Tag Archives: A&E

Tumbling into a pothole of offspring illness

So there I am, walking briskly along the uneven path of parenting, stepping lightly over the weeds of disobedience, swerving gracefully to avoid the cracks of stubbornness, and oops, before I know it, I have tumbled into a pothole of offspring illness. Damn, damn and thrice damn.

B, who had been coughing like a hardened 20-a-dayer, developed an ear infection over the weekend. Obviously, being the caring parents that we are, did nothing whatsoever about this until Monday, when the doctor confirmed that B was definitely unwell and not just having a grump (my own first attempt at diagnosis). I have a vague recollection of looking at B on Saturday, falling over for the fifth time that morning, with his flushed cheeks and slightly red eyes and thinking ‘blimey, I wonder if he has an ear infection?’ And then, because I am pretty sure my maternal instinct was removed by accident when I had my C-Section, I dismissed such folly and put it down to teething. I swear, if I see my son with a limb hanging off and a fence post through his torso, I shall attribute it to teething.

And, being those aforementioned caring parents, we took him to nursery the next day. I entered reception looking like I was about to open a pop-up pharmacy, cradling Calpol, antibiotics and ibuprofen in my arms and making B walk as there was no room left for him to hitch a lift. He waved forlornly at me as I left him in the baby room, and walking back to the car I mentally docked myself 100 points from the league of great parents. Which meant I was currently running at a 342,800 point deficit. Shit, I am going to have to pull my finger out and do some serious Lego tower building to recover from this.

I drove off to my meeting, thinking happy thoughts about him being absolutely fine, but cringing every time the phone rang in case it was nursery telling me that B had taken a turn for the worse. But give my son his due, he did last until about 4pm, at which point he surrendered to his temperature and started to heat up like a hot thing in hot land, sitting on a Bunsen burner in a set of thermals.

We gave him a bath of Calpol and a spoon of cool water, sorry, a bath of cool water and a spoon of Calpol (although I am not convinced that the former would not be more effective), fried a couple of eggs on his forehead for our tea and got him to bed. All was quiet for three hours. Perhaps he is over the worst, we thought. As parents of two children, we should know bloody better by now, but no. Go to stupidity jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200 or any sleep. By half past ten, B was awake. And when I say awake, I mean screaming inconsolably. We cuddled, we stroked, we sang, we walked, we Calpoled…

 (Oh yeah, get me, I have just made Calpol into a verb. To Calpol verb: to administer strawberry loveliness to a minor. If the language pedants amongst you are struggling with this, I suggest you pour yourself a large glass of Calpol and relax a bit).

…but to no avail. B was rasping, struggling with short, rapid, shallow breaths that made us distinctly nervous.

“Shall I take him to A&E?” I venture with a grimace. I shudder involuntarily as I remember the last time I went and spent four hours waiting to be seen, at which point I was told to just go home.

We do what parents do when they are totally out of their depth and have a potentially very sick child on their hands: we act decisively and swiftly. Oh no, wait a minute, that must have been another, more competent set of parents. My mistake. What we do is stare at each other, then at B, then back at each other again, as if we can conjure the solution from between us, just by tracing an invisible line of magical answer-giving triangulation. After a while it becomes apparent that the sofa cushion is not going to spring to life and give us any medical advice, so we escalate our focus from the cushion to NHS Direct.

I approach the call with trepidation, since the last time I phoned about E having what I suspected was the Noro virus I was told to keep feeding him normally, including curry. There spoke a woman who was not going to be responsible for the ensuing clean up operation. Well, actually, there spoke a woman who did not have a bloody clue and was reading it off a screen, but let’s not be picky. But they were remarkably good, and arranged for a doctor to call us. We waited for forty five minutes, watching our son rasp and wheeze as he tried desperately to find a comfortable position on M’s lap. Eventually, I spoke to the doctor, who asked me all the same questions, agreed with me that it could be a chest infection, warned me not to use his puffer too much in case he became tachycardic (I am sorry, did I just wander onto the set of bloody Casualty? How am I supposed to know what that means? Oh, fast heart rate, you say? Well, why not tell me that in the first place, you knob?) and didn’t answer the only question that I actually had:

“Do you think it is safest to take him to A&E?”

“Well, it’s up to you.”

“I know, but given that you have had seven years medical training and I struggle to apply a plaster correctly, I was kind of thinking you might have a better idea than me.” Okay, I did not say this. But I thought it. Really loudly, Whilst grinding my teeth.

