posts tagged with 'illness'

what a pain!

I've been getting to think some about pain lately. Just before Thanksgiving I had a dental procedure that left me hurting for a little bit (I may write more about it in a year or two when I recover) and then on Tuesday this week I did something to my back that really laid me low for the next day and a half. Leah is suffering her own difficulties, and is looking ahead to surgery in a week, plus—from an unrelated problem—eating is really painful for her lately. So we're kind of a wreck!

My recent back problems started when I was playing hide-and-seek with the boys and my mom on the rocks above Fawn Lake. I found a great spot, a cleft in the rock where I could crouch down out of sight, and naturally it won me the game. But when I got up I felt a twinge in my lower back, right above my right hip. Then just moments later I slipped on some leaves and fell some way down the rock, but that's normal: I fall all the time! Mysterious twinges are much more alarming.

The pain got worse rather than better over the evening, and by the time I went to bed I was really in a bad way. The fact that it took me three minutes to figure out how I was going to get myself down onto the bed, and that whenever I moved the wrong way the intensity of pain took my breath away, made me wonder if I had done something to my spine. Would I need to go to the hospital?! I also really wished I had filled that prescription for 800mg Motrin tablets that the dentist gave me. As it was, I had to make do with regular generic ibuprofen at 200mg every couple hours all night (I was awake every couple hours to take one because of course every time I moved I would wake up!). Not a pleasant night.

But then by the morning I was already a little bit better: good enough to sit in my chair to do a meeting for work. And while I couldn't ride the bike park the kids built in the street that afternoon I felt good enough to wish that I could. And by Thursday I was back to full capacity, albeit with some lingering twinges (good thing: I would have hated to miss that party!). As I said to Leah, there's nothing like intense debilitating pain to make you appreciate regular aches and pains!

Leah was very kind and caring. Because she's a wonderful loving person of course, but also because she's anticipating a couple weeks of needing care herself coming up! And I'm happy to do it... as long as my own health holds up. If not, it's up to the kids! How do you think they'd do as caretakers?


at least it wasn't Covid..

I thought that the boys' illness was due to too much sun, and attributed a weak spell I felt myself to vacuuming in the heat, but in retrospect we may have actually been sick. The clue was that by 9:00 on Friday morning I was so weak and dizzy I couldn't stand up, and that I wasn't able to eat anything between Friday breakfast and Saturday supper. There was also some time spent in the bathroom; I won't trouble you with the details. So I guess, as well as heat exhaustion, we all picked up some sort of stomach bug among the throngs at the pond. A 24-hour bug, thankfully, rather than the coronavirus—which I assume was also a possibility if we were in a position to be taking on germs at all. I wonder if four months of social distancing and mask-wearing have let our immune systems start slacking off?

The most notable thing to me about being sick—besides the kindness and consideration of my family—was that I was able to reach a point where Gatorade was palatable. More than palatable, even; more like the nectar of the gods, at least when it was watered down with ice. It had the stuff my body needed! I wonder if any of that appreciation will linger now that I'm almost back to normal? I don't think I'll risk a trial.

too much!

Saturday evening after our delightful outing to the pond I was talking with Leah about how well-adapted the boys are to the sun, since they eased into it by being outside every day all spring and into the summer. They're basically sunburn-proof, I said. That was after we'd been at the pond for two hours in the middle of the day and all three of them had a delightful healthy glow. Well, yesterday we went back to the pond, and this time we stayed there for six hours: all the way from 8:30 until 2:30. As we finished our lunch I suggested they take a little break in the shade—there were places where they could be in the shade and still be sitting in the water!—but they were having too much fun. They were feeling great, and talking about what all they could do the next time we came. Could it be tomorrow? As we made our way back to the car, though, I noted how red they were looking. Harvey scratched an itch on his face and found that it hurt some. And we were all super tired.

As it turns out, the sunburns weren't actually very bad. All the redness was gone by mid day today. Hooray, but it turns out sunburns aren't the only thing to worry about from a full day of sun exposure: between the heat and the dehydration and all the exercise, all three boys were totally wiped out today. And worse than wiped out, downright sick, with almost feverish symptoms. Zion threw up a couple times in the morning and slept for an hour in the middle of the day; Harvey threw up after supper. Leah and I tried all day to get liquids into them: water, gatorade, lemonade, chocolate milk. Lijah and especially Zion couldn't find anything to their taste—trust Zion to worry about taste when he's dehydrated and throwing up. As the symptoms kept on towards bed time I started to wonder if they could have actually picked up a bug of some sort at the pond. After all, they were around people more than they had been any time in the last several months! But right now I still do think it's just dehydration and heat exhaustion. "Just"? That's plenty! Zion told me this afternoon that he's never going back to the pond again. I hope he feels better in the morning!

