Minutes after I hit publish on that last post, my mother-in-law called me at the store to tell me that Josie had barfed. Oh, barfing. That.
I told her where to find fresh clothes, recommended tea and toast and OxiClean to the toddler and carpets respectively, and promised to close the store and come home if it got worse. Another call within ten minutes, and when I got home, she was curled up under a blanket with her head resting on Papa Glen's belly. It's a lovely belly, stuffed with TimBits and usually covered with an animal rescue-related tee shirt, but she's never never napped that way before. I stuck my thermometer under her arm as best I could. As an American living in Canada, I had to import it from Babies Backwards R Expensive, because I don't know what we're supposed to be in Celsius, but it tells me clearly in easy to read digital numbers that 101.7 is more than a little feverish. She was sick, no doubt - almost scary sick. So Grandma Joan and Papa Glen stayed a bit while I ran a cool tub, put a basket of laundry away and got out the cute jammies while she dozed, and tidied up a bit in preparation for a night of caring for a barfy toddler. Steve was booked to work late, and for his studio, late can be four in the morning. I called our doctor, who wasn't in and the receptionist recommended that I consider emergency care if she got any worse.
When she woke up within a minute of that recommendation and hurled again, and the now-able-to-be-properly-inserted thermometer told me 102.7, I headed for the hospital. She barfed on the way, which is horrible in the car seat you know, and was so pale and listless I decided to speed a little, roll through stop signs; and in the three blocks before the hospital and while turning into the parking lot, to tailgate someone who was probably not as desperate for help as we were and sprint ahead of him to the parking meter thingy to swipe the Visa and then beat him through the doors.
As I carried Josie through the doors past the smoking healthcare professionals, I tried not to notice how limp and dangly her legs were. Behind me, two ladies took their meat counter ticket stub and explained to the triage nurse that one was having chest pains. "Chest Pains?" I thought. "And you amble in? And with heart disease the number whatever killer in women?". Then we sat down, and I held my sick little girl and assessed the others.
Heart pain woman was discussing hummus recipes while my daughters eyes were rolling back in her head. And you are HOW sick, Madam?
Slow dude I tailgated was directed to the other waiting room - he was there to be with someone, and had robbed me of fourteen precious seconds of knowing we were going to get help.
An East Indian couple was talking to the triage nurse. She'd had shoulder surgery at some point, and her healing incision had abscessed, perhaps, and the pain had kept her up all night. It was now 5:30 pm. So she'd waited all night and all day through the pain to come to emergency and take the place in front of us. A wee bit frustrating, perhaps?
And then, in with some Paramedics came someone I couldn't snark at. Another mother, with a two or three month old (because once you're a mom, you can guess how old everyone is all of a sudden) in an infant carseat, and an approximately eighteen month old girl in the paramedic's arms. My ears pricked up as my eyes raked over them. What I gathered was that earlier that day, the older child had fallen out of the crib, and had been fussy and whiny all day. When the mother finally went to get her out of the crib after her nap, she noticed the girl's arm in a funny position, and called for help. The medic described it as "like a chicken wing". I couldn't see it under the blanket, but the kid was awake and quiet. The mother explained she just hadn't known it was that bad. And for a minute, I was ticked. Because again, her kid had been like that all day, and my little girl was burning up my lap. They got faster service because she called an ambulance, and I'd rushed there myself, paid a whack for parking and had coasted into my parking space on fumes. Seething.
Then, I looked again, and softened. She looked like I had looked when Josie was two months old. Bad t-shirt, sweatpants, expensive haircut in need of a trim, no makeup and remember, it was now close to six pm. I was reminded of why I think I can't deal with the thought, let alone the practice of having any more children. Because I am immature, and because at such a time I could think that in part I felt more together because I'd come right from work. I'd had a good lunch, I was wearing my favourite black turtleneck and favourite jeans and had thought to throw stuff I might need in a cute oilcloth tote bag.
#101. We were next anyway. I cuddled Josie, wishing she was facing the other way, because the soft fluffy sweet pig tail was turned toward the inside, and the stiff clumpy barfy one was the one that I was stroking nervously. We were assessed and admitted, and settled into our room (cough cubicle with insufficient curtain cough) to wait.
And of all the poor souls in there today, Josie was one of the sickest. But it took so long between tests, and our doctor was a mite "out if it". Okay, busy, professional and possibly not a parent. Expecting a two year old who hadn't had fluids in three hours at that time to pee in a cup? Giving me orange juice to give her, and then disappearing? I was slow to kick into pro-active gear, and it wasn't until a sympathetic nurse (who probably had kids) brought the little bag to tape between her legs for a sample and some (soon to be airborne) Pedialyte that I realized that I knew what was best for Josie, and just needed their help - not just for them to just fix it. I had a part in this other than just holding her and being passive.
So we tried sips of water and Pedialyte upon the nurses suggestion, and they came up. Everything came up, and it was violent and scary and foamy and awful. Her heartbeat was so fast, her eyes so dark and her skin translucent and gray. It was gruesome. Because I knew she needed fluids, and something to get the bug out of her tummy, and to rest, and she couldn't and I couldn't help her. When we finally got a urine sample, it took 45 minutes to get the results. Then we were sent for chest X-rays. The waits for the services and the waits for the results were excruciating. Each process took hours, and she was worsening.
