Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shoo flu, don't bother me

So many things happened today; it's all kind of a blur.

I remember waking up this morning after I'd gotten Benjamin to fall asleep in my arms for an entire half hour and saying to Andrew, "I can't do this! I can't do this again!"

Benjamin's been crying for about five days now, nearly non-stop. Something had to be done. I can't pull another all-nighter.

Technically Andrew was supposed to go to campus for a seminar today before his class but instead he called the doctor and made an appointment while I held the wailing baby. I spent the morning at the doctor's office with Benjamin and Andrew spent the morning at home with Miriam (but he also wrote a paper so it wasn't like his morning was a complete waste).

We had several doctors milling around Benjamin within minutes of arriving at the clinic. It's like there're a couple of medical schools in the area and a surplus of doctors hoping to get some experience or something. Three doctors listened to his chest with a stethoscope. Two doctors looked in his ears with the otoscope. They listened to him cough. They asked a million questions.

They came to the conclusion that it was probably the flu and he'd probably be alright if they just sent him home with a tamiflu prescription but that it might already be pneumonia so they'd better take some x-rays (just in case).

The x-ray technician was an old southern man. He welcomed me into the sterile, cold x-ray room with its harsh warning signs on the door in the most hospitable way he could muster.

"Oh! He don't miss no meals!" he crooned at Benjamin. Everyone notices that Benjamin is a rather chubby baby. "How big was he when he was born?"

"Well, he was premature so he was actually pretty scrawny."

"You'd never guess that now!" he said.

Unless you saw his chart with the big fat zeros in the percentile column. He's not big; he's just chunky.

Today he tipped the scales at 15 lbs 8.7 oz. (they weighed him naked this time) which is in the 6th percentile! But he's only 24.8 inches long, which is ridiculously short (0.00%, his chart says).

So, yes, Benjamin is chubby. But when people tell me that he "must be big for his age" or anything else like that I secretly snicker at them, knowing that he's still wearing 0-3 month clothes (though admittedly those are getting a little snug).

"Has he ever had a chest x-ray done?" the technician asked me.

"He has, but it was when he was first born. I wasn't there so..."

"Oh, well, we're just going to put him in this," he said, pointing to the most freakishly antiquated bit of machinery I have ever set eyes on outside of a museum—a PIGG-O-STAT (and from the looks of things, an original—if it ain't broke...).

"Just slip his legs in either on of these holes," I was instructed, "And then lift his arms above his head."

The technician clipped a plastic tube around Benjamin's torso, effectively pinning his arms above his head. He looked a little mortified, and I'm sure I did, too. "If you've never used one or seen one, they look like some sort of dark-age torture device," says blogger and radiology technician Jeremy Enfinger.

"Now just stand there and hold his hands, but don't comfort him. I need to take pictures while he's screaming so just shove that maternal instinct aside."

I did my best. It helped that Benjamin couldn't see me—he couldn't even turn his head—but then when Benjamin's body was rotated around so the technician could get a good shot of his side, Benjamin calmed right down. He still looked a trifled panicked about his situation but seemed to take courage in knowing that Mommy was right there.

"Hmmm..." the technician hmmmed. "You can let go of his hands now. Just say 'bye-bye' and walk away. That's right."

Benjamin started wailing again, making a nice picture for his second x-ray.

"Back in the old days we used to have the mommies pinch their babies' feet to get 'em to cry if they wouldn't," the technician told me (he might have come with the PIGG-O-STAT when it was the 1940s). "But we can't do that now. We don't do that now," he added quickly. "That's why I had you hold his hands until he stopped crying—so that when I had you step away he'd cry again."

Separation anxiety as a tool. I'm not sure that's less cruel than pinching.

Anyway, to make a long story short, no one at the clinic saw anything definitive in the x-rays so they were sent to a radiologist just to make sure there's nothing hiding in his lungs and making him miserable. Because he was premature and had respiratory issues in his early months they sent us home with a prescription for tamiflu, just to get things cleared up a little faster.

Tonight at dinner Rachel asked me if I grew up in the olden days. I asked her what she meant by olden days. She said, "Like the pioneers."

"Oh, no," I said. "Then I didn't grow up in the olden days. In fact, I didn't grow up that long ago at all."

I remember thinking my mom grew up in the olden days—I was amazed when my grandma brought out some pencil crayons for us to colour with when we were at her house one day and they were labeled with the names of my mother and her siblings. I remember thinking how old those pencil crayons must be, but I still have a case full of old pencil crayons, labeled with my name, that the girls get into.

I never knew a time when girls couldn't wear pants to school. My mom did.

And she had a "party line" for a telephone. And her mother grew up without indoor plumbing.

I wonder what Rachel finds odd about my olden days. Today I was thinking that the flu might be one of them. When I was a girl and you got the flu—that was it! You just had to live through the pain and agony for a week or more. It was a virus so there was nothing you could do about it. Nothing can be done about viruses.

But look at us now—if you get the flu you can go to the doctor and get a magic pill that will make you feel better much sooner than if you just wait the flu out.

It's still a strange idea to me, that you would go to the doctor because you're suffering from the flu and that the doctor can make the flu go away—not just treat symptoms like dehydration or fever or such; it actually fights the flu. So weird.

Here's hoping it helps Benjamin feel better. He and I got a good nap in this afternoon but he still stayed up crying until 11:00 or so this evening, silly guy. I can't wait for all my children (and, um, me (and Andrew, too, I suppose) to be healthy again!


  1. Oooh, be careful with Tamiflu! Not to scare you, but that stuff made Miriam vomit like crazy and it made Magdalena cry for a week. I know all kids can have different reactions to medicines but I am against Tamiflu if it can be avoided.

  2. Just to clarify about me growing up and the no indoor plumbing thing--I definitely grew up with indoor plumbing, though I was the first child in my family to be potty-trained in an actual bathroom. Sometime between my birth and when I can remember, my parents put a bathroom in. However, my friend Bernadette was about 16 before her parents did the same. This was not because we lived in a primitive time without indoor plumbing, because it was weird not to have a bathroom. It was just the logistics of doing it on remote farms, where you have to build a septic tank system, and where the water comes from a cistern or well and not from a town's culinary water system. Actually, even my mother grew up with indoor plumbing, while my dad did not. Same issue: town versus remote farm. Just to clarify.

  3. Also, Patrick got an herbal tea called "Throat Coat" which is excellent for cold/flu.

  4. Oh the Traditional Medicinals tea it! Sorry that you guys have been so sick! That sounds miserable. I had pneumonia when I was two and actually remember being put in that little contraption and my mom walking out of the room. It was a recurring nightmare I had for years. I walked into a radiology lab about ten years ago, saw the thing and started shaking. So there you go. Hopefully Benjamin will not be equally traumatized :) I think about that with chicken pox all the time. I remember when ever kid got them, now it is so rare. That being said I don't have a lot of memories of having the flu when I was a kid. I wonder if our increased global travel has exasperated the rates of flu epidemics.

  5. Actually, I was talking to Josie, and she said that I should mention the whole traumatization thing to you--David had a very traumatic birth and was a bit of a nervous wreck for about a year. Really prone to crying, upset really easily. Benjamin had a rather difficult start to life, too. I think that is something that you don't get over very easily. And then, we you start to feel sick, I would think it would make you panicky. But you can't talk about it, so you cry. And cry and cry and cry. And wail. And cry some more...