catching up

What strange times we're living in. Since I last wrote, everything is different. I wish I had been noting down everything as it happened, but had I done so I probably would have looked stupid in retrospect—there was a time, for example, when I thought this virus business was no big thing. Happily we got Lijah's birthday party off before the epidemic got going, then we hosted Bible Study here a week ago on Tuesday evening. On Thursday we thought we were going to a homeschool music gathering, but the hosts, with an immunocompromised family member, were more on top of the news than we were and cancelled. We met up with one other family at their house anyway, played some music, and took a hike. Then Friday we cancelled our Book Group here but still invited families who wanted to join us. Just one took us up on the offer and the kids played outside while the adults talked about SARS-CoV2 and social distancing. We had lunch together, but carefully. They left at 1:30, and nobody has been in our house since, nor have we visited anyone else.

I guess that's only been four days, but to be honest it feels like a lifetime. Not because the time has been hard—on the contrary, except for some base-level existential dread we've been having a great time! I guess it's just that with so little on the schedule the days have felt stretched out. Not so much that I've had time to write, clearly, but lots for board games and stories and learning to use Zoom. It looks like this is going to be our schedule for quite a while now, so maybe I'll be able to work some writing in there too.


sickish day

It's a good thing we went outside lots yesterday, because today sickness kept us inside most of the day. It wasn't too terrible: we had a fine relaxing day, and read lots of Norse mythology. Before he started feeling poorly Harvey drew a comic called "How Odin Got His Eye Patch". Then the boys all fell asleep by 7:30, one in bed and two on the couch downstairs. So I didn't get to read bedtime stories. The lack made me very aware of how much time our bedtime routine takes up every evening. Without it, I was able to do the dishes, clean up the books and board games, finish a woodworking project, and clean off the boys' desks. Yikes, that sounds like a lot of work! I hope they're better tomorrow evening...

that's more like it, winter

snow on the trees and everything else in the yard

sticky snow

The groundhog was right! Over the last week it finally started looking like winter around here, and we've been enjoying it to the fullest—or at least, as full as we can manage in between bouts of illness.

It started last Tuesday with a brief but intense fall of wet snow that caught us as we biked home from a mid-morning outing (to pick up some hot bar bacon from Whole Foods, if you must know). By the time we finished our lunch of bacon sandwiches the snow had changed to light rain—light enough that we didn't think twice about heading out to play in it. Even Lijah! The snow was amazingly sticky, and it was no work at all to put together a good-size snowman. He came out looking pretty cheerful despite the damp.

our snowman smiling

our genial snowman

I told the boys about a snow chair I made last time I'd experienced such great packing snow—long before any of them were born. Of course then we had to make one for ourselves. Because Lijah was getting tired of eating snow cakes we limited ourselves to a Zion-sized model.

zion sitting in a snow chair

cool and comfortable

As I put Lijah down for his nap the other boys spent some time using the snowman as a swordfighting dummy. I was pretty grumpy with them when I noticed—that was my snowman too!—so when they took their rest I rebuilt him out in the front yard. Those balls were so big I couldn't get them on straight, and when the temperature shot up the next day I was sure he wasn't long for this world. But he managed to hold on, and it turns out his lean was just the thing to prepare him for Thursday's blizzard.

our snowman through the blizzard

leaning against the blast

Folks talk about how summer is the best time for getting to know your neighbors, but I find snow storms are fine too. Tuesday evening Harvey helped the neighbors with their snowman, and on Thursday, with everyone home for the storm, parents and kids alike enjoyed playing together in the bitter blast. We shoveled with the neighbors on one side (then tossed a football around for longer than you'd expect given the conditions) then took a lovely adventurous walk with the family on the other. In a blizzard construction sites become magical wonderlands.

Harvey and friends climbing up a giant snow-covered pile of dirt

Harvey leading the pitch

On our way back from that walk we stopped in at another neighbor's house to say hello—they were surprised and charmed to see us, and it was just too bad we were too wet and exhausted for a proper visit. Too bad too that Zion and Lijah were to sick to venture outside at all... though on the other hand, snow days are also great for cuddling on the couch and watching shows!

The next day was Friday, and all the school kids had to go back to school; so it was a perfect day for us to go sledding. The wind was whipping the fine snow all over the hill and the trails were far from broken, so we were glad of our new-to-us giant snow tube, which glided wonderfully over all the powder. It was also a great place for Zion to rest when his post-illness tiredness caught up to him.