Then, finally because she'd declined so rapidly and was so lethargic, just around nine, they called for blood tests and an IV. It was time to ask Steve to come, because, and here is where I thought of the other mother too - I hadn't eaten, peed or had a break in hours and I couldn't leave her for a second. But, I couldn't do my best to help her with a bursting bladder and gritty eyes. And as much as I wanted to protect him and give him rest and time to concentrate on work, I needed him.
Thankfully he missed the insertion of the IV, and the part where I now burn in shame for how many times I let the nurse try to raise a vein on one arm before moving to the other. My throat was so dry, and I was so busy holding Josie's face, and she was so sad and scared that I couldn't interrupt what was happening to us to ask for better help.
Steve came, and we commenced the wait for more results and more help and any answers. We had short, explanatory conversations and tried not to look at the fear in each others eyes that said "This is bad."
One of the hardest things to listen to was what one particular patient was going through. Earlier, an Asian boy in his early teens who appeared to be mentally disabled had come to use the phone located outside our cubicle, and a gentleman who appeared to be an aide gave him a chance to try. But when he started to freak, the aide pulled him away (did I say all that in a politically correct manner?). But from about eight pm until about one am, he screamed. He yelled, wailed, moaned, cried, threw himself against the door of the room he was in, he bit and fought, and he did not stop it for a minute. It would peak, then there'd be a more quiet lull, but really there was no escaping it. I went from being sympathetic to wanting to go in there with a blow gun and a tranquilizer dart.
For hours we sat there, and just waited, holding her and trying sips of water that were met with more heaving and ropes of foam and saliva. The look in her eyes - wondering what she had done to deserve being so sick was like a fist clenching our stomachs, and I wanted to puke too. After all the tests, the doctors couldn't tell us anything, only that it was likely viral and that rest and IV fluids would push it through her system.
We were admitted to a room on the pediatric floor around one am, right around the corner from where I gave birth to her. All there was to do was to give her fluids and rest. She threw up for the last time around two am, and I fell asleep in a position which I feel may have permanently disabled my right typing arm - seated on a chair, my head resting on my right arm, which was over the side of her metal crib and holding her left hand. My left hand was over her tummy, as if I could feel a change there even in my sleep. Steve took the cot, and when at one point Josie moved a bit and I woke and couldn't feel my arms, I realized I couldn't help her if I'd lost function in them simply because I was being the needy one at that point. So I curled up next to Steve with pins and needles stabbing me like crazy, and we fell asleep to the sounds of a Winnie the Pooh movie ( a horrible modern one, gah!) that Josie had started to watch before she finally slept.
She woke up around six, had a little water and looked at the moon peeking in her window. She kept the water down, and said she was glad to see her "moony tend" (Moony friend) (of course you got that though) and fell asleep until eight. Then she had more water, and refused to eat Jello because her index finger told her it was unbearably squishy and so it must not go in her mouth (I give her Pocky galore, but not Jello, so she'd never even seen it before) and stayed awake. And chatted. We watched "Snow White" and "the Lion King". I had a lot of explaining to do about stuff in those movies. Josie wanted some of my muffin. And wanted the bacon from my cafeteria breakfast. And to eat scrambled eggs, and an apple and a bowl of rice crispies (another food she's never had before). She was better and we were discharged at noon, but we were not entirely healed.
Steve and I were and are still scared, because viruses are bloody frightening these days. The doctors and nurses never once said it might be fatal, but one can't help but worry. I watch ER. This was a lot like ER. Perhaps because media stories have pushed our fear buttons and I watch too many TLC medical shows too - what if it was something obscure? Were they doing enough? Is it really over now? Perhaps even though I'm kind of a nut about the whole poop thing, I'm not really good enough at cleaning. Boo Boo had a runny poo the other day - is our evil cat killing our daughter - could it be like a bad movie? Because I work freelance jobs, and have Josephine with me at the store, she isn't in contact with other kids much. I mean, she does go to places where we socialize and we have playdates with friends, but has my situation made her less immune than kids who use daycare or drop-ins? My head is full of whys. My laundry is full of vomity clothing. I can't get the smell out of my nostrils. I am up late tonight because I feel like I am recovering from an illness too, and the sheer waves of relief and luck washing over me have left me restless.
I mean this and I took the time to write because of this, and so I am going to stress: Josie's illness was something to us, but it was nothing, really. Not just in the "great scheme of things" way.
In the face of what the parent of that screaming screamer of a boy must go through God knows how often, and in the face of what it's like to be a tired mom with two kids under two and one hurt - it was really nothing. It was one day out of our lives, and aside from Josie still wearing her "boosital bracelet" (beautiful bracelet) (but you knew that) - the clear plastic band with her info on it, and the presence of a new teddy bear from Grandma Joan and Papa Glen (bought at TD bank with proceeds going to children's hospital charities, ironically) - it's so over with.
I didn't need this reminder that our life is good and that we love Josie to distraction and that we are unprepared to lose her. I also didn't need it to remind me that I need to keep my shit together in case of any emergency, and that I need to smarten up when it comes to being prepared (gas always in car, parking money available, saline for my contact lenses always handy) - I've known I tend to fly by the seat of my pants this way.
I could not help but think of Moreena.
But what it also seems to point to is a post I've been working on, having to do with the Whole Mom comic, having more to do with choices. What is in our control, and out of our control, as well as having an awareness of where we are in our lives in relation to others. What it's going to say is something along about how can we think about some things while others are going through other things. I'm quite passionate about it, if you get me started on it in person. But it's not the time for that post now - this little rough spot has changed it a little. I need to play with it a bit more.
But right now, I'm just glad we still have a Josephine.