Much as I hate to admit defeat about anything, yesterday, the flu won again. It won against me this year, and flu won against Murph.
Back in March, the flu won its fight against me. Yes, I’d gotten the flu vaccine (and so has Murphy). But Murph had announced one Friday night that he had a sore throat, and I said I did, too. I blamed him for sharing the plague because he’s always sharing my filtered water bottle. He woke the next morning feeling fine, but I was dying with a fever, chills, a horrible cough and a blinding headache. It lasted nearly a month. I’d feel better for a day, then be flattened for three.
But lately, insomnia has been our nemesis. Who even knew childhood insomnia is a thing? Well, it is. He didn’t sleep much last week, and he ended up home Friday. Mostly he follows the rule about “don’t wake me unless there is blood or fire,” but I’m a light sleeper. If he’s not asleep, it’s most likely I’m not. Ten milligrams of melatonin has become a joke, and bed time is now the stuff of anxiety for the kiddo who doesn’t know if he’ll be able to get to sleep or if he does, if he’ll wake, or worse yet, wake with a blinding headache.
All seemed well until about 10PM when he told me that he had a sore throat. Okay. A cold, I thought. Worst case? Strep. Fixable. He slept until 1:30, with me, then announced loudly that he was dying, with an off the cuff apology for waking me to tell me, then turned on the TV to some cartoons and began whining, complaining and trying to throw up every 20 minutes.
I told him to gargle with salt water, so he dumped an entire box of Morton salt into about 6 oz of water, took one sip, started screaming and gagging, dumped the concoction down the drain and resumed his re-enactment of an operatic death from consumption that I was sure was going to wake the neighbors in surrounding states. I closed my eyes and pretended I was asleep, all the while cursing the ovaries that had produced him, the viruses and germs I had not killed because I suck at housekeeping, the makers of Clorox and Lysol, the government for not providing nannies to all parents and the gods for giving him a voice that carried so well. I considered whether both of us could continue to exist in living human form if one of us did not STFU soon.
I could have taken him to an ER. Probably, that’s what he wanted. But I didn’t. I just could not do it. He wasn’t dying, I wasn’t calling an ambulance, and I could not go there one more time if it was not an actual emergency. I’m not sure I could have even if there was an emergency. And much as Murphy disagreed, a sore throat is not an emergency.
I called the emergency line at his pediatrician‘s office at 6AM and was connected to a nurse at the hospital who was probably finishing up a hellish 12-hour shift, which is giving her the benefit of the doubt for her lack of compassion and humor. She told me that Urgent Care opened at 10 and his regular doctor would be in the office on Sunday. Was she deaf? Could she not hear him howling in the background (or did she think I was watching a horror movie or had a dying racoon in our yard)? Wait another 27 hours? No. Nope. One way or another, one of us wouldn’t live that long. Thinking it was strep, I asked what I could do. She told me I couldn’t give him a left over Amoxicillin from 4 months ago when he last had strep and required three rounds of drugs to clear it, and she acted like I said arsenic not antibiotic and ordered me to throw it away RIGHT NOW like if I didn’t my medicine cabinet might explode and take out the entire township. She said to give him Tylenol. She must have missed the “ready to vomit all over” piece of my explanation. Also NOOO to Zofran, which we always have on hand for migraines. Was I trying to kill him?
I resisted the urge to say mean things like “Look at his chart, Nurse Ratchet. I’m not exactly inattentive to his medical needs, and I probably know more about medicine than you do, given what I deal with on the regular.” Instead, I thanked her and hung up, defeated and exhausted.
Meanwhile, he’d strapped a frozen pink Therapeutic Eye Gel Mask to his head (I keep these miracle masks on hand for migraines because they really stay cold for a while but can also be microwaved and stay hot for a long time,too), put on my red velour Christmas robe and started throwing himself all over the room, knocking over the boxes we’d carefully packed and mixing up the clean laundry pile with the dirty laundry pile all whilst caterwauling like he was acting out a death throes scene in a really badly done, cheap kind of burlesque production of a Shakespearean tragedy. If he’d ever seen Sanford and Son, he’d have been yelling “I’m coming Elizabeth! I’m dying! This is it. This is the big one!”
I went back to pretending that I was asleep and hoped my lack of compassion and sudden resentment was the result of having not slept 8 hours total in a whole week let alone in a night. His insomnia is mine, too. I was too fried to be frazzled or even deal with the increasing drama, and we still had 3 flipping more hours before we could get to the doctor.
I got up at 9, and we were second in line when Urgent Care opened. The coughing started in the car, and I had an overwhelming sense of dread because strep does not cause coughing. Strep would have been good, though. I mean, for me. Because strep gets better after the first dose of meds. Strep doesn’t linger symptomatically. The flu, though, lingers. Suddenly, there was no end in sight. I admit it; I had a moment of sheer, terror-filled panic as I wondered if I had it in me to be my nicest momself and get him through it without adding a note to his “Shit To Tell Your Therapist” jar.
He was alternately obnoxious, rude, pathetic and combative with the nurses and doctor who declared that it was likely a flu virus and not strep. He proceeded to wail and demand medicine. They gave him Zofran and Motrin. I begged for a cough medicine that might knock him out or kiddie Xanax. They were less than helpful and didn’t seem all that thrilled with me, either. He declared that he could not even walk out of the building, so they pushed him out in a wheelchair. I was impressed that they did not push him out the second-floor window. I admired their restraint. They’d probably gotten some sleep.
We stopped at Wegman’s (which is literally across the street, walking distance from CHOP) for his Imitrex, which was ready and waiting, Tylenol, soup and Gatorade. I parked in a handicapped spot near the front door (yes, we do have a tag), left him my phone so he could listen to his book, said I’d be 10 minutes max and to wait in the car so we did not give the flu to everyone in the store and he did not exhaust himself. Five minutes later, I was being paged to the front of the store, where he stood, looking bereft, at customer service, having set off the car alarm by opening the door I had specifically told him not to open. I had to pretend I wasn’t homicidal and was a concerned, loving mama.
I deserve an Oscar.
He spent the rest of the day resting quietly, watching questionable videos on YouTube, and he slept through much of the night with a brief bout of wakefulness between 1 and 2:30AM with a migraine. The cats have been providing nursing comfort.
He’s coughing so hard it hurts to hear it, and I’ve got the humidifier going to help him breathe. He says he’s not strong enough to shower, and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. I know that 10yo boys rarely want to bathe. I just made him some more soup and said okay to watching The Incredibles with him again. It’s amazing what a half-decent night of sleep can do for my ability to be a mothering mother. I’m pretty sure he’s going to live, but the flu won this year, big time. Late in the season and severe. Stay healthy, my friends.
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