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August 25, 2002

Annoying the Wife - Chapter 9

Disease of the Week.

"How come it's always' me getting thrown up on?" she asked plaintively, pulling on her fifth shirt of the day.

Best not to attempt an answer to that, really. It would end up being some variation of the "you're a vomit magnet" theme, and I already know that's not particularly appreciated. Untrue in any case, as I myself was on the third outfit of the day.

Amazing the difference 8 hours can make. Happy playful energetic toddler at bedtime turns into limp, oozing thirty pound bag of plague by the morning. Touchy huggy parents now swaddle her in layers of towels, wash constantly and obsess over every inadvertent contact.

"Crap. Her hand touched my lips." Now I am doomed. Soon I will be throwing up a clear liquid, one that oozes from my nostrils as easily as it does my mouth. Soon I will have the thousand yard stare, gazing through everything in front of me as if the world had turned to crystal.

The stare was what worried her mother the most. Nothing removed the blankness in her eyes. Not Elmo, not Wiggles, not Baby Doolittle. Nothing roused her as she lay in my lap, staring unblinking at the ceiling, moving only to breath or to puke up the pitiful remnants of fluid still in her stomach.

"I found a mosquito bite on her arm last night."

"She doesn't have West Nile."

"She has all the symptoms."

"Honey, she has all the symptoms of e.coli. Remember that Russian kid who crapped all over the side of the baby pool yesterday? She's throwing up and has a fever. She could have a million things."

"You think she has E. COLI!!"

Stupid, stupid man. Why don't you talk about the hepatitis A just down the road next? Perhaps you could season the conversation with a soupcon of leukemia.

"No I don't think she has e.coli. I think she caught something from the new kid kid at daycare. I'll call the nurse's hotline and see what they say."

"I hate the nurse's hotline."

"I know, that's why I said I'd call them. You don't have to."

It's not the nurse's fault. It's the way the damn thing works. Parents who aren't thinking about taking their kid to the hospital don't call the hotline. Mr. Freakout the Panic Man isn't actually in the house yet, but he's pulled in the driveway and opened up the car door to get out. It's a black car, Ford's new Mustang Hearse convertible.

When we do call the hotline, we don't actually get to speak to a human. We speak to a machine that instructs us to leave our number s-l-o-w-l-y and c-l-e-a-r-l-y and don't forget the a-r-e-a c-o-d-e. At some point thereafter the answering service in charge of the g-o-d-d-a-m-n m-a-c-h-i-n-e calls us back, verifies that yes, we do indeed have a baby on death's door, and tells us in a irritated, why did you drag me away from my Soap Opera channel marathon? voice that they will contact the nurse on call, who will get back in touch with us just after the wake.

Fortunately, the nurse on duty called us back in something less than geologic time. I described Ngnat's symptoms, all the while struggling not to mention West Nile. Must. Not. Look. Like. Hypochondriac. Dad. In. Front. Of. Total. Stranger. Yes there was something going around. They'd been taking calls about it all morning.

"Has she been able to keep anything down?"


"What have you been giving her?"

"Water. Apple Juice. Chirren's Tyrenol."

I could feel her disapproval emanating from the cordless. Apple juice? You gave her apple juice and medicine? Are you barbarians?

"Sir, what we need to do now is give her stomach a rest. No apple juice, and no medicine. You may give her a tablespoon of water every ten minutes, or she can suck on ice chips. No food for 8 hours. If she keeps the water down, you can give her more." Her tone indicated a belief that this was a task beyond our abilities, that the next time she heard from us would be because we had inadvertently set the child on fire.

I thanked her for her emasculation of our parenting abilities, hung up and went back downstairs

"Did you ask her about West Nile?"

"No, I didn't ask her about West Nile! She doesn't have West Nile! The nurse said there was something going around and to give her ice chips every 10 minutes."

"Ice chips?"

"Yes, ice chips. And a tablespoon of water a table spoon of water so she won't get dehydrated."

"How do you know if she's dehydrated?"

"I don't know. Look at her lips or something."

"I should've talked to her."

"You hate talking to the nurses!"

"Well, I hate you talking to them more."

At this point Ngnat decided to move for the first time in the last four hours, sliding off her mother's lap and lying face down on the carpet. The sainted wife and mother scurried off for ice chips, and I spread blankets out into a rough mattress on the floor. Ngnat lay there for the next five hours, sucking on ice ships and occasionally puking up water until we put her to bed.

When she got up this morning, her mother asked her how she felt.

"I had a good night, Mommy," she said, and promptly threw up.

Update: That seemed to have been the last of it, though. She's kept water, Sprite, crackers, toast and Gerber Graduate Fruit Juice Snacks "The snack food you give your child when they aren't old enough for Starbursts" down since this morning, so her mother is not longer worried about her. Now she's convinced we'll both wake up ill tomorrow, unable to move from the pool of sick in the master bed, as a healthy Ngnat wanders around the house with a pair of steak knives, prying at the electrical sockets.

In other words, things are back to normal.

Posted by Bigwig at August 25, 2002 03:14 PM | TrackBack
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