Zion relaxing in our giant snowtube

taking it easy

His fatigue and the biting wind meant we didn't stay too long out on the big hill, but on the way back to Grandma's house we found that the path in the woods offered some promising terrain for the toboggan, so we spent half and hour or so there. Harvey worked hard to get the plastic sled down, but it was our five-foot wooden toboggan that was best for the job: we managed a couple runs with all three of us of a hundred feet or so, around two big sweeping turns. It was great!

Harvey sledding down a path in the woods

where you have to steer

Saturday Harvey and Zion got to play with the neighbor we visited Thursday—a small investment in relationship building pays off big! They had a great time until Zion bumped his head and had to be brought home, then he and Harvey had a great time. Harvey was gone from 10:00 until 4:00—now that's a playdate!

With more snow in the forecast for Sunday we were a little nervous about getting to church—and more importantly getting home. The snow in Cambridge was wet and not really accumulating so we thought we were fine when we started towards home at 2:00, but as soon as we headed up the hill away from Cambridge things took on a more dramatic aspect.

snowy conditions on Rt 128

not so bad I couldn't take a picture...

It was pretty scary, and we were glad to get home and cuddle up for the rest of the day. Monday was another snow day, but the sun was out by mid morning so despite the whipping wind we could have had yet more snow fun... but there's only so much of that you can do in a row! Instead we visited a library.

The last couple days have been warmer again. I meant to write all this Monday, but Harvey finally came down with the stomach bug that got us all in sequence: Lijah and Zion Thursday, Leah Friday and Saturday, me Sunday night, and Harvey Monday night. So now we've all had it, and it's done. Quick, let me have some time to write before the next sickness strikes us! Zion had a fever at bedtime so we might not have long to wait...


a stroke of heat

It's been really hot here the last couple days: hot enough to take over our lives—our entire theory of existence. But we put the air conditioner up in the bedroom (to make napping possible) and I figured out how to open most of the stuck windows, so I think we're going to pull through. I got to the windows this morning when I went downstairs to discover it was maybe ten degrees warmer inside the house than outside—too much to fix with the doors open before the sun got up and the outdoor temperature raced back up again. So the house was warmish today, and we didn't know what we were going to do with ourselves all day; until the boys solved our dilemma by coming down with a debilitating fever. Then they were happy to lie on the couch with the fan on them and alternate between sleeping and watching movies!

Two of them, anyways; Lijah has escaped so far, so he spent his time at home jumping on his brothers, messing with the iPad, and putting the vomit bucket on his head as a helmet. To defend them he got to go on errands with Mama and Dada, and enjoy AC and samples at stores as diverse as Whole Foods and Costco (no points for guessing which outing goes with which parent). Here's a picture of Zion sleeping on the floor this morning; he dropped there on the way to the breakfast table for pancakes, and if Lijah hadn't sat on him he probably would have been there all day. As it was he transitioned to the couch where he stayed all day—until maybe 7:00 when he got up to have a pancake at long last.

Zion asleep on the kitchen floor

needs his rest

By that time the heat had broken (after a terrific windstorm with only a little rain). Yesterday it never broke at all: terrible hot well after dark. And we were all healthy, though less raring to go than we would have been in more temperate conditions. Though in retrospect, maybe the early warning signs were there. We certainly took very well to the news that it was, apparently, National Hammock Day.

Harvey in the hammock reading an Asterix book

celebrating in style

Just the thing when the heat index is over 100°.

I have no problem with it being hot in the summer. It's to be expected. And I think with the AC and the windows (and the hammock!) we're all set for a couple more days of this craziness—all set, that is, as long as the other three of us don't get sick!


cold weather

It was really cold here this weekend.

a screenshot of the weather report, showing -33 wind chill

see? cold.

In response, or just through sympathetic resonance, all the boys in the house came down with colds. Lijah is worst hit being smallest, which means Leah is really worst hit: when he can't sleep due to a stuffy nose and croup-y cough, she's the one that suffers. Zion looks the worst, with red irritated skin under his nose and one eye and all round his mouth.

Zion in his carseat looking like death

not sad, just tired

Today, though, just as the weather turned dramatically warmer—a 60° swing in under 48 hours—the big boys and I are clearly on the road to recovery. If he can manage a little sleep Lijah is sure to follow, and we'll all be ready to enjoy whatever this crazy winter throws at us next!


sick days

School is dangerous. We had a homeschool gathering here this past Friday, and illness entered the house with one of the visiting children. Harvey went down first, slowly collapsing Saturday evening and throwing up all night. So the rest of us kind of knew what to expect, which is... something of a relief? What's surprising me know is how long it's taking Zion and me in particular to recover. Neither of us have gotten our appetites or energy back, and four days is an awful long time to go without eating real food. Leah's managed to mostly escape the plague, but at least one of the other kids who visited Friday also got sick, and I fell pretty bad about letting an event I planned become such a disease vector.

