My Life as a Hydro Mom

My Life as a Hydro Mom

It’s 10 pm Saturday night on December 30th. My kids had been asleep for 2 hours and I think I hear crying. I get up and peek into Lochlan’s room. He is sitting up and hysterical while covered in vomit. Kyle and I act quickly and get him bathed and cleaned up. I tuck him into my side of the bed so I can monitor him. I am also mentally preparing myself for what might be happening while also trying to not overreact. This is hard to do knowing that vomit can result in brain surgery for my son.

He falls asleep and 90 minutes later wakes up and vomits again. I begin to go through the check list in my head to try to rule out a shunt malfunction. He was completely fine all day and has not been around anyone sick. He has no other symptom other than vomiting. I pray for a fever, but a fever never comes. If it were my two other kids, I would never be contemplating a trip to the ER, but Loch doesn’t have this luxury.

An hour and a half later, he wakes up again and vomits. This time he complains of a head ache. “It hurts everywhere,” he cries as he points to his head. Kyle and I clean him up and we both begin deciding when and if we need to take him to the Children’s hospital. We agree that if there is one more vomit, we need to take him in.

Like clockwork, 90 minutes later he wakes up and vomits. I tell Kyle I’m getting my hospital bag ready as he cleans up Loch. I know what to pack. I plan for 2 nights. I pack Pjs, pillows, toothbrushes, Lochs favorite snack, toys to pass the time. Oh, and Advil for me.

At 4:30 am, we start to make the 50 minute drive to the hospital. I call them and ask that they page the neurosurgeon. She calls me 15 minutes later and so, if necessary, they are ready to take him. Loch starts puking while I’m in the phone, but I can’t pull over.

Things get calm for a moment and although I’m not a crier, I cry. The thought of Loch’s skull being opened is enough to make me vomit too. I don’t want this for him. I pray. I never pray that we won’t see another brain surgery. I just pray for strength, acceptance and that the right team shows up today.

When we arrive, the hospital is eerily empty so we get right in. The nurses begin standard protocol while assuring me that radiology is getting ready for Loch. Vitals appear to be good. They run viral panels and begin offering medication. They tell me they want to give him an IV. I respectfully tell them no. I see no point in torturing him with an IV at this point. I have to tell two more medical professionals no to the IV before they hear me. Never would I have thought I would feel so confident to tell a doctor no, but I know what he needs and the only thing he needs right now is an image of his brain.

We next get wheeled over for a shunt series which entails a CT scan and x-rays. Loch is fearless and charms all of the technicians. Loch used to fight scans like a war. He’s older now and it’s not so scary.

We get back to our room and wait. Loch starts to perk up and asks when we get to go to Poppa’s house. I don’t want to lie, but also know that we may not be going anywhere today.

A little bit later, we get the news that his brain looks normal and that his ventricles are not enlarged. This is a massive relief, but the doctor then says that, “it doesn’t appear to be a shunt malfunction, but we cannot be absolutely certain.” She goes on to tell me something I have heard so many times. She says, “a mother’s spidy sense is more accurate than any medical testing. How are you feeling about his shunt?”

How crazy is it that my gut is a bigger indicator that my son may need brain surgery than any medical test? Talk about pressure.

I tell the doctor that I too think it’s unlikely his shunt is malfunctioning based on the fact his ventricles are not enlarged and that he seems to be feeling better. She says if we want to be conservative, she could admit him for monitoring, but the decision is mine. We agree that we do not need to stay there any longer with the agreement that, if things don’t improve or if they get worse, I will come right back. We head home.

Loch didn’t puke again. We got home at 9 am and I crashed asleep until Kyle woke me up at 2 pm.

I know the shunt life is a small price to pay for Lochlan’s life, but this medical motherhood stuff is not for the weak. I’m exhausted.


Hydrocephalus symptoms from Seattle Children's Website 
Symptoms in Children:
  • Head growth that is larger than normal.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Low energy and sleepiness.
  • Less ability to understand.
  • Memory problems.
  • Vision changes.
Symptoms in Babies:
  • Head growth that is larger than normal.
  • Bulging “soft spots” (fontanelles) on your baby’s head that may be soft or firm.
  • Wide spots between the flat bones of the skull (splayed sutures).
  • Eyes that seem to look down all the time (sunsetting eyes). The white part of the eye can be seen above the colored part. The colored part is partly covered by the lower eyelid. This gives your baby a surprised look.
  • Developmental delays
  • Poor eating.
  • High-pitched cry.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Crankiness.

For more information on Hydrocephalus, visit Hydrocephalus Association

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