Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

A little while ago, while doing a Google search when Bean was ill, I came across mention of this syndrome. Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. Sounds pleasant, yes?

From what I understand, this consists of bouts of vomiting that arise seemingly from nowhere and with no other real symptoms to speak of. Barfing continues for a certain number of days, the patient gets better, and then usually the same period of time elapses before the patient falls ill again. Familiar?

The doctors at Sick Kids now believe that Gavin has this syndrome. He has been sick every six weeks since October, with severe vomiting leading to dehydration on each occasion. This makes the 5th episode of 4-5 days of vomiting. Every time, bar one, we have had to go to ER for fluids and then endure much stress and discussion about shunt failure.

This current episode has been no different. On Monday I came home from a run to find a text from Craig saying that Gavin was ill and that he was on his way to collect him from school. (I left the house for 20 minutes without my phone, timing!) I raced over there to meet them, sent Daddy back to work and got Gavin home and comfortable. For the rest of Monday, he wasn’t well, but was alright. Tuesday morning he seemed good and I thought he might go to school, but oh no. By the afternoon, it had locked in for real and Tuesday evening and night passed in a surreal haze for both Beanie and I as I marched back and forth to his room every 20 minutes. Wednesday morning he was very sleepy and was not holding water down, so with Bubby in tow we took off to the ER, knowing we had to get an IV started straightaway.

The whole way there Gavin kept insisting on “no pokes.” I tried to be non-committal. We got straight into a room, and as soon as we met his nurse Gavin told her that he was there for medicine but no pokes. He then proceeded to inform the doctor of this, who gave him a lecture about wilting plants needing water, etc. My son, the lawyer, then tried to talk his way out of his IV for half an hour while the nurses prepared his arm for poking. Excuse me, he kept saying, I just need to tell you something. I don’t want you to put in the IV yet. Just wait a minute. After ages the nurses were finally able to do it – first go – and he picked a treasure from the Bravery Box to ease his pain. There were tears, lots.

At some point the neurosurge fellow made the call that he wanted Gav to do a “fast” MRI to rule out shunt malfunction. He has not had this type of MRI before, and although I don’t love scans it is preferable to CT. Gavin was so sleepy and unwell that he actually just took a nap in the machine when we finally got down there at about 4:00 and of course, wowed everyone that a 4-year-old can do it unsedated. That’s my son. I, of course, was sitting there trying to block out MRI noise (impossible) and not focus on worst-case-scenario scenarios. Doubly impossible. You only go into scans innocent once in your life. When the worse-case scenario came true on that occasion, you feel on some level that, forever after, you always have to be open to the possibility of that bomb flattening your home once again.

But we met the neurosurgery fellow shortly after the MRI and he felt the scan looked really good. He examined Gavin and was happy with him, but then told me that the neurosurgery team felt Gav’s situation was one that had to be handed over to general pediatrics, to get some tests done and hopefully find some answers. We did a quick shunt series x-ray, no problems there, and then met another doctor for intake.

I left Beanie and Daddy overnight and they were admitted to 7B. This morning I found Bean chipper and puffy-eyed from fluids and sleep. He agreed to order some breakfast and nibbled on a bagel. It was clear to me that he had rounded the corner and was now in recovery mode.

He and I spent a busy morning talking to doctors, doing crafts and playing games. He agreed to be examined by medical students but had these conditions: They are allowed to touch me, and listen to my heart and lungs. They are not allowed to touch my IV and I don’t want any pokes or anything else that I don’t want. The young ladies (feeling my age!) took awkward vitals in which Gav was quite charming, and were then told by the staff doctor, “I hope you don’t think that all the 4-year-olds you examine are going to be as cooperative as this.” Too true, he is a champ.

By lunch Gav was feeling really good and we were allowed off the floor to explore. We went to a playroom, downstairs for food, threw coins in the fountain, and met a clown in the hall who we hung out with for half an hour. We went to check out “Marnie’s Lounge” – a games room and lounge for patients – but our timing was off and we only got to play air hockey for 5 minutes before having to go for an abdominal ultrasound.

Ugh. Ultrasounds. I had a huge bout of scanxiety in ultrasound today, like practically passing-out-anxious-freaking-out. I started off okay, Gav was busy watching Thomas, the tech was scanning away, I was Facebooking… but suddenly this thought passed through my mind, What if they find something? I tried to squash it but then started looking at the screen. What is that? Why does he seem so interested in it? 

The problem with ultrasounds is that, unless you know what you are looking at, you have no freaking idea what you are looking at. It is all grey and blobby. Things could easily be a gall bladder or a giant tumour. You just have no way of knowing, while this impervious and poker-faced tech keeps on imaging, and then disappears for half and hour telling you to wait there to find out if they need more images. Freak-out on! I felt like running into the room where they look at the images and screaming, Just TELL me! Is there something wrong!? But I’m Canadian, so I didn’t. I sat there politely and smiled and lurked passively in the door of the examination room until someone passed by, grabbed her and got the word that they needed no more scans. We were free to go.

So we left, found Bubby and Da and got to hang out while Gavin got poked for bloodwork. Not happy Jan. But he soon perked up and in the evening Daddy joined us in “The Bear Theatre” for a performance of Tails a play/musical extravaganza written by one of the docs and performed every Thursday for 20 years. It is cheesy and fun and Gavin loved it. In the seven months that we practically lived at hospital we were never able to make it there due to Gav just feeling crappy, so it felt right to finally see the show.

I STILL don’t know if they found anything dire. I want to assume that if they did someone would have told us this before 8:00 at night when I left the hospital. No news is good news, etc.

Otherwise, things are looking up and he will most likely get to leave hospital tomorrow. The plan is to have some strong meds in place to try to shut the vomiting down before it spirals out of control. I am happy that someone is finally conceding that this goes beyond normal childhood viral illness and I hope we soon will know how to deal with it. Apparently, kids outgrow it, given time.

I hope he outgrows it… by next month!

One Response to “Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome”

  1. Mairi says:


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