Friday, 6 May 2016

Jingle Dog

In Canada this week, the papers have been full of the trial and conviction of the father and mother whose nineteen-month-old son died of meningitis because they thought he had croup, and, believing in natural remedies, gave him mixtures containing horse radish, garlic, and onions, among other things before consulting with a naturopath. By the time they realized the severity of the little boy's illness and took him to hospital, he was beyond medical help.

Well, you can imagine the debate, and the largely unhelpful comments accompanying the online articles, mostly along the lines of:  "How could they not know how sick he was?"

The Resident Fan Boy and I know all too well how imperceptibly illness can creep up on a small body.  The week after elder daughter turned six, younger daughter slid quietly into lassitude.  She didn't seem seriously sick, but she kept drifting off to sleep.  We'd find her sprawled across the living room carpet where she had been playing, the cat sitting on guard beside her.

Our regular family physician was on holiday, but the locum was attentive.  I think we took younger daughter to the doctor's office three times that week as she failed to improve - or worsen.

That Friday, I was observing an ESL teaching practicum, a nicely flexible job that I did for the university.  The Resident Fan Boy stayed home from his work to take younger daughter to the doctor, as we'd prearranged as a follow-up to the previous appointment.  I returned from the morning class to find the house empty and a message on the answering machine.  The locum had sent them straight to the hospital.

I frantically starting throwing clothes, diapers, and other supplies into a packsack, weeping to myself:  "Oh my little darling, she'll be so frightened!"

The RFB knew I'd arrived when the nurse informed him that his daughter's grandmother had come.  For some reason, she thought she should repeat this story to me as she led me through the corridors.  I had no time to be irritated; younger daughter, flopped against the RFB's shoulder, caught sight of me, and started arching backwards, crying out and reaching for me.  I automatically lunged toward her, and as I took her in my arms, she sagged bonelessly against me, clinging to my neck.  She was clad only in a diaper and already hooked up to an IV.

When I placed her in the crib in her hospital room, I rummaged in the bag I'd flung together, and produced Jingle Dog, a favourite toy that one of my English cousins had given her the previous autumn.  It was the first time I'd seen her smile in a week.

The RFB went home to resume care for elder daughter, and I spent the night snatching sleep on the love-seat next to younger daughter's crib, not quite having the nerve to try to crawl in with her.  In the morning, the nurses discovered that she liked Pedialyte popsicles, and soon took her off the IV drip.  Late that afternoon, after a very long wait for a doctor to sign her out, we took her home.

All through their childhoods, we vaccinated our daughters and took them to doctors regularly.  I'm not sure that makes us superior parents; we still slid into this crisis doing all the "right" things.  We were lucky - younger daughter came home from the hospital. I do know people who do not vaccinate and who distrust doctors, like the mother and father who have lost their son.  None of these people are stupid or uncaring.

It's just hard to grasp how gradually, then how quickly, things can go wrong.

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