Monday, January 31, 2011

Ramblings from the Sick Ward

C is sick.

The fever and coughing started on Tuesday, the ear infection was diagnosed on Friday, antibiotics were started shortly thereafter. Now that it's Monday I think we can safely assume that it's just a run-of-the-mill cold. Let's pause a moment while I thank every deity I can call to mind.

When I get a cold I'm generally pretty stoic. I stay home from work to avoid spreading it around but I carry-on, fueled by coughdrops and ibuprofen. You can tell that I'm sick because the laundry is folded and you could eat ramen out of the toilet.

When C gets sick I feel as hollow and floaty as a balloon. I can't think or do or plan...I just can't.


I knitted (almost) an entire sweater between Wednesday and Friday.

The dishes and laundry piled up. My email and voicemail sat unattended. C took naps aplenty. I had time to manage all of my normal care and maintenance but I became fixated on this sweater--despite the fact that I own plenty of sweaters and the yarn had been sitting around in an unfinished afghan for 5 years.

There are probably more productive stress reactions than a sweater-making marathon. It would be awesome if I could be more of a sock mender or pants hemmer. I'm glad that I'm not a smoker or an obsessive hair plucker. It's probably a push. We'll see if I can bring myself to wear the sweater once it's finished.


I can't quite escape the notion that the train is about to go off the rails. A sniffle will kick-off a catastrophic, terminal illness and I will spend the rest of my life fixating on its volume and wetness. Did it seem fatal? How did I miss the signs?

Does that carrying-your-heart-around-on-the-outside thing affect everyone this way? Is it a switch that's flipped when you see your baby for the first time or is it when you decide there's no point in waiting and tell the nurse to go ahead and disconnect the ventilator?


Through the night I listen to C's coughs and ragged breathing. I'm waiting for them to turn into something serious. She's so big now. She has words. She can tell me what hurts and ask for medicine, water. In my mind I just see her tiny, exhausted body in the plastic box covered in tubes and wires. I try not to let my eyes stray to the empty box in the adjoining room.

On the one hand I feel prepared. I've seen her genetic clone in distress--I know what it will look like when it comes. On the other hand, I may not be able to do anything but watch. If I had paid closer attention...

I sleep in 5 minute snippets for 4 nights.


Over breakfast on Friday C tells me that she's going to make a full recovery. After 4 nights of fevers we go to the doctor to be sure.

In the exam room she prepares for her 'patient' performance--sad face when the doctor enters the room, hands folded on lap, perfect posture, grateful yet pathetic smile when he finishes his preliminary examination. The mask slips a little when he asks if she's been pooping regularly.

I smile and wonder why I ever thought I could hide anything from my mother.