My baby was 10 days old when he vomited bright yellow milk – he could have died

At just 10 days old my baby was rushed to the Sydney Children’s Hospital, by ambulance. It was the worst day of my life.

On his tenth day in the world, our very placid little boy, who rarely cried and was content to just feed, cuddle and sleep, suddenly projectile vomited bright yellow milk (and I mean like highlighter fluorescent yellow). We were all about to go to bed, and it was a while after his last feed, so to say we were startled is an understatement. His vomit was so intense and bright it could have been a scene from a horror movie.

“Take him to emergency immediately”

In my sleep-deprived state (aside from our baby’s newborn feeding schedule, his 21-month old brother decided this was a good time to form an intense relationship with his dummy i.e. we were re-plugging it about 12 times a night!), I called the health line. Yes, in hindsight I should have taken him straight to emergency, but I didn’t. I am not going to change the story just so I seem like a more together mother; I am under no illusion.

The nurse on the phone didn’t even need me to finish describing the events before she said: this could be very serious. Please take him to emergency immediately.

I left Hubs at home on dummy re-plugging duty and drove my baby to the local emergency department. It was five years ago but I remember the trip like it was yesterday. Even just writing about it brings back the sick feeling deep in my gut.

We didn’t spend much time at our local hospital. The words “bright yellow projectile vomit” set off the same alarm bells there as with the health line nurse. Before I knew it, my baby was in an ambulance being rushed to the Sydney Children’s Hospital. It was surreal.

The sick feeling deep in my gut suddenly got worse

Not only was this obviously really, really serious but I couldn’t even go in the ambulance with my baby because I wasn’t allowed to leave my car at the local hospital.

There are no words to describe the feeling of following an ambulance that has your potentially very sick 10-day-old baby on board. I hope you never have to find out.

The Children’s Hospital staff were amazing. In no time my baby was hooked up to all sorts of machines to monitor him. However, they couldn’t find a vein in his tiny body for the i.v. After several attempts, two paediatricians contemplated sticking the i.v. in my baby’s head! I felt like I was in a dream. I couldn’t touch him, so I tried to comfort him with my voice.

He was crying and I could not do anything. It was heartbreaking. I was beside myself and I remember trying so hard to keep it together.

We need to operate immediately 

At some stage a nurse brought me a breast pump. While I was pumping away she sat with me and wiped tears from my cheeks with a tissue. She told me gently that because of the colour of his vomit they suspected my baby might have a twisted bowel. They would perform tests but if their suspicions were correct, there was a chance that his intestines could be compromised already. If they didn’t operate immediately he could die.

I don’t remember much of what happened next. Except for the cold, dark room where they X-rayed my baby’s tummy, I also remember waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the results. All the while my baby was just lying there hooked up to machines and I couldn’t touch him.

We had been away from home for over 24 hours when the news came. His bowel was fine. I felt a lot of things then but nothing greater than the urge to hold my baby. They disconnected him from the machines and I hugged him so tight I think I nearly squashed the tiny, fragile body I couldn’t touch for so long.

Not everyone is as lucky as we were

A few months later I received a call from my mum. Alexander, the young baby of a family friend was also projectile vomiting bright yellow milk. They were going through everything we went through. Something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

Sadly, Baby Alexander’s bowel was twisted. He was very unwell and tragically died.

We don’t know the reason behind my baby’s yellow projectile vomit, but to be honest I don’t care. I still get to hug my boy daily, something Baby Alexander’s mum will never do again. I hope by sharing this story even one family will recognise the symptoms in time to save their precious bub’s life.

Jennifer Hacker Pearson is the author of  ‘I Wish Someone Had Told Me …’. You can find out more about Jennifer on her website and buy the book here.

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