Tomorrow in Sunday School we will be talking about how hard parenting can be and how God meets us in the middle of it all with grace and mercy. I figured I should tell them (and all of you) this true story from almost 4 years ago…
Friday, May 4th, 6 AM, 2012
About 3 minutes after I wake up, I find myself in the kitchen with my stomach in intense pain. I assume it is hunger. we did not have a big dinner the night before and we both acknowledged we would be hungry the next morning.
The problem was nothing sounded good. And it felt more like nausea than hunger.
“Wait, there’s a banana.”
So I ate a banana and drank my coffee – slowly. I still felt terrible. And the fear in the back of my mind was creeping to the forefront of my mind – stomach virus. The very stomach virus my 3 year old had a few days earlier, his first by the way.
I tried to ignore it. Today was too big a day.
Bethany, my wife was headed to the beach with two friends. I was watching our three kids. This was her first trip like this since we’ve had kids – just her and some friends, with us kids at home alone without her. I’d taken off work to be superdad and give the kids a weekend so awesome they will not notice how poorly they are being taken care of.
Dylan, the 3 year old who had the stomach virus has not yet shaken it obviously and has gotten sick in his bed. This means cleaning him and his bed up quickly. The wife is supposed to meet the girls at 8 AM at a Cracker Barrel parking lot about 20 minutes away. I still have to take the kids to school and then come back to get her and take her down there. Dylan will be riding with us.
My wife’s stomach is bothering her also. But it has been for a few days, so she is not all that worried. I get down a granola bar hoping it will curb the grueling hunger pains.
I am on the way with the kids to school and Knox, my 6 year old tells me his stomach hurts. I hope it is hunger because he often is hungry and begins his plea for food or snacks with, “my tummy hurts.” But fear shoots through me like lightning. He tells me he feels sick and it is not hunger. So we drive back to the house. Bethany is getting worried till we see the glee on Knox’s face at being able to watch Spider-Man and play Angry Birds. So we tell him to get back in the car and I take him to school. I drive carefully because if you know anything about Birmingham, AL, there are no flat, straight roads – especially on Shades Mountain, where we live. I feel terrible, by the way.
I think it is at this point we delay the meet up between the girls.
Holly’s little Ellie has a fever.
Let me preface this by saying I feel terrible but I am still optimistic. I’ve been nauseous before and seen it disappear in a few hours. When I get back to the house, Bethany is worried the trip is not going to happen. Me too. She needs this trip and deserves it. She never does things like this. I want her to go on this trip as much as she wants to go. Her excitement has been a real source of fun for us. Plus I can eat unhealthy food while she is gone and watch Phineus and Ferb with the kids.
The trip is on. We load her gear up and then her, Dylan and myself are on our way. We had to stop and mail something at the post office because I didn’t want to worry about it feeling the way I did while having the 3 year old with me.
Have I mentioned that I don’t fell well? And the contours of the roads in my fair city? About 5 minutes in to the drive I burp and it helps.
We arrive before anyone else at the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. I immediately get out of the car because I thought it might make me feel better. It does for a moment but I am anxiously looking for concealed bushes in case I get sick. It’s been many years since it has happened but I know the feeling well enough. Just typing about this makes me feel terrible. I hate being that kind of sick. I hate that I’m even having to tell you about it. But I was worried. Imagine my worry – I’m about to drive off with Dylan – who, by the way just really got potty-trained about 2 weeks ago – and will be picking the other two kiddos up a little later in the day.
I cannot. Be. Sick.
The ladies are driving away and I step out of the car again and I’m worried. Another good burp makes me feel better. I start driving home but I’m worried enough to stay off the interstates. I take highways and the straighter the better. Yeah, right.
OK, at this point I am done with optimism. I’m going to be sick. It is going to happen. I just want to get home first.
Because we were worried still about Dylan, we brought along a tupperware bowl. About a stone’s throw from home I needed that bowl. I will spare the details but there was one part that needs to be told.
Dylan: Are you sick Daddy?
Me: Yeah buddy, I’m sick.
Dylan: I sorry, Daddy.
And he meant it.
I know what you are thinking. But I did not call her and tell her. She needs this trip and the less she knows the better time she will have. She may kill me later, but she will enjoy herself now.
This is when I started to pray like a Pentecostal.
Dylan is watching cartoons. I’m down the hall in bed. He can’t do too much harm. Besides, I feel a little better and I rarely deliver a sequel in these situations. But now I feel achey and feverish.
Bethany sends me a text checking on me and I tell my first of many, many lies on this weekend of Lying. I told lies of omission and I outright told some big whoppers. Sometimes the truth was technically there, but I was really a liar, liar pants on fire.
I tell her, “Yep, Just taking it easy.”
How many lies did I tell her over the weekend? Well, let’s put it this way, if there was a land called Liardom, I would be Founder and King.
But as King it is my job to protect the fair maiden of this household from the truth so she can relax in sun-soaked bliss.
By this time, I have called my own mommy and asked her to come over and watch Dylan while I lie in bed and moan. She had already volunteered, so back off. Bethany’s mom is closer, but if I’m going to be sick I want my own mom to be there.
The phone rings. It’s Bethany and to my dying day I will never forget her words –
“This is the call you’ve been dreading.”
“What?!” “What happened?”
“Knox got sick at school.”
At least that is what I said in my head. On the phone I responded with appropriate grief but reassured her we would be OK.
