living happily

Janus in Fragments

After some unbloggable unpleasantness last week, I thought at least I knew what January had in store for me this year, but no! Simone, not content to confine herself to one illness at a time, has both CROUP! and pneumonia. This is not the you-won’t-even-know-I’m-here pneumonia a person just walks around with, either. She is miserable. I am miserable (and getting sick again myself, yes).

We’d been up with CROUP! for a few nights, and the first one was awful, as Simone has never properly had CROUP! before, and so when she started in with the CROUP!CROUP!CROUP! cough it startled me to tears—but eventually also to Google, which calmed me and oversaw the humidifying of the baby. The days weren’t bad, and I assume that when things went awry it was because of the pneumonia, so I think the key is to put your foot down: either CROUP! or pneumonia. One or the other, kid, you can’t have both. Because I’m your mother, that’s why. Well, LIFE isn’t fair.

Simone went listless and mewling around 10am, and by afternoon I was on the phone reporting 60 breaths a minute and retractions between her ribs in the back. We spent most of the day in the Short Stay Unit attached to the ER. It was nightmarish. Simone was limp and heavy and dripping with snot and the tissues were like steel wool on the red, raw Hitler’s-moustache of skin under her nose. Having lost what slim measure of reason she’d possessed, she screamed and thrashed upon being forced to surrender her pajamas for hospital attire, face cherry-colored and gasping. Then she slept and cried and slept and coughed and after some stridor and retractions netted her an attachment to the familiar monitor I watched her sats hover at a perfectly acceptable but not exactly usual or award-winning 94.

“Just CROUP!” they said, giving her a stiff drink of Decadron. Bark worse than its bite! Chest x-ray only a formality! It was only after more hoarse hysterical screaming, as Simone was strapped down for said formality, that we found out about the pneumonia.

The monitors were exactly the same as those in the NICU, and I slipped back into watching the third row on the screen as if I’d never stopped. 94, 95, 93, 94. I guess it’s like riding a bike. I watched the SHIT out of that monitor, I’m telling you.

When I had stopped watching it for a few moments and heard a muffled bell I snapped my head around to see what alarm had triggered, and when there was nothing on the monitor I looked around the room wildly, I’m not certain for what. It turned out to be a far-off telephone ringing, and Scott laughed at me. He’d made a joke earlier about my monitor-watching, and it underscored for a moment how different were our experiences of Simone’s time in the NICU.

We go to that hospital all the time, for ordinary appointments, but coming in through the parking garage and walking past my perinatologist’s darkened office I had a sick, flashback-y feeling I’d almost forgotten. I suppose because of the date, or maybe just the season. Three years ago we were two days out from hearing that Ames was dead, returning to the hospital for contractions and cervical measurements, all while I felt a muted horror that I have never been able to adequately describe but that is weirdly linked for me with the ugliness of the ruts of dirty snow and slush frozen in the street every year at this time, and the strange flat quality of the daylight now. If you haven’t been anywhere like Minnesota in mid-January, it’s hard to explain how it is dark and bright both at once—the brightness doesn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular, it’s secondhand, from reflections off the snow, and everything is washed out to the same blank yesterday’s-bathwater-y hue.

Some other time, maybe Tuesday
Let’s see, to catch you up: the croup was the first to surrender, but lack of competition only emboldened the pneumonia, and Simone carried on looking like, as Scott said, something out of a Death Metal publicity shot. (I would have gone with my beloved FDR during his last sickly panda days, but whichever image works for you.) Her fever went up again (precisely the opposite direction I had instructed), and she began breathing quickly, which is how I came to be counting her respirations every 15 minutes using my iPhone as a stopwatch. If her respirations per minute are still over 50 one hour from now, I have to call the nurse and presumably hounds will be loosed. Maybe we haven’t escaped the spectre of hospital admission after all. If not, while we’re there I would like my throat removed and replaced with a titanium hatch.

Later
It seems that the rapid breathing is Simone’s own doing, not the pneumonia’s—she’s all stuffed up so she doesn’t breathe for a bit and then takes a dozen in!out!in!out! breaths to catch up, like she used to do. It’s a rather stupid way to go about breathing, if you ask me, but I don’t like to interfere. By which I mean I am too sick to interfere. I’m just glad I get to stay on the couch.

Later still
When your child’s vim becomes vigorous again just as your own takes an unscheduled leave, it is hard not to be suspicious.

Likely two days after that. Or three? Now I’m all mixed up.
The day Simone began to seem reassuringly well, I woke up…not. I managed to have the vague suspicion I mentioned, that Simone was drawing upon my life force, strengthening herself at my expense, but that was the extent of my mental output for the next 48 hours. I was too ill to sleep, read, or even watch television. It was like the early part of labor, where the contractions are bad enough to keep you from concentrating on anything else, but not so bad and/or frequent that they become your whole world and thus obliterate your ability to think about how bad they are. I had the presence of mind to point out to myself every few seconds how AWFUL I felt, but that was about it. I took to my bed, where I took my temperature (101!) and wondered what would become of me in this state if I were single. I decided I’d probably die. If I were a single parent, Simone would likely go feral and join the cats as a member of their pack, feasting upon my corpse and napping in a patch of sunlight. I reflected upon how drastically illness can change one’s attitude toward one’s spouse. Maybe before you got sick, you were not feeling particularly impressed by his performance, but the person who brings you Fresca and keeps the baby civilized seems suddenly like a god among men.

Then I went to the doctor because while I was pretty sure I didn’t have meningitis (despite my worrying neck stiffness and headache) you can never be too certain, and even if it wasn’t meningitis I knew I wasn’t likely to survive another day of it, whatever it was. When I finally straggled into the clinic, I hadn’t even bothered to put on a bra, which should tell you something right there. During my wait in the exam room I put my head on the desk a few times, and considered crawling up onto the paper-covered exam table to lay lie lay down recline restfully, but it seemed like an awful lot of work to get over there and then there would be climbing, so in the end I decided it was best to stay where I was.

(TIP! If you mumble, pitiably “It feels just like someone beat me around the face and head with a sack of nickels,” expect some concerned looks. Do not expect to allay this concern by adding “Not that I know what it feels like to be beaten with nickels. Or anything, for that matter!” especially when your attempt to smile turns into a sharp breath and grimace of pain.)

(DID YOU KNOW? Sinus infections, if severe enough, can make your teeth, ears, and even your hair hurt.)

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