I'm not going to let it stop me doing something similar in future, but I might wait for the next one until it gets a little warmer, so the kids can spend a bigger part of the time outside. It's hard, hard to stay indoors this much from an activity standpoint—we've all had enough of indoor activities and indoor voices by this point, I feel—and now I think the germs need room to spread out too.


our day at the surgery

We have been waiting for this day for a long time now, the day that Harvey could finally get his "teeth fixed." For over a month I have been making smoothies, offering apple sauce, and when that failed using a toothpick to extract tiny pieces of food from inside the cavities exposed on two of Harvey's molars. After the dentist's attempt to fix Harvey's cavities in an office visit failed (if you consider failure Harvey's complete refusal to get into the chair) we had to wait over a month for an O.R. date, when Harvey could be put under general anesthesia to properly fix the problem. This tells you a little something about his stubbornness. Or his pain to don't-mess-with-me ratio. Both are high.

Harvey was looking forward to eating regular food again, and for many days he was asking how soon he could get his teeth fixed. So we proceeded to the hospital in a spirit of bravery, and it wasn't until we got into the pre-op room that he remembered: 'Holy Shit.' There he acted the way he does when he gets anxious, by completely shutting down and hiding in a corner.

the dinosaur is showing how to bravely sit on the gurney, while Harvey wishes he could become a fossil

Thankfully the team at Franciscan Hospital for Children is used to this sort of behavior, and the child liaison talked to Harvey for half an hour until he calmed down enough to have his vitals taken. She won him over by gifting him a red flashlight that he could wear on his finger. She actually offered him up to ten flashlights, one to wear on every finger of both hands, but Harvey's anxiety blinded him to negotiating clearly and in the end he only took the one.

very pleased with a very small toy. I wish he'd taken more for his brothers.

I had to forcefully remove him from the corner, but once I held him on my lap he calmed down and even extended his arm for a blood pressure. This is less than I've had to restrain him for vaccines, and his compliance was quite a relief. Perhaps a little bit of physical pressure from me reassured him that he couldn't control the events of the day with his own will. Which, you know, is a good thing if you're about to get knocked out by heavy drugs.

stickers make everything better

The child liaison then led Harvey through a very impressive social story about what was going to happen next.
"Do you know why you're here today?"
Harvey's answer: "mmm."
"Are you here for your teeth?"
"mmm" but with a head nod for Yes.
"Do you know if you're going to be awake or asleep while they fix your teeth?"
"Do you think you're going to be asleep?"
Head nod Yes.
"Do you feel sleepy now?" (this made Harvey giggle.) "Do you usually fall asleep in the middle of the daytime?" (Now he was downright chuckling.) "No? So how are you going to fall asleep?" (mmm) "The doctor is going to give you some sleepy medicine, and I have a special mask right here just for you."

She showed Harvey how the mask would go over his face, and she let him pick stickers to decorate it. She told him that sleepy medicine in the form of gas would come through the mask, and it's kind of smelly, but bravely she said, "It's okay, I have a plan!" Then she let him pick his favorite flavor of chap stick and she spread some of that on the inside of the mask, for a custom olfactory experience.

Then with an iPad in hand she showed Harvey a series of photographs to illustrate what would happen after he got changed into his pijamas.

"This is a picture of the hallway outside this room. Once you get on your pijamas we will take a ride in this bed through the hallway to this big set of doors (next slide). On the other side of doors is this hallway. You can see there's a trashcan and a sink, it's just a hallway. (next slide) Then we will go into this room which is your special room while they're fixing your teeth. This is the tube your mask will attach to, and in this canister is the sleepy medicine. Your mom will stand right here next to you while you breath in the medicine, and you can play a game on this ipad while you're breathing. Now is there anything in this picture that you have a question about?"

(He shakes his head no.)

"Some kids your age wonder what about these two big circles, and I'll tell you that they're just lights and they won't even be turned on."

Suffice it to say that I was very impressed by how above and beyond this was from 'don't be scared.' Really, this woman had me at 'free finger flashlight.'

