Caring for kids close to home

Published: Tuesday, June 6, 2023

After having two children, Hollie Collins thought she knew what to expect when her third came along. But when she saw the number flash before her eyes as she took her youngest son, Abram’s, temperature one night, she knew things were going to be a little different.

His temperature was 105.9 degrees — the highest she’d seen with any of her children. After fighting the fever with Tylenol through the night, Hollie and her husband, Joseph, took their son to the pediatrician as soon as it opened the next morning.

From there, they were sent straight to and admitted at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) in Gainesville.

“This sickness was alarming,” said Hollie. “And Abram was beside himself. He had been poked at the pediatrician’s office, he hadn’t really gotten a nap and was extremely tired because he was sick. I felt like we weren’t able to comfort him because we were running from place to place.”

When they got to the hospital and were met with a calming, reassuring voice in Ramanpreet Dhindsa, MD, they were able to take a breath and focus on being there for Abram.

“Having to get admitted to the hospital — I mean initially I was emotional about it,” said Hollie. “I probably shed a little tear.”

But Dr. Dhindsa reassured them that they were in the right place and NGMC had everything it needed to treat pediatric patients.

“Before we ever left the admission room, we’d already spoken to Dr. Dhindsa, which made me feel way better about the whole situation,” said Joseph. “Once they got the initial vitals, she checked him out and said, ‘I’m not concerned here. Something’s going on, and we’ll figure it out, but nothing I’m seeing here is cause for major concern.’”

Originally, it wasn’t a major concern for Hollie and Joseph either. Their two other children, Samuel and Olive, were both in school at the time, so they weren’t surprised when they thought one of them brought home a sickness. But they’d never been admitted to the hospital with Samuel or Olive, so this was an entirely new situation.

Soon after, Abram started having bad diarrhea and his high fevers continued. But it was the fever that was most concerning to them and their pediatrician. Abram immediately had blood work done, and they saw he was dehydrated and had a high white blood cell count, which meant there was likely an infection in 5-month-old Abram’s little body.

Hollie & Joseph Collins, with baby Abram

“The pediatrician said he was going to admit us to the hospital to make sure it hadn’t spread to his bloodstream,” said Hollie. “So, he asked us if we wanted to go to Gainesville or Atlanta, and definitely the option of Gainesville was great.”

But things were serious. They had to get to the hospital quickly because Abram wasn’t getting any better. Hollie and Joseph only had enough time to run home and grab some clothes and make phone calls in the car to arrange care for Samuel and Olive.

“Just the logistics of having to be in the hospital for who knows how long, and the logistics of the other children – it was just a lot to process,” said Hollie. “You don’t expect to go somewhere not packed.”

When they got to NGMC Gainesville, they began to feel a little more at ease. Once the stress of the admission process was over – Abram had to get an IV and blood drawn – Hollie and Joseph began to realize their son was in capable and expert hands in a space just for pediatric patients.

“The idea of going to the hospital is overwhelming, but once we got there, they’ve got the whole pediatric area,” said Joseph. “I don’t like being in the hospital with the machines, the beeping, the hoses and needles, but they softened it up.”

Hollie said there was “cute kid décor” and the nurses brought Abram a blanket and toys. They had a crib ready for him and made sure all the necessities a baby might need – diapers and wipes – were stocked and ready for them.

“We just try to make it fun,” said Dena Day, a pediatric nurse at NGMC who cared for Abram. “If it’s a hydration situation and we’re trying to get the child to drink, we might make a sticker chart where they get stickers every time they drink. If it’s a respiratory situation and they have to do lung exercises, we try to make that fun. We have pinwheels they can blow on or blow bubbles. So, we do lots of different things that are very child-centered to help provide their care.”

Even with the child-centered atmosphere, though, Hollie was nervous because she still didn’t have answers as to why Abram was sick. They had to wait on stool and blood cultures to come back, which she knew could take a day or two. Her background as a nurse told her that but didn’t help her emotions much.

“Being a nurse – when you have your own kids, it completely goes out the window,” said Hollie. “You forget everything you know. I mean, I guess I know what’s normal, but when it’s your own kid at home, it’s just different. But my mind also goes to the worst-case scenario.”

She’s not sure what the worst-case scenario would have been for them, but she knew they were in the right place to avoid whatever that was. And slowly but surely, Abram started improving. He got IV fluids and started to eat well and nap well – they could tell he was getting better.

“When the labs came around, I was able to reassure them that, you know, we’re not dealing with something that requires critical management,” said Dr. Dhindsa.

The blood culture came back clear, so they knew there was no infection in Abram’s bloodstream.

When the stool culture came back, they started to get the answers they were looking for.

“He had salmonella bacteria in his stool,” Hollie said. “Everybody was kind of confused, because, at this time, he was 5 months old, hadn’t ever had any food whatsoever, and typically, that comes from contaminated produce or undercooked meat or something like that.”

She said the doctors reassured her that it happens every now and again when the child touches something and then puts their hand in their mouth.

“We still don’t know how he got this or why, but he managed to make it through,” said Hollie.

After three days in the hospital, Abram was discharged and returned to the comfort of his home in Habersham. They were relieved to see Abram getting back to his normal self – smiling, cooing and continuing to chew on everything – he was teething. And luckily, that drive home wasn’t too far.

“I think one thing that is very important for parents is to keep their kids close to home,” said Dr. Dhindsa.

That was important to the Collins family, and it helped them stay calm, knowing they had the care their child needed close by. They didn’t have to go far, or fight traffic, they could run home if they needed. And it’s not just having the care close to home – it was having expert care close by that made it even more comforting for them.

“Northeast Georgia’s pediatric unit is honestly one of the best I’ve ever worked at,” said Dena. “I’ve worked in four different hospitals and I would put this staff and these nurses up against any of those hospitals any time. The compassion that they show – the creativity and the care – from the moment you enter the door, we welcome you and show that we care. Parents are nervous when their kids come in. They’re scared. There’s something wrong with their kid and we try to not only help alleviate the fears of the kid or the children, but the fears of the parents and the family that bring them.”

Dena said caring for the parents is almost as important as the care the child receives. And at NGMC Gainesville, they do that by providing meals for the parents. There’s a washer and dryer to do some laundry if needed. There’s a shower they can use.

The all-around care that the pediatric unit at NGMC Gainesville provides is exactly what Hollie and Joseph were hoping for, and it’s exactly what they got, close to home.

“It’s great to know we have a pediatric unit like that this close to home,” said Hollie. “Hopefully we don’t have to use it again anytime soon, but it is great to know that we received really great care and that he was really taken care of.”

Learn More

Learn more about our Pediatric services and hear more from the Collins family by visiting