Learning from our Lotte

Lotte and her parents outside their suburban home
Sam, Lotte and Caroline

Parenting is a messy adventure – it tests our patience, our will and our energy, but never our concern, love or passion for our children.

With three kids under 10, my wife, Caroline, and I have managed broken noses, split lips, cuts and bruises too numerous to count … even Lyme disease, skin disorders, and serious fevers – most seem to come with the territory.

But there have been rare moments when one of our kids was sick and we didn’t know what was wrong or how to ease the pain, and in those moments, we felt pretty desperate. One of those times was when our 4-year-old daughter Charlotte or “Lotte” came down with a high fever when she was 10 months old. While this was not a new experience for us, the part that made us nervous was that the fever, despite Children’s Tylenol and Motrin, would not break.

Over the course of several days, Lotte became a bit listless, lethargic and clearly out of sorts. She didn’t have an appetite, and we quickly felt that guttural queasiness of not knowing what to do. We did what most parents do and brought her to our pediatrician, who ordered some blood tests and sent us home.

We were still worried. We knew something was wrong.

The pediatrician called to say the blood tests could suggest meningitis and urged us to take Lotte to the nearest hospital ASAP. Caroline did just that while I stayed home to find a sitter for Sammy and Ellie. While the staff in our local hospital were friendly and accommodating, they gave several conflicting opinions and wanted to run tests that we didn’t think were appropriate for a 10-month-old. We quickly realized Lotte’s issue was out of the comfort zone and experience of our local hospital.

In trying to make the best decisions for our baby daughter, Caroline called a trusted doctor friend, who recommended we take Lotte to Boston Children’s Hospital — “You want to be with the experts who deal with this all the time,” she said. Frantic at this point, Caroline discharged Lotte against the wishes of our local hospital, and drove directly to Boston herself.

Meanwhile, I had found a sitter and was racing to join them. I’ll never forget the fear I felt driving into Boston not knowing what was wrong with our little girl.

Family of 5 outdoors in summer
Sam and Caroline with Ellie (6), Lotte (4) and Sammy (8)

Caroline and I met in the Boston Children’s Emergency Department, where Lotte had been admitted and was being seen by doctors who were attentive, articulate, patient and eager to uncover what was going on. They took us seriously and treated us with respect and empathy.

While the doctors were able identify that Lotte’s fever was not caused by meningitis but by a urinary tract infection (UTI) and a double kidney infection, they were unsure what was causing it to last so long. They treated her symptoms with antibiotics and had us do a bunch of tests the next day at Boston Children’s at Lexington, which was much closer to our house than Boston.

Two days later, with Lotte’s fever under control and the test results in, we met with urologist Dr. Richard Yu at Boston Children’s at Waltham. He had identified the underlying issue: Lotte had vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). In layman’s terms, this is when the valves in the bladder that close off urine from going back up into the kidneys don’t work. Unbeknownst to us, Lotte was born with slightly underdeveloped valves.

Dr. Yu’s level of knowledge and comfort with managing VUR in children was impressive and gave us a huge amount of relief in knowing that our daughter was in the best possible hands. Dr. Yu explained to us that Lotte had Grade 1 VUR (the lowest grade on a scale of five) and that the valves in her bladder would likely grow within the next year, fixing this issue. We were to keep a close eye on her and watch for symptoms of another UTI (fever, loss of appetite or irritability). We laughed that all of these things were also sort of “par for the course” for a 10-month-old.

A year and no UTIs later, we went for a follow-up with Dr. Yu, who told us that Lotte’s VUR was completely gone. Lotte had outgrown the condition, just as Dr. Yu had expected.

Four-year-old girl outdoors near her home

There are certain people in the world whom you don’t know you need until you are in the moment – a firefighter, a police officer, an EMT, or a doctor like Dr. Yu. We will be forever grateful to him and to everyone with whom we interacted at Boston Children’s — in Boston, Lexington and Waltham — for helping us through a time where we felt powerless as parents.

And to Lotte, who taught us to never hesitate to reach out for help and to always seek out the best care for our children … from the start.

Learn more about Boston Children’s Department of Urology.