My history with Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is not historic. The first time I heard about it was when this disease started haunting my grandmother in her last few years. After battling with 60-70 odd hits of the bacteria that built inside her bladder, she succumbed to it. The infection spread from her bladder to her blood which led to septicemia.
She left us in 2012, and in 2014, I gave birth to a baby girl – Mysha. All went well until October 13, 2015. I was in my hometown (Kanpur) and Mysha had mild body temperature. As seasonal allergies went hand-in-hand with my then one-year-and-three-month-old daughter, I thought it was another episode. It was already late at night, and I expected her to wake up with a blocked nose. To my surprise, she sailed well through the night and woke up the next morning with no symptoms of cold or a cough. She still had a temperature ranging between 100-101°F . Her body was definitely fighting some kind of infection.
On my father’s persistence, I took her to our family doctor. I still remember the prescription which stated “urine infection” as the first possibility. My biggest regret was that I did not pay attention. I was still stuck with the possibility of allergies, as that is what she was prone to. Also, urine infection was unheard of and unbelievable for a toddler.
It was 4 PM, then. I was preparing a bottle of milk for my girl. My mother was sitting next to her on the bed. Mysha looked dull and pale. We thought that this was a result of her “not being well”. But we were very wrong.
When I approached her, I saw her almost asleep. Then, I felt her shiver vigorously, which sent a shiver down my spine. I didn’t know what was happening to her, and the idea of the unknown scared me. With a heavy breathing and trembling lips, I yelled – “Mummy! Call the doctor”. I held Mysha to my chest to give her some warmth and frantically started making rounds of my home.
After talking to the doctor, my mother ran to the pharmacy and got the required medicines. Meanwhile, at home, I was still making rounds. The shivering ended in 15 minutes and was followed by a 104°F body temperature. Then, she started to vomit. She could barely keep her eyes open, while mine stopped blinking. The whole ordeal lasted about 40 minutes. We had taken her to the hospital to submit her urine and blood samples. We still didn’t know at that time whether it was a viral infection or a Brobdingnagian monstrosity. Whatever it was, the results were to be known only by next morning.
That night was the worst night of my life. Mysha was getting “attacks” every four hours. The attacks had a routine – shivering, followed by high temperature, followed by vomiting, and then me forcing her to gobble some ibuprofen. It was a petrifying 40 minute cycle, and it still makes my heart sink. I remember how my parents and I were sitting next to Mysha that whole night. My husband, Shahzeel, was in Hyderabad at that time and insisted on coming to Kanpur. After a lot of convincing from my parents, he agreed to stay back.
We had sat all night observing her as the test results were not to come until morning. On the side table, we had the required medicines, digital thermometer, her water bottle, spare clothes, cold water and bandages, and a mopping cloth. The waiting game is always painful. Especially when you don’t know what’s in store for you on the other side, and mostly, when the person in question is all that you have – your baby!
At one point at night, her temperature soared to 106 °F and I thought we had lost her. Yet, I couldn’t cry. We were busy doing cold-water bandages. Test results had come in the following morning. It was a horrible hit of UTI I could not believe it. How could she suffer UTI at such a young age? I am extremely particular about hygiene. I never make her use public bathrooms. In fact, I carry her potty seat, wherever we go. Some people laugh at my persistence, but I don’t let it come in my way. Yet, the test results were there and then, we knew what we were dealing with.
I am fortunate not to encounter UTI in my life, and at the same time, I felt unfortunate to not be able to understand what my little one went through. I could try to comprehend her pain, but she was the one who dealt with it, at the age of one year three months.
I had to read a lot in order to understand what UTI is, and when I did, I realised Mysha showed all the classic signs of urinary infection– she refused to pee (because one feels the burning sensation), her appetite was lost, she vomited, and had a high fever along with chills.
The bacteria (E. Coli.) was so strong that it went from her bladder to her kidneys and then to her blood stream. She was given antibiotic injections, as oral medications would not have acted on a bacterial growth that fast. Mysha was cured of UTI. after a week of proper treatment and care. It took some more time for her to be her normal self, but the point is that she survived.
I learned that a urinary tract infection is one of the most common paediatric infections. We were asked to be more careful, always wipe from front to back and to refrain from using public bathrooms. We made sure the course of her antibiotic course was complete and that she drank a lot of water.