He did leave me with a very comforting thought though. He said that with young children, they can go downhill into a more serious condition very, very quickly. Ooh, super. You know, I had approximately one atom of my being that was not being consumed by anxiety up until that point, so thanks, Doctor Knob, for coming to my rescue there.

Well over an hour after this whole debacle began, we were back where we started, pondering an A&E trip. B, meanwhile, was so pissed off with our inability to make him feel any better, he had dozed off, at which point we thought sleep would be a better cure than four hours in a hot, noisy A&E., so we  decided to break the cardinal rule of the household and let him sleep with us so we could hear him breathing.

And so there we ended up, M and I flanking B, who laid on top of the duvet in his vest to get the full effect of the fan I had rigged up to cool him down. I was sodding freezing, but moaning felt a little churlish, so I kept my own counsel, the effort of which was quite something. B decided the only way he was going to sleep was to grind his head into my windpipe until my neck was at snapping point and I had a curiously close up view of the headboard. Not my position of choice for a sound night’s sleep, it has to be said. Stoically (okay, I was thinking some terrible, sweary things about my current predicament, but given I said none of them out loud I can still play to stoicism card, I reckon) I put up with this until 2am, at which point I could bear it no longer and gently passed the baton, I mean, boy, to M. I stared at the headboard a little longer, as my neck had seemingly frozen, and spent the next three hours in that weird semi-awake state where a small but insistent part of your brain is screaming “Don’t Sleep! You have a sick child! He could stop breathing for all you know! Stay awake you bitch! Don’t you dare close your eyes!”

It was almost a blessing when B roused himself at 5am to start the day, and I never thought I would hear myself say that. My limbs had been filled with concrete, my eyelids stuffed with grit, my brain had leaked out of an unspecified orifice and looming ahead was a call to the doctor’s surgery where I would be told I was eighth in the queue, behind an octogenarian who was going to give a full medical history of her varicose veins. I tell you something about falling into this pothole of offspring illness. It’s bloody cramped, it smells a bit and I think it has made me little tachycardic. Oh yes, in your face, Doctor Knob.

Not the V Word

We continue to live in the House of Plagues. I am considering daubing a big red cross on the front door, to warn people that herein lies every known – and no doubt some unknown – lurgy. It reached its nadir late last week, about nine in the evening. B awoke, screaming like his willy was on fire, and we rushed up to see what was going on. Between screams he was coughing like a Marlboro smoker, and between that he was gasping for breath. This, we concluded through a shared glance above his head as he writhed in M’s arms, was officially Not Good. After another couple of episodes of B seemingly not being able to get air into his lungs, all talk of NHS Direct was gone and A&E seemed the only option.

We had a quick game of ‘Who has drunk the least?’, which, it turns out, was me. Damn. I flew round the house packing a bag with essentials (I looked longingly at the bottle of red, but decided against it) and bundled B into the car, giving him a quick puff of the inhaler he was given for his last cough, just for good luck.

I arrive at A&E, having spend an inordinate amount of money for the privilege of parking my car, and go up to one of the receptionists. Explaining that my son was struggling to breathe, she peers over the desk at B in his pram, who gives her a little smile. For fuck’s sake. She looks back at me, and I know exactly what she is thinking: paranoid time waster. She picks up my form and sticks a green sticker on the front. I am pretty sure I know exactly what that means too: paranoid time waster. Mind you, the man next to me has hurt his elbow, and has waited three weeks to see if it would heal before deciding he can’t carry on a moment longer and has come in to get it sorted. I guess there is just not much on the TV right now.

I go through to children’s A&E with a sinking feeling, pondering if that green sticker means I am in for a bloody long wait. B is triaged by a lovely nurse and a not so lovely man of unspecified medical training who asks me if B’s tummy is always that big, the cheeky shit, and then we  take a seat in a very crowded waiting room.  I play a bit of ‘Whose disease is it anyway’ with the variety of kids and babies around the room, musing on an article I read that morning about an adage that doctor’s apparently have to remind them to look for the most obvious cause of the complaint rather than something more exotic: when you hear hooves, assume it is a horse, not a zebra. Quite frankly, if it’s hooves they are hearing there’s a high possibility that they have trained as vets, the morons.

