagnosed with mono on December 20. The docs told us to follow up with the pediatrician in seven days, but to call if anything changed. Not much did change at first—fatigue, orange urine, odd-looking stools, they all persisted—but on December 23, I asked Melina, “Are your eyes a little yellow?” Of course, she can’t see her own eyes (unless she’s looking in the mirror), so she said, “I don’t know.” Hmmm, I thought. I’ll have to keep tabs on this.

That evening, the three girls and I went to Dairy Queen for a little pick-me-up. No sooner had we entered the store, which is illuminated with fluorescent lighting, and Talia said, “Does Melina look a little yellow?” Aha! It wasn’t just me. “Thank you for confirming that. We’ll call tomorrow morning.”

But of course the pediatrician’s office wasn’t open on Christmas Eve, so we packed a bag of snacks and headed to Dayton Children’s ER. We arrived at 10:03 a.m., and by 6: 24 p.m., Melina had been admitted to the specialty pediatrics unit to spend the night.

So what happened in those eight hours? Melina had multiple blood tests, an ultrasound of her liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and kidneys, and an MRI (technically, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography or MRCP). Since her liver enzymes and pancreatic enzymes were high, the docs decided she needed to be observed. And, they needed to figure out a next step in the plan since the MRCP showed an abnormality.

And this is where it got kind of interesting, from an anatomy perspective anyway. Supposedly, Melina’s left and right hepatic ducts, which should join inside the liver, join outside the liver; all of her ducts (hepatic, cystic, and common bile duct) are dilated; and the ampulla of vater may not enter the intestine where it is expected to. It’s also possible that she has a choledochal cyst.

Image of biliary anatomy by Drriad

All that means is that Melina needs to have a scope done (ERCP) sometime soon with the possibility of surgery to correct the abnormality. But what that meant at the time is that Melina and I spent Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day lounging in a hospital room bingeing on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit while an IV dripped fluids into Melina’s arm and we recorded what she excreted and when. (Big thanks to the whole cast for helping us pass the hours!)

Fun times, for sure. Quite memorable even, as far as holidays go. And though we had to postpone our Christmas celebration by a little bit, I kept thinking the whole time I was there that we’re so lucky. Melina is overall a healthy child, and each time we have to visit Children’s, it’s with the expectation that we’ll come home, still mostly healthy, usually a little healthier. Not all families have the luxury of saying that.

Image of children’s hospital by Viki_B at

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