On Monday night, as we wrapped up Oli’s big boy bike and presents, we struggled to get him to sleep. Not because he was showing signs of any illness, but because he was so excited, he proclaimed he just ‘could not sleep’. I went to bed just after ten and could hear Oli talking, so I got up to see if he had walked through to the lounge to go look for his presents. He was still in his bed, but was talking deliriously and then told me his stomach was sore and he needed to vomit. My reaction – you have got to be kidding me. You see, last year Oli had Hand, Foot and Mouth on his birthday, and the year before that he was off school on his birthday with bronchitis – notice the pattern? I was gutted that once again he was going to miss his birthday celebrations. As the night progressed, the vomiting increased. Every twenty minutes. Sip of water, vomit. And so it went. He was in so much pain. Around 05h00, when I realised we were definitely not getting any more sleep, we tried to lift his spirits with presents. We sang to him, showed him his balloons and his gifts but he was too weak to open anything himself so we opened everything for him.
Usually the bugs the kids catch are 12 to 24 hour bugs. I stayed off work that day with him, I wasn’t prepared to leave him on his birthday and especially not in that state. He didn’t keep down the dry toast, or apple, or rehydrate. At lunch time when Dyl called to check on him he decided we needed to get him to casualty. I’m always scared of ‘crying wolf’ – having the casualty doctor’s roll their eyes at a case that doesn’t require urgent medical attention, but when Oli started hitting his head with his hands to stop the ‘noise inside his head’ I began packing his bags. He was literally writhing in pain – this was the photo I sent Dyl as he raced to get home.
I still had to fetch Soph from school so Dyl rushed him to Olivedale. The diagnosis he called me with twenty minutes later had me feel two things: it sucked the breath straight out of my lungs, and altogether made me feel like the worst mother in the world. Meningitis. I thought it was ‘just a bug’ that would pass as every other one had.
Thank God, my sister was able to leave work early to come and watch Soph for me while I raced to the hospital. By the time I got there, whatever medicine cocktail they had given him had clearly had some effect. He seemed high as a kite. Happy. Eating! By the time our paed had arrived and checked him out he gave us some very welcome news – it was not meningitis, but a ‘super bug’ that has been making it’s rounds. Since the drugs, he was now able to move his head and bend his neck, as well as move his legs, which on admission he could not do. He couldn’t even walk. The poor kid told everyone that would listen that it was his birthday, and could he please just go home. Could he please just celebrate his birthday. Dyl stayed with him that night and I went home to Soph. I was finished. My poor baby was having his first hospitalisation on his 6th birthday. Sometime after 11h00 when I eventually closed my eyes, I woke to a 2am text from Dyl to say he was vomiting again. After that, I was awake – again. As a mother, having your child sick, and feeling absolutely helpless is nothing short of torture.
On Wednesday, Oli’s much anticipated ‘Toothless the Dragon’ cupcakes went to school without him. I wasn’t going to let them go to waste, they were far too special a creation to spoil. Oli sobbed when I told him his friends were enjoying them at school while he was still stuck in hospital. Cue more sobs when I told him we had to postpone his Carnival Party. At this stage I couldn’t risk a new symptom cropping up, or more vomiting, and, totally unbeknownst to me his sister would begin with the same bug a few hours later. What I’ve realised – postponing a party is as much work as planning one. I sat in the arm chair next to his hospital bed and made a list of all the vendors, and suppliers, entertainment and rentals and people I needed to let know we were rescheduling the party. The last thing I wanted to do was let anyone down, but my child’s health comes first, no exceptions. After a call from the school to go and fetch a vomiting Buggy, and a couple of hours of laundry, scrubbing, mopping and generally exorcizing our house in Dettol, one piece of good news came – Oli had passed the 12-hour no vomit mark and would be discharged later that evening. Praise the Lord.
With his hospital admission came a missed birthday, so many tears and guilt-ridden moments, as well as another couple of nurses being added to his invite list. Oli has invited all the nurses of the Olivedale Paediatric Ward to the Carnival in two weeks’ time. With all of this also came hundreds of prayers, messages from all over the world, offers to baby sit Soph, to fetch and carry her to school, for the offers of groceries, warm home-cooked meals, offers to visit Oli in hospital, for the parcel arriving in the hospital from my wonderful boss and colleagues that arrived just in time to salvage a smile (the teddy in the picture above was a part of the parcel). A friend, going through so much more than we were, visited twice in one day, bringing a very thoughtful gift to a Lightning McQueen-obsessed little boy. To my sister, who braved the germs, watched Sophie, and fed us a warm meal. Thank you, to everyone. Situations like these truly show you who’s in your corner, who’s the ‘village’ around you, and how blessed we felt. For all the missed calls, answered calls between vomits, and thoughts – we appreciate every single one.
It was a very (un) Happy Birthday, but we’ve promised Oli that on the 26th we’ll dedicate an entire new birthday to him this year. He will get his Carnival.