My world stops when one (or both) of the girls are sick. Doesn’t yours? It seems like it’s all I have the energy for — watching them and making sure they get better, and don’t stop breathing.
I get incredibly paranoid when they get sick. It’s thanks to the two experiences we had in the last few years when we had to rush them to the hospital. Sam turned blue before my very eyes in December 2010 and lacked oxygen. Then just last September, we rushed Jamie in the wee hours because she apparently had pneumonia. In both instances, what started as a cough, a cold and a slight fever turned on its head. So now when the girls are sick, I can’t sleep in fear that I’ll miss something. That, and my mom’s voice in my head saying that convulsions from high fever are hereditary, particularly in children five and below. Gee.
And it’s not like the girls handle their viruses the same way either. Both present very different challenges that leave me exhausted.
About two weeks ago, Jamie had high fever and a very severe cough with phlegm. As all doctors around the world say, wait for three days before coming to us if the fever doesn’t break. Logically it makes sense (the body needs time to fight back), but it is quite an agonizing set of three days. Half of me was saying the fever is good, it’s an indication that her body is fighting back. But the other half was worried I was missing something.
Jamie threw up the first night and said to me, “Mommy I can’t breathe.” How she knew to tell me this at the age of two, I haven’t quite figured out but of course I didn’t question it since I was too busy getting things ready to run into the emergency room. I held my breath and my keys and saved us a trip to the ER first. As it turned out, she was just so congested, we had to sleep sitting up. For three nights. She’d spike a high fever at the most ungodly hour and I’d administer what I hoped was the right dosage of ibuprofen (or paracetamol). I managed to cool my heels and on the 3rd day of this circus, we headed to the pediatrician for antibiotics.
Jamie hated any kind of medicine particularly since we had to give her a lot of them over an extended period of time (seven days more AFTER the first three days of self-medication). Jamie is a good patient, but she is also incredibly clingy when she’s healing. She’d freak out if I had to shower (yes, I managed to shower!) and she had to sit on the opposite side of the curtain. There was just no reasoning with her; she felt bad and mom was all she wanted.
My husband was quite worried that by sleeping in the same room, Sam would catch the bug too. But ever since we’ve kept the girls in the same room (because at night they both look for me regardless and I could never shuttle back and forth between rooms fast enough), so I decided to keep the status quo.
I suppose it was a particularly persistent strain of a bacteria because ten days (or rather — nights) later, I’m nudged awake by Sam. She’s burning up and achy. The Baby Center symptom guide pointed to the Flu this time instead of Croup for Jamie (side note: this symptom guide is my best friend during the agonizing first three days), so that’s how we treated it for the first (agonizing) three days. And then the congestion hit and she couldn’t breathe. And the fever wouldn’t subside despite the paracetamol doses. So we found ourselves in the emergency room getting tested for dengue and UTI.
Sam was pretty vocal about what she was going through. Apart from her symptoms she was all-too willing to go see a doctor at 5AM (which is unusual for Sam). And she spoke to the doctors and nurses too and asked, “what are you going to do to me?” Sam was more adamant about which medicines to take and which to reject. Maybe it’s the age. It’s partly (definitely) the personality. I had to reason with her and give her facts about viruses and antibodies and infections. Thankfully, the sight of her blood in a test tube fascinated her. And urine in a cup made for interesting repeated conversations.
Sam lost her appetite and wouldn’t allow me to give her cool sponge baths to bring her temperature down, which was why (I think), tests showed she was severely dehydrated. The doctor suggested we hook her up to an IV, but in the end we agreed we’d try to rehydrate her at home for the next 24 hours. So here we are.
Between the two, I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks. Oh wait, that’s right: I haven’t slept in weeks. And I feel like I aged 10 years in each set of the three days I had to “wait” to see a doctor. There has to be some way to make this easier on us mothers.
I was asking myself which situation was more challenging: a younger sick and clingy child who didn’t understand half of what was going on, or an older, more opinionated and more dramatic one who had questions for everything. Maybe neither. It’s never easy when your child is sick, any which way you look at it. They are needy in their own ways.
What was comforting, was that the girls consciously gave way to their sick sibling. It was helpful particularly in those first three days when I was frantic and (the most) sleep-deprived. When Jamie was sick, Sam found ways to entertain herself. When Sam was down, my usual clingy Jamie stuck around but didn’t bring out the drama to get what she wanted. In fact, both girls wanted to help give medication or put their sister to sleep. And both would spontaneously say a prayer for the other to get better soon so that they could play. That was sweet.
So hopefully we are on the road to a full recovery, and there will be no more sick days, and no more trips to the emergency room. We’ve hit our quota for the next seven years or more. Maybe I can finally catch some shut-eye. Then again, my next problem is attending to all the backlog I’ve pushed aside. The world didn’t stop after all… so I must now play catch up. As if my initial list wasn’t long enough to begin with!