The medical professionals in an emergency room don’t always get to see what becomes of the patients they take care of in the ER. The cases involving children can weigh heavily on their memories and hearts.
That’s why there were a few tears when 12-year-old Wesley Smith walked back into the ER at La Porte Hospital to say thanks for saving his life.
It all started in September, when Wesley had a strange bump on the top of his head. His parents watched it closely but didn’t think too much about it. Wesley is a 12-year-old boy, and boys get lumps and bumps all the time. But one night, he began feeling ill, spiked 105-degree temperature, and wasn’t able to hold down dinner. He was rushed him from his Rolling Prairie home to the Emergency Room at La Porte Hospital.
La Porte Hospital emergency room physician Zahid Hassan, M.D., and nurse Danielle Doud, RN, both examined Wesley, and were concerned. After a CT scan, they knew something was very wrong. Dr. Hassan suspected a serious infection, started IV antibiotics immediately, and told Wesley and his parents that they needed to be transferred to Riley Hospital for Children right away.
“We thought they would admit us and then we would go to Riley the next day. But no – the ambulance was already on its way. We were trying to stay calm, but it was pretty scary. His nurse (Danielle) was awesome. She talked to Wesley directly and was very nice. I stayed with him and rode in the ambulance down to Riley while his mom went home to be with his brother,” said dad Jeremy Smith.
Everything about the transfer process went smoothly. By the time they arrived at Riley and physicians there had an opportunity to do another CT scan, Wesley’s eye had swollen shut and the lump had grown larger. Wesley was taken into surgery, where they discovered a massive rare infection in the tissues on top of his head that had infiltrated the bone and was close to the brain. In surgery they removed bone and tissue, and cleaned the infection.
“They told us that had we waited another 12 hours, he might not be here with us. We are so grateful that Dr. Hassan diagnosed him, and knew to have this treated by specialists. This could have gone a lot of different ways, and they did everything right,” Jeremy said.
At the reunion meeting, Wesley showed up all smiles, and joked about the hole in his head that hasn’t healed yet. He said he doesn’t remember much, except recovering from surgery and telling the nurses typical 12-year-old jokes.
Dr. Hassan said in his 21 years of practicing in the U.S., he has never seen a case like Wesley’s, and it’s only one of a few times that a patient has come back to say thanks. He said it was a welcome gesture, because ER providers don’t always know what happens to their patients.
Doud agreed. “I was really worried about him that night. I’m so glad to see him today.”
The group gathered over cupcakes and punch, and Wesley shared the jokes he told to the nurses at Riley. There were hugs, and some tears. Amid it all, Wesley said he’s ready to get back to normal life.
“I just want to get on my bike. What I really want is to go roller skating, but mom and dad won’t let me yet.” He is at least back to bantering with his brother Robert, and playing video games. After a few more rounds of antibiotics, he’ll attend appointments about how to best heal the opening on his head.
“We just really wanted to say thanks today, for saving our son’s life,” Jeremy said.