Amazing Kids, Amazing Stories: Barrett's Story

Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Amazing Kids, Amazing Stories: Barrett's Story

Amazing Kids, Amazing Stories: BarrettIt was late in 2011 when Curt and Katie Mould were deeply puzzled by their 5-year-old son Barrett’s ear infection. Despite taking antibiotics, Barrett’s ears stubbornly refused to improve.

Then one November evening, things took a sudden turn for the worse.

"Things started happening with Barrett that were very alarming," recalls Curt. "He was losing his vision, throwing up constantly and complaining of bad headaches."

The Moulds, who live in Lake Mills, Wis., immediately called 911. The EMS driver set out for a nearby hospital, but the Moulds insisted that Barrett go to UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

During the 30-minute ambulance ride, Barrett faded off to sleep and became completely non-responsive. His rapidly declining condition left an indelible impression on his dad.

"I remember the paramedics taking his vital signs and whispering to one another," says Curt. "They turn to me and say, ‘We don’t know what else to do for him. This is really bad.’ "

The EMS team promptly reported Barrett’s vital signs - including a sky-high blood pressure reading - to Joshua Ross, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist who was waiting for Barrett’s ambulance to arrive at American Family Children’s Hospital.

"We had to move very quickly in the Emergency Department the moment Barrett arrived," remembers Dr. Ross. "We started him on IV fluids, antibiotics and oxygen. We also performed a lumbar puncture to collect Barrett’s cerebrospinal fluid. Not long after launching our diagnostic evaluation, it was clear that Barrett had bacterial meningitis that may have originated in a bone behind his ear."

Amid the whirlwind pace of activity in the Emergency Department, Curt and Katie could hardly believe their eyes and ears.

"Will he be all right?" Curt plaintively asked Dr. Ross.

"He has a 50 percent chance of surviving through the night," Dr. Ross replied. "If he survives, it is possible that he could have vision, hearing or neurological impairments."

If he survives.

Three words left Curt and Katie in shock. "How," they asked themselves, "did we get from an ear infection to the possibility of losing our son?"

Thankfully, the fluids and medications began to take hold and within the next 24 hours, Barrett’s vital signs began to improve. He was still a very sick little boy, but was beginning to emerge from the danger zone.

Over the next several hours, Barrett would remain under close monitoring.

Dr. Ross, who attended to Barrett for several hours after the end of his shift, comforted Curt and Katie until Barrett was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) well after midnight. After a day in the PICU, Barrett spent six more days in the hospital under the watchful eye of pediatric specialists in cardiology, infectious disease and others. His recovery continued at home, where Curt and Katie were trained how to provide Barrett with IV fluids and antibiotics several times a day.

Today, Barrett is doing great and shows no signs of the lethal disease that jeopardized his life. He is a happy, healthy second grader who plays soccer, swims, dives and enjoys wakeboarding. His mother also uses another word to describe him: Miracle.

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"We are so thankful for what Dr. Ross and all of the other doctors, nurses and staff at American Family Children’s Hospital did to save Barrett’s life," says Katie. "Everyone took such great care not only of Barrett, but of Curt and me too. They always took the time to explain everything they were doing and keep our stress level under control, which meant so much at a time like that."

Dr. Ross says the Moulds also played a key role in saving their son’s life by insisting that the ambulance driver take him immediately to a comprehensive children’s hospital.

"Barrett may have been minutes away from having a very different outcome," says Dr. Ross. "His case demonstrates how an emergency team trained to care for children truly can save a life."

Recently, American Family Children’s Hospital opened its own pediatric emergency department space at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison. Now, children are treated in a section of the department that is reserved just for kids and their families. Child-friendly aesthetics combined with experts trained in pediatric emergency medicine make American Family Children’s Hospital the place to come for emergencies big or small.