And still we wait. One couple with a young baby have brought the grandparents along, and are having a merry old time taking up half the bloody waiting room, talking loudly and finding this an ideal time to share cute videos of their offspring on their phones. A little boy is moaning incessantly, which is already getting right on my tits, and B is getting bored of sitting on my lap, so I am forced to stand up and jig him around. And we wait a bit more.

An hour comes and goes in a jigging-pacing-sighing blur. B is getting more fractious by the moment, wailing the second I have the audacity to sit down or try to lower him into the pram. So I pace and jig, jig and pace. The only excitement is when the nurse comes into the waiting room to call the next patient. There should be a drum roll… will it be me? Are we next? She opens her mouth… the waiting room takes a collective breath in with anticipation… no. We are not next. Of course we are not bloody next, we have a green sticker on our form.

More jigging and pacing. I am sweating with the exertion of holding my son for nearly two hours, not helped by the fact that the room is at a tropical 25o. Because why wouldn’t they have the children’s A&E room this hot? It’s not as if half the kids in there have inordinately high temperatures or anything. Even those without a high temperature have huge red cheeks it’s so bloody hot. I would imagine that 25o is about the perfect temperature for viruses to spread, but given that the medical profession can only throw its hands up and back away frantically making the sign of the cross the moment they suspect a virus, they probably haven’t figured that out yet.

We are in hour three. I am so exhausted from all the jigging and placating and waiting that I can hardly think straight. I am desperate for a drink of water but dare not leave the waiting room in case they pick that moment to call us in. A woman bursts through the door and collars a nurse, angrily tackling her about how long she has had to wait. The nurse tells her she is next in the queue and her daughter suggests they stay in the waiting room, to which the mother replies: ”   am not waiting in here! It is full of sick people!” She has a point, but really, there’s plenty of virus to go round, she should come and try some.

B is getting more and more vocal about the fact he is bloody tired, feels ill and wants to go to bed, and my various attempts to placate him are useless. Another mum comes up to him, stroking him and gently shushing him, and he falls quiet immediately. It’s always so nice to have your parental incomeptencies demonstrated to a room full of people.

At the point the nurses explain to those of us left in the waiting room that it is midnight so they are going home,  a mild depression settles on me. Soon, just B and I are left with another mum and her daughter. No one else comes in or out. By this time, B has decided that he is just so bloody tired that there is only one thing left to do: scream. So with shooting pains down my back and a fierce burning in my shoulders, I jig him around a bit more. A registrar comes in and we all look at her with hope, but she sits down at the desk and only acknowledges our presence when B’s yelling is obviously annoying her and she turns and gives me a hard, black stare. The end of my tether slithered away to get some sleep over and hour ago, and it takes all my will power not to dump B on her lap and tell her to do a better job if she can. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Actually, that’s bullshit. There is no laughter at this juncture whatsoever.

At 1am, four long, lonely, hours after we arrived, another registrar appears and calls us into a cubicle. He looks at B, who has stopped crying, no doubt from the shock of actually having some medical attention, and tickles him under the chin. B giggles. I could have flipped up the lid of the metal bin next to me and popped him in right then and there.  The registrar continues to tickle and coo at my son. Er… sorry. I have waited four hours to see you. I am not sure I am really that keen on wasting time like this.

“Isn’t he lovely?” the registrar says. I grit my teeth. That is not a fucking diagnosis, doctor-man, so shut up.

“He was struggling to breathe.” I state. He looks at his form, looks back at B and starts gurning at him again. No. Stop this. I may have to punch you.

The registrar steps back and looks at B, before waving at him. What the hell is this? Do you not want to listen to his chest? Check for a rash? Look in his ears? At the very least, wipe his bloody nose. DO SOMETHING, FOR CHRISSAKES.

“He seems to have calmed down now.” No shit, Sherlock.

“It is probably a…”

No, I think to myself, as the words come from the registrar. Don’t say it. Not the V word.


The virus. That stealthy interloper, insinuating its way into blood streams under the cover of darkness, undetectable and unfathomable by our greatest scientists. And our medical profession. Got a load of symptoms and can’t work out what it is? We’ll call that a virus. Got a load of different symptoms and still can’t work out what it is? Well whadda you know, we’ll call that a virus too.

He smiles again at B. “You can go home.”

I am so tired and angry I cannot speak, so plonk B in the pram and head home.

I blame that bloody green sticker. Maybe it didn’t mean Paranoid Time Waster. Maybe it meant: Diagnose as a Virus.