Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Sometimes you have a horrible, no good, very bad day.

Shannon and I took Laura back to college on Sunday. The driving was treacherous for the first hour or two. I've never been so scared in my life. But Shawn was in Germany and Laura had to be back at school, and I guess sometimes a person just has to buck up and do hard things. We ran out of windshield wiper fluid at one point, and I had about negative seven visibility as I tried to make it to the next thruway oasis and buy a refill gallon. Then we had to figure out how to open and close the hood, which was much harder than locating the place to pour the stuff in.

The trip home was OK.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Junior Day, which meant a day off for all of us except Laura (who goes to a right-wing school) and Shawn (who is in Germany, and I can post about things like that now because my boys are big and strong, 6'1" and 6'3", one a body builder and one a black belt in karate, so it isn't such a big deal if strangers should learn that my husband isn't at home). It was not a banner day, but I got to rest a little after the big drive to and from college on Sunday, and the sun shone, and it was as cold as Minnesota, and we got a few errands accomplished. It's just rough when it's the day before everybody goes back to school after a break, and my hormones have been raging (menopause, who knows?) and, as I mentioned, Shawn is in Germany.

So today my phone woke me up at 6 a.m. and it was a teary-voiced Laura because she'd been up being sick all night in the dorm bathroom. I cannot imagine much anything worse than having a severe case of stomach flu through the night in a dirty dorm bathroom. She gets so sick, all she can do is lie on the floor. At home, I make her a nest of clean towels on the bathroom floor, but it is a little, cozy, one person bathroom, and for all how I am a terrible housewife, I do keep my bathrooms quite clean. When somebody gets sick, I do a lot of intermittent cleaning, too. Poor Lu was in a big, cold community bathroom with stalls and toilets you wouldn't even want to sit on, let alone throw up in. All night.

So I told her to get her RA to take her over to the Health Services Center where I figured they would have a bed and maybe a cleaner, more private bathroom, and maybe someone to bring her drinks and check on her now and then or something. So she did, and they did.

But they gave her Dramamine. Now, I know they were trying to help. I am not totally against Dramamine. It is good to take before a long car trip. I need it very badly before I fly. But it is NOT a cure for a stomach virus. I am controlling myself and stopping a rant here.

The Dramamine upset her stomach all over again. So she started being violently and uncontrollably sick again. When this particular child gets sick, it is a lot of work to get her system to settle. Giving her Dramamine was a Very Bad Idea. Because of the Dramamine, her inability to keep anything down was extended for hours. So what did they do? They threatened to send her to the ER so she could "be rehydrated." Of course, this means an IV. This child faints from needles. Two years ago, she got a concussion from having a shot and fainting afterwards. A trip to the ER and an IV are not a good idea for her when she is already so weak and miserable. After the experiences I've had, I figure the only time the ER is worthwhile is if you are already unconscious, or if you are actually bleeding out. I believe that it is best to avoid the ER whenever possible.

Can I just say it is SO FRUSTRATING when you know exactly what your child needs, and you know how to do it, but you cannot because you are five stinking hours away? Long ago, the nurse at our pediatrician's office taught me how to handle this situation, and we have gone through the steps approximately once a year since then. You give her a teaspoon of water. Then you set the timer for 20 minutes. When it goes off, you give her another teaspoon of water (no more, no less). You do this for an hour. At the end of an hour, you start setting the timer for 15 minutes instead of 20. At the end of another hour, if she has kept everything down, you let her take two teaspoons of water. You do this for another hour (two teaspoons every fifteen minutes), and if she continues to keep it down, you can give her 2-3 tablespoons of Gatorade. If she keeps that down for a half hour, you give her 1/4 cup (two ounces) of Gatorade, and then you let her sleep until she wakes up.

It is time consuming. It takes the better part of the day after the night of sickness. You are a slave to the timer, and you have to keep waking her up. But it is the thing that gets her to stop vomiting, the only thing.

The nurse at Health Services did not have time to do this for my daughter. So I made the commitment to call her myself at the appropriate intervals and tell her to take sips (she didn't have a teaspoon to measure--in the old days, we actually used one of those medicine measuring spoons with the hollow handle).

My phone has had a broken hinge. After about two calls to Laura this morning, my phone broke into two pieces and became utterly unusable. So I just had to use the land line, which, although it costs a bit more, was a serviceable alternative.

Then Laura's phone died. We had made it through the hour of one teaspoon every twenty minutes, and through the hour of one teaspoon every fifteen minutes. We were just getting into the hour of two teaspoons every fifteen minutes when her phone died, and nobody has yet had a chance to get her charger to her.

It is out of my hands now. The last time I talked to her, I knew her phone was dying, so I gave her instructions for what to do next. She sounded more alert and a little less sick-out-of-her-mind the last two times I spoke to her. I think she might be able to stay awake and keep the system going. Of course, with her phone dead, she can't even use the alarm on it to signal herself.

Can I just say, this is one of the most terrible feelings. Not as bad as when Shannon was stuck in the Chicago subway system at 1 a.m., I'll give you that. But it is terrible when you think your child is in the hands of well-meaning people who are going to take her to the hospital and stick her full of needles when you know exactly, EXACTLY, how to prevent that from happening.

I am shot, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

On a bright note, DJ seems to be doing better. His new PCP said that we might even find the bronchoscopy to be mildly therapeutic, and I believe we did. The rinses they spray as they are taking samples of the secretions in the lungs are a soothing saline solution that actually clears things out a bit.

The results from the procedure were good but unhelpful. In other words, nothing showed up that needs treatment, which also means that nothing showed up that can be treated. He has thick, clear secretions that congest him. Period. Whatever. So he continues to take asthma meds and Mucinex, and "push fluids." He recently started to get a cold. Almost 100% of the time "starting to get a cold" becomes bronchitis before the drop of a hat. DJ upped his vitamin D and prayed, and he actually seems to be fighting it off. Knowing his body is at a point to do that is even more encouraging than not getting sick at all. Of course, his new semester started today, so we will see.

Did I mention that I am shot?


Hope T. said...

I find it so hard to carry the weight of everyone in the family. Maybe that is not what is actually happening but it certainly feels like I am carrying everyone, even when they are "grown-up" (my oldest is officially an adult now but it does not end). It is exhausting.

I can identify somewhat with your daughter's troubles. I am a fainter, too (I've fainted in the craziest situations) and I have found something that helps when it comes to needles. When I have to have blood drawn, I put ice on my wrists. In the absence of ice, I find that holding my fingers in a cup of very cold water works, too. I try to do this while being as reclined as possible.This would work for IVs, too, IF I was not dehydrated. Trying to get an IV while dehydrated is just...well.. no words for that. I am glad your daughter did not have to do it.

I hope she is feeling much better today and that you are too. (Coconut water, which is different from coconut milk, is the best re-hydrating liquid ever!)

Ruth said...

Yes, she does feel better. Thanks! I think she has actually been reading my blog since she went away to college, so she will probably see your hint about the ice/cold water. I've never heard of that, but it is certainly worth trying.

I doubt if she can get coconut water in the little PA farm town where she is. She'll have to make do with water and Gatorade. :)

Ruth MacC said...

You poor woman... Nooone knows their kids more than the mother. Sean had been to school last week for four days, had two late n ights and is home today (and I asuspect for the next couple of days too) with a cold, very sore throat and of course his asthma has kicked in. I have him in the sitting room in his pj's, on the sofa with the fire lit and minding him for the day. There's not much elas I can do but be here and comfort him a bit.

Thanks for your visit Ruth. Good to hear from you.