As horrible as that night was, I forgot about it as the days went by. Mysha was doing well and she had no troubles in the context of urinary infection, until – September 2016 which was the anniversary of her first attack. As luck may have it, I was with my in-laws in Kanpur as both my parents and husband were out of the country. Mysha was restless since morning and had a mild temperature. Like last time, I banked on seasonal changes. It was not until midnight that the trembling began.
To be honest, I was not expecting another urinary infection, but it came with its claws wide open and I got gipped, but this time, I was prepared. Witnessing the same pattern, I immediately gave her the antibiotic dose. In October 2015, I had my family by my side, but I was not aware of what I was fighting against.
This time I knew what I was dealing with and I was not ready for it to take control over my daughter. Managing the night with ibuprofen, I did not give her body temperature a chance to exceed 102.5 °F . The next morning I sent her urine sample for testing and sure enough it was UTI, again.
Though Mysha did recover from this one fairly quickly because of the timely treatment, it led us to assess the reason behind her recurring UTI Was she just prone to it, or was there something we needed to know? After taking the MCU (micturating cystourethrogram) scan, Mysha was detected with Primary VUR.
What is Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)?
On a daily basis as a part of our bodily functions, urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters (tubes) to the bladder. A valve at the end of the ureters forbids the backflow of urine. However, for some kids, the valve is not developed well by birth. So, it allows a part of the urine, carrying bacteria, pass back to the kidneys. When your child gets chills with fever, it means that the bacteria has reached her kidneys. If not treated, this can damage the kidneys in the long run.
VUR is a genetically inherited shortcoming; strangely no one on both sides of the families has ever had this defect. Honestly, I did not care how this happened. All I know was that we were aware why it was happening. Apart from being a reasonable, educated and medically equipped woman, I am a mother. The last word has its own insecurities and mind. A mind, which fails logic at times.
Before we got to know that she had VUR, I kept blaming diaper usage and restroom hygiene. But after knowing that she had a problem, the mother in me acted crazier. There was a point when I felt that I was at fault for not carrying her in my womb long enough, for her valve to be fully developed. Beat that!
After all, a mother can’t be rational all the time.
However, I took some control over myself and acted mature, I knew that what had to happen would happen. So, instead of contemplating one needs to take a constructive step. I read about UTI in depth since last October. UTI is one of the most common problems in toddlers and one-third of these children are diagnosed with VUR.
Diagnosis is the key. Once the diagnosis is made correctly, one can take corrective steps. VUR. has a grading system of I to V; higher the grade, more severe is the reflux. Lower grades usually resolve by the time the child is five. It’s the higher grade that needs attention. Earlier surgery was the only option for treating VUR. But now Deflux Injection is being used for treatment.
Mysha was diagnosed with grade I /II on the left side and III right side. After going through her reports the paediatric urologist suggested that she be treated, instead of waiting for her to outgrow the reflux.
In April, we took Mysha to the hospital, with an open mind for either a surgery or Deflux Injection. I had a disturbed sleep for many nights prior to that. She was in my arms when the doctor gave her an anaesthesia and then took her into the operation theatre.
Mentally, I’m quite a strong person. I did not howl when she was being given injections, or when an IV drip went through her hand, or when a catheter was inserted up through her urethra and into her bladder. She cried, but also looked directly into my eyes. I always made sure I was in the room when she went for any test(s).
I couldn’t have pain and fear in them. I believe she can reciprocate my feelings. She knows me from within. After all, she was a part of me for nine months. While my husband had a meltdown as he heard his daughter wail, I stood right there, someone had to be steel.
It’s not easy to see your little one dressed in an operation theatre gown. But I knew I had to make her strong. This is a part of life she has to be prepared for. I want to be there to support her, take care of her, but at the same time, she needs to be able to take care of herself.
The doctor thought that Deflux was the best for Mysha at that stage. We have to monitor her in future and that scares me sometimes.
I had a difficult time writing this story as all the daunting scenes played in my head again. But I think that this story had to be told. I want people to benefit from it. I am writing for the mother, who feels helpless right now. For that father, who is looking for hope. For that relative who is looking for a cure for their baby. I got many virtual shoulders to rest my head on. I got the chance to hear their stories, to know that there are people out there who are dealing with the same situation. This is for everyone who needs my story.
Remember, you are your baby’s power bank; they will always bank on you.