We’ve had a two-week dose of sick toddler, complete with high fever, coughing fits and bouts of vomiting, all climaxing with a trip to Montrose Memorial for IV fluids and oxygen therapy. We’ve converted our living room into “Sick Kid Zone 1,” where bottles of Tylenol and Motrin decorate the mantle and a blizzard of crumpled tissues litters the floor; an oxygen compressor pumps its mechanical lullaby day and night, and one pale little girl has taken up residence on a pillow- and teddy bear-cluttered mattress on the floor in front of the television (where, I’m sorry to say, Dora the Explorer has become a near-constant presence. So much for weaning ourselves of her.)
I have to admit, I occasionally feel this living/sick room closing in on me like a cage, and I have the urge to crack open the door just a slit (not too far, too drafty!) and call out into the world still turning around us; “Help! S.O.S.! Get us out of here!”
I’m officially sick of this sickness, which has turned my ABC-singing, self-dressing, dolly-carrying daughter into a whimpering lump of toddler-shaped clay – with an attitude. (She’s as sick of this sickness as I am.) We’re just two snot-stuffed peas in a too-tight pod over here, waiting impatiently to be released from the grasp of this nasty little bug that has consumed most of our sanity and all of our patience during its two-week stay.
Not to mention that it has turned me into a whining, woeful mother who’s completely out of touch with reality.
I was in the height of my mother-of-a-sick-kid misery last week, having in the last 24 hours driven an oxygen-deprived little girl to Montrose, spent the money I should have been making at work that day on a hotel room, worrying through a restless night beside a hot and miserable 2-year-old, only to welcome the new day with the news that she really could use some time in the hospital. Holding down a sickly, screaming child as a long-suffering nurse tries (for a third time) to insert an IV has a way of making a bad day turn worse.
All the poking and prodding and kicking and screaming helped a now-hydrated and oxygenated Elle to eventually fall asleep, for what felt like the first time in days. But no sleep for me, I complained to a now-empty hospital room. I had neglected work for long enough, and knew I needed to take advantage of the fleeting calm to do a few phone interviews for the next week’s paper.
I dialed the number of Dr. Nancy Kerr, an OBGYN from Albuquerque who would be traveling with her ER doc-husband to Haiti as members of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
Listening to Dr. Kerr and Dr. Mark Hauswald describe what they would be doing there, in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and the conditions and patients they expected to find while working in a minimally outfitted field hospital near the epicenter of an earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and wounded countless more, I felt the grimy film of my own self pity begin to lift.
After hanging up the phone, I stared out over my sleeping daughter in her crisp and clean hospital bed. She was surrounded by pillows, Dora DVDs and kids books, while tubes in her nose and arm flooded her little body and lungs with the best medicine available. Meanwhile, I was propped in a chair beside her, tired, but relieved. An army of nurses was, I knew, available at the touch of button (I had summoned them numerous times already.) I could pick up the phone and order anything I wanted to eat or drink, from apple-raisin crepes to citrus-marinated salmon to raspberry Jell-O (the rumors are true – Montrose Memorial food is darn good – and someone would bring it right to me. And I didn’t even have to tip.
We were warm and safe and comfortable, I realized. Yes, our kid was pretty sick, but she was eventually going to be fine. We would go home with oxygen tanks paid for by our insurance company, and though she would miss daycare and I would miss work, her lungs would heal and the color would return to her cheeks. She would soon sing the ABCs and insist upon choosing her own outfits once again.
We were doing everything we could do to make her feel better, and soon she would.
I imagined the Haitian parents Dr. Kerr and Dr. Hauswald would be seeing in the next two weeks. Parents who, like me, wanted nothing more than to make their kid feel better. Parents who, unlike me, had no house to make their child comfortable in, or even a bottle of Tylenol to temporarily take away some of her hurt. Parents who didn’t even have clean water for her to drink.
The most they had was the chance to see doctors like Kerr and Hauswald, who wouldn’t speak their language but who would, hopefully, be able to deliver the single most blessed thing they could imagine: To help their kid feel better.
In their next two weeks in Haiti, I hope these two generous doctors have the opportunity to share more good news than bad.
And that they can say, often and with confidence: “Your child is going to be fine.”