But if that wasn't enough, she gave Harvey a book with stickers in it, and we spent the next half hour reading and putting stickers in the book. Interspersed with waiting for the doctors, of course, and talking to them about the proper release forms.

being at the hospital requires a high degree of Disney brand exposure

The dentist wouldn't know the extent of damage to Harvey's teeth until he got in there, so he had me sign off on several possibilities. These included fillings, caps, extraction, and spacers, all the way up to nerve repair or removal. I wondered how we had come to this, massive dental surgery for my healthy eater who likes salads and only gets candy at parades and Halloween. Then I remembered that even our paleo ancestors suffered from tooth decay, and some things are just out of our control. As evidenced by the posed photo below.

rawr. our black teeth will cut you

Finally it was time for the surgery. Harvey was not at all nervous getting wheeled down the hall and into the O.R. because his friend was holding an iPad game over his face the entire time. Press press press, he put virtual food in a microwave in anticipation of good things to come, and soon his lids blinked heavily until he was asleep.

the best numbing agent

I gave him a kiss and was then escorted to the waiting room where I was eager to see how the rest of my family had been keeping busy for the past hour. They seemed to be doing fine.

little brothers both fit in a little car

We had decided to come to the hospital as a family so that I wouldn't be away from the nursing baby for 7 hours, and also so that Dan could deal with the driving/parking aspect of the trip. Dan says the boys were great when I was with Harvey, and Zion only became a complete pain in the ass when I came back into the room, when he screamed that he wanted a diaper and/or he had suddenly become unable to move his legs. He's like that at home too, though. Heaven forbid Harvey get something that he doesn't get, even if it's dental surgery.

Meanwhile Elijah wrecked up the room. Like you do.

survey suggestion: fewer surveys on low table.

It wasn't long though until it was time to wait with Harvey waking up. The total damage (or fixage as it were) came to: two white fillings, a silver cap on one tooth, and an extraction dash spacer deal-y on the other side. No nerve work which, I guess, is a relief. Also, the x-rays revealed an extra tooth coming in on the top. But that, the dentist told me reassuringly, is not something we have to worry about for another year.

Thank God, because this whole process is rather tiring.

waiting to wake up

I don't have any more pictures from the hospital, because Harvey liked waking up from anesthesia about as much as he likes waking up in the morning, except perhaps a million times LESS AS MUCH. There was a lot of moaning and coughing and moaning, and he wasn't really himself again until he got a nap in the car and woke up to a bowl of chocolate ice cream at home.

Then he demanded all the meals he'd missed on account of fasting. So we called his ice cream breakfast and after that served him yogurt and jam (lunch) followed by clam chowder (dinner) and another bowl of ice cream for dessert. It sure felt good to have my happy eater back again. Now fortified with bionic teeth!

silvery. On his cheek is both chocolate and blood, because that's how we roll super hardcore

I also feel like I earned some silver myself (albeit in my hair) for surviving my first hospital parenting experience. Altogether we've had an extremely healthy six years. We had three home births, no major accidents, no allergies or illnesses or hereditary conditions. As I listened to parents on the other side of the curtain rattle off daily medications, prior surgery dates, reactions to anesthesia, and behavioral concerns, I was reminded how truly easy my lot is. Even if Zion did scream half the ride home that he wanted the remainder of Harvey's blood-soaked drug-covered popsicle, and Elijah spent the pre-dinner hour playing with a biohazard bag. Most days our hardships are few and our blessings many. And for the harder days, there's ice cream.

ED UPDATE: In between finishing this post and publishing it I came down with the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced (though to be fair, I say that dramatically about every time I get a stomach flu.) Poor Dan, after spending a day at the hospital watching little kids, had to sit on the floor outside the bathroom watching me get sick because I was afraid I would pass out. As with every time I get sick I immediately started to wonder where I was at fault. Worrying so much it suppressed my immune system? Processing my post-surgery anxieties through chocolate? Or maybe it was completely psycho-somatic, and my reaction to seeing my child in pain and vulnerable was to VOID EVERYTHING.

There is something else. When Harvey was recovering from the anesthesia, and totally pathetically bewildered in pain, ("I thought they were going to FIX my teeth! Why do they hurt?") I cried out to God in the fashion of my foremothers, saying "If there's any way for me to take this pain from him, Lord, I'll do it." Now it may be all coincidence or the workings of my mind, but Harvey felt fine and nausea-free once he got home, and after the kids fell asleep I was writhing in pain on the bathroom floor.

When I shared about my prayer of transference (between sobs) Dan asked, "Is that allowed?" My imagined answer was, "Only for Jews."

Now after six hours of torment I am finally recovering and dreaming of Gatorade. The moral of the story is: don't do that guys. Ask Jesus to take your burdens like a good Christian would. And wash your frickin hands a lot when you go to the hospital. Lord have mercy.