I have a son who does not sit down unless he has to. There are a few things that can hold his attention for a short while but he rarely sees a film through to the end, he leaves lego models half finished and the number of circulation-stopping loom bracelets I own is ridiculous as he is determined always to get to the end and onto the next thing.
He is also stoic and straightforward, wearing his heart on his size six sleeve. Which is why when he says he feels ill I know it probably means really ill.
Our wonderful GP* squeezed us in yesterday after she saw him and quickly told me this was a hospital job. He had been complaining of a sore head and by the time we saw her was visably agitated and upset. He could also barely open his eyes on account of the light, had a sore neck and was ready to fall asleep in an instant. The word meningitis, dreaded by parents everywhere was mentioned, quickly followed by ‘slow bleed’. My god.
Thank the lord I have a most wonderful reliable friend with a son the same age as my youngest who we see every Tuesday and who we dropped the little brother off with. She is also a nurse who is married to a doctor who used to be head of the ER at the very hospital we were en route to. I was garbling about the snacks I’d stuffed into a pillowcase when she gently said, “Jules, you need to get going to the hospital.” I don’t know if it was a subliminal attempt to show my lack of panic or just my internal turmoil coming out as ‘look, I’m still in control, I haven’t forgotten everything.’
Having scribbled a note of apology to display I left the car in a disabled spot and half carried Sam to A & E (I would love to have carried him but he weighs half as much as me) we were rushed through to have him assessed. Having kept him awake in fear of what might happen if I didn’t (yes, too much ‘medical’ knowledge gleaned from TV), the registrar prescribed pain relief, darkness and observation. After the longest day we witnessed the fastest recovery. He slept, holding fast to his two toy rabbits. He was listless when he woke up but asked for juice, after which the world seemed to right itself.
My heart slowly slowly inched back into my chest from my throat where it had been residing for the past few hours. The ‘second opinion’ doctor checked him out, pronounced a virus whose name I can’t remember but whose symptoms mirror those of meningitis and prescribed nothing more than R & R and close observation.
I clutched my abacus necklace and moved my fingers over the tiny rings, reminding myself to count my blessings. This is how I think of this necklace, a gift from my grandparents after a trip to Thailand when I was not much older than my sons. It lay unworn and unloved for years. Now, I use it as a reminder not to take life for granted.
We are truly lucky but so much of the time it takes a period of difficulty or upset to remind us so. The illness of our children, when their life, which we protect with every fibre of our being and ounce of will seems to be out of our hands, is terrifying, however benign the end result and dramatic the recovery.
Our utter vulnerability as parents and our children’s total oblivion to the fact should be a recipe for paranoia and constant questioning. Thankfully their innate trust and our instinctive judgement (most of the time) coupled with the hilarity and craziness of family life (ditto) means we muddle happily through life, most of the time.