We’re done with our grand trip to Chicago and elsewhere. We had a great time, and will undoubtedly talk more about it later.
This post is not about the Chicago trip.
We spent Sunday night at Misty’s dad’s house. After a week of travel, it was nice to unwind. I was reading in the living room while Eli played with his toys on the floor and watched Blue’s Clues. His bedtime was only fifteen minutes away.
His shriek of pain startled me. I looked up and saw that he’d dropped a pink one-pound dumbbell on his head.
He’d been playing with that dumbbell earlier and had rolled it on his foot, hurting him a bit. You should be more careful, ha, ha, I told him. I am the kind of parent who, the third time the copperhead snake struck Eli, would say, “You know, if that snake bites him again, we should move it away from Eli.”
I scooped him up. He pressed his face into my shirt. His tears wet the fabric. As everyone rushed in, I tilted his head back. A knot was forming on his forehead under the black bruise.
We let him watch an extra episode of Blue’s Clues while we watched for dangerous signs of drowsiness. How could we tell, though? He was already tired from visiting the Little Rock Zoo earlier in the day. Before bed I drew upon my vast experience of watching ER and shone a flashlight in both of Eli’s eyes. His pupils contracted just as they should. Half-reassured, I put him to bed.
Misty and I then stayed up until past midnight watching Die Hard on TV. Hey, Eli would have grandparents to watch him in the morning and we could sleep in.
He woke us up at 5 AM. I shook off sleep as I shambled down the hall. He normally slept fine at Don’s house, so I was surprised to hear him crying. I pulled him out of the Pack ‘n Play. There was an odd smell in the room. “C’mon, let’s let you sleep some more on mom and dad.” I put him down so I could get his blanket.
That’s when I stepped in the vomit on the floor.
I called for Misty and began stripping Eli out of his soaked pyjamas. He’d stood at the edge of the Pack ‘n Play, called for us, and then thrown up on himself and the floor. But that was okay — maybe he’d woken up earlier, called for us, and in our sleep-soaked state hadn’t heard him until he’d gotten so upset that he vomited. Little kids vomit all the time. Toddlers come up to you and say hi before making sick on your shoes, right?
We fed him some water. He seemed fine. He played with toys and jabbered about this and that.
Fifteen minutes, he threw up again.
I like to think of myself as a level-headed parent. On a few occasions, people have told Misty and me that we’re good parents, reinforcing my opinion of myself. When Eli is sick, I give lie to this. My reason melts away and soaks into the carpet, leaving me dithering about what to do.
Here’s the thing. Eli had been to the zoo yesterday, and if there are three things the zoo has in abundance, it’s animals, little kids, and germs. Eli had fed animals and petted animals and said hello to other children and in general wandered around in a cloud of germs and viruses. The symptoms for internal head injuries are mostly that the child is lethargic and throws up. The symptoms for a stomach virus are mostly that the child is lethargic and throws up.
Since Eli seemed fine when he wasn’t throwing up, we decided to wait and see. Misty went back to bed while I played with Eli and waited for everyone else to wake up. I put a white plastic bowl near us. We played for fifteen minutes, and then Eli began looking distressed. I put the bowl under his chin. “Spit into the bowl,” I told him.
“No,” he replied, pushing on the bowl, before spitting up a little bit of liquid. We went back to playing. Twenty minutes later Eli had dry heaves.
Once Don had woken up, he and Misty and Eli headed to the store to buy some Pedialyte, to keep Eli from becoming dehydrated. I crawled back into bed and worried. Thankfully my worry wasn’t wasted: by the time they got back, Eli had tried to throw up three more times, and now he was attempting to nap in the living room.
That was enough to push us over the line. We bundled him in the car and drove for the hospital. Misty sat in the back with Eli. I watched the speedometer reach 70, then 75, then 80. I began rehearsing what I’d say when the cops pulled me over. Should I cry? “My son could be dy-i-i-i-ing!” No, I’d look too wussy. I needed to be resolute. “Dammit, my son could have a cerebral edema — I have to get him to the hospital!”
We carried Eli inside Arkansas Children’s Hospital and past the metal detector. Our past experiences with hospitals had not been great, so I wasn’t looking forward to this. A nurse took our basic information and put a BP cuff on Eli’s leg. “Okay, this is gonna give you a leg hug,” she told him.
Then we were ready to check Eli in. Misty sat with Eli while I talked to Ratha, the admissions woman. Admission took forever. I gave Eli’s name, my name, my home address, my home phone number, my social security number, Misty’s name, my home phone number, my home address, her social security number, my social security number, my home phone number, my social security number, and my social security number. Ratha asked for Eli’s pediatrician. “I have his office phone number as well,” I told her. Inexplicably, she didn’t need that. I kept staring at the sign behind Ratha: DO NOT SEND CHARGE SHEETS TO H.I.M. FROM DEPARTED CHARTS. I don’t know what H.I.M. stands for, but I pretended God was tired of getting hospital bills.
The lounge had few people in it. A Little Mermaid TV show was on, which confused me: in the movie, didn’t she hook up with a landlubber and trade her flippers for legs? Was this some kind of prequel? Eli, of course, was acting like nothing was wrong. He flirted with people and played with the toys. He continued this in the hospital room. I tried to get him to stop running around. “Do you want up on the bed?”
“No, I push buttons!” he said. BEEP! said the computerized medicine dispenser.
The doctor who came in to see Eli had on scrubs. His pocket announced that “Wearing these outside hospital grounds constitutes THEFT.” He didn’t think Eli had an internal head injury. “Watch him. If he later has diarrhea, you’ll know he had a virus.” We took him back home to play.
Later that day we heard a squirting noise coming from Eli. Never have I been so excited to see watery stool.