“Mommy. My body feels...itchy...”
Bleary-eyed and in a sleepless postpartum haze, I was tempted to not even turn on the light. Certain my 4-year-old had woken me to inspect a minuscule bug bite or scratchy pajama tag, I was a little annoyed. Good thing I checked.
Her tiny pale body, usually pristine and unblemished, was covered in a blotchy red rash. The next morning, it was much worse. She had a fever of 104 and was shaking. The rash had turned to lesions that looked like welts. They seemed to be morphing—appearing and disappearing before my eyes—in different places on her body. Her wrists were purple, her ankles bruised-looking and too swollen to walk. I texted a video of her, hunched and arthritic, struggling to hobble to the bathroom, to a nurse I know. She responded immediately: “Go to the ED.”
There was no doubt to which ED she meant for us to go. GBMC has the only dedicated Pediatric Emergency Department in Baltimore County. Once there, we were whisked to a room specially outfitted for children and greeted by Child Life Specialist Autumn Finelli. She turned what I thought would be a harrowing experience into one where my daughter felt safe and confident, pampered even.
“You look like you need a popsicle,” Autumn said to her. “Or... maybe, some chocolate ice cream?” My daughter, feverish and swollen, looked at me with eyes that said, “I think I’m going to like it here.”
She didn’t even notice the IV going in. Autumn had introduced a Frozen coloring book and an iPad; they were deep in discussion on the merits of Doc McStuffins versus Daniel Tiger. My daughter was distracted as the clinicians – a pediatric hospitalist and two pediatric nurses – worked swiftly and quietly, drawing five vials of blood, administering steroids, monitoring her vital signs. They seemed to move as one: a well-oiled machine with an unspoken mission of making her comfortable as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Her diagnosis was serum sickness, a rare immune complex reaction in children under six. I’m not sure a hospital that doesn't specialize in the unique needs of children would have been able to identify it. I am eternally grateful for the experience of the pediatric specialists at GBMC.
Recovery was tough: weeks of sickness, trying to regain strength and repeated attempts to wean from steroids. But I wasn’t alone. The GBMC pediatric team treated me like family—checking on our progress, conducting video visits on demand, and constantly making medication adjustments. With the guidance and clinical expertise of Dr. Rachel Plotnick, we got my little girl well again.
It is easy to take GBMC for granted, but as community members, we must realize how fortunate we are to have pediatric services of this caliber in our backyard. Our neighboring hospitals have closed their pediatric units. These closures combined with the staffing shortages worsened during the pandemic has put incredible pressure on GBMC as the only dedicated Pediatric Emergency Department in Baltimore County.
Your financial support ensures GBMC will continue to be here, ready to serve when it’s your child’s time of need. Please join me in supporting the Pediatric Emergency Department today.