And I ask you dear reader, what could go wrong? My 3 year old got sick that morning in his crib, I got sick on the side of the road almost 2 hours earlier, and now my 6 six year old has gotten sick at school.
Scenarios rush through my mind quickly to fix this problem. I land on one. It’s solid. Secure. It will work.
“I’ll get Mom to go get Knox from school and she can just go ahead and get Emma also. And I’ll see if my mom will take Dylan and Emma home with her until I get Knox over the hump.”
Bethany is still clueless about me getting sick less than 2 hours ago.
My mom has agreed to take Dylan and Emma with her. They are excited about hanging out at GiGi and DiDi’s house and spending the night there. I pack their things – and it was painful because my stomach hurt and every joint ached. Plus Knox was going to get sick any moment. They leave.
Knox and I watch Spider-man when I am not emptying the Tupperware bowl. He is getting sick about every 15 minutes. He is so thirsty. And sad.
Like I pointed out earlier, our 3 year old had this same bug earlier in the week. His pediatrician called in some Zofran for him. We had one left over. So I thought I might as well give it a whirl.
The Zofran was a small pill meant to be held under the tongue. Hello? That’s gonna make a healthy Knox gag! So of course, that’s exactly what happens when I give it to him. It had no time to dissolve before going into the bowl.
But I wait and hope to see if it did any good…for 15 minutes.
Aaaaaaaaaand it did no good. At all.
Knox has not stopped getting sick. He looks worn down. The Zofran was my own personal chimera.
At this point I begin to to think about the unthinkable. I begin contemplating a remedy I can hardly bear to think about. You see, I have a queasy stomach. I don’t do well in hospitals. My skin crawls very, very easily. Not sure why, just does.
But I’m getting worried for Knox. And I’m tired of watching him suffer so, every 15 minutes.
So I get on the Internet. I call my friend, the doctor. And then I decide to do it.
I go to the fridge and take out the…suppositories.
Let’s just say I made it through the unpleasant experience. Knox was a trooper. But all my promises – given to him as seeds of hope he would get better never found purchase.
Right after I give him the suppository, Bethany sends me a text telling me she is not feeling too good and asking if I would pray for her.
Bethany sends me another text from the place they are staying at the beach –
“I think I’m going to be sick!”
She still has no idea what is going on back home. Now is not the time to tell her.
The suppository always works. Always. And….and the unpleasantness of the experience is supposed to be offset by the surety of it all stopping. At this point I decide to call the pediatrician. I get a receptionist who listens to my pain.
“Who is your child’s doctor?” is her response.
(Parenthetical thought: Listen, I think everyone who works with people day in and day out should be nice and friendly. Am I crazy to think the person who answers the phone at a Pediatrician’s office should be more so than most? First qualification? Winning a Miss Congeniality contest. OK, I’m done now.)
Then I rehearse the whole ordeal again to the nurse. Who responds by telling me she will talk to the Doc and call me back. She seemed particularly interested by the ineffectiveness of the suppository.Knox is now sleeping because of it and only wakes up to get sick. But hardly anything is coming out. As soon as he finishes he closes his eyes and sleeps for about 12 minutes.
While I’m waiting for the nurse to call me back, I’m getting more and more anxious. This is not like any other stomach virus I’ve seen hit my kids. Though I only got sick once and am starting to feel remarkably better, I am worried about Knox. His tendency is to get over these things quickly.
The questions start forming. Do I tell Bethany? How much do I tell Bethany? When do I tell Bethany?
I decide to at least wait till she is better.
The nurse calls me back”I just talked to the doctor and she said you need to take Knox to the Emergency Room at Children’s Hospital.”
May 4th, 4 PM
The drama had reached a fevered pitch with the pediatrician telling me I needed to take Knox, my 6 year old, to the ER at Children’s Hospital.
To say this is not what I wanted to hear is an understatement. But to be honest I was not surprised. This was not my first rodeo. We’ve had to do this before. We have experience with dehydration and ERs and hospitals for Children.
My first thought when the Nurse told me this was, “Man, I don’t wanna sit in an ER room holding a bowl for Knox.”
I called my Mom and Mother-in-Law and let them know what was going on. I made them swear they would not tell Bethany.
Knox and I are on our way to the ER. He and his little body are up front with me. I’m holding the bowl.
I shoot Bethany a text while sitting at a light.
“How are you?”
“I think I am better.”
We get on the interstate and it’s only a few minutes till we get to the ER from there. But it’s after 4 PM on a Friday on I-65, the largest parking lot in Birmingham.
So Knox gets sick before we even get off the interstate.
Now, I have only been to Children’s Hospital as a visitor. I’ve never taken a kid there. So, here I am driving around downtown Birmingham looking for the ER entrance holding the bowl with a boy who could need it any minute.
Finally, I figure it out and as I pull up I think about Brian Regan and the need for valet parking for the ER. And then there it is, in brilliant Red and White for all of us to look upon and rejoice over –
“Free Valet Parking”
Knox and I walk into the ER. Thankfully a kind face greets us and I explain the situation. I assume we will fill out a bunch of paperwork and wait. But we didn’t. I answered a few questions and they took us back to a small room to get vitals.
Wait? I don’t have to wait out there with the others?
Bethany sends me a text.
“How is our little boy?”
“This is the longest he has gotten yet without getting sick.”
Now that was a true statement as far as it goes. Of course she had no idea we were in the ER. But I mean, it would have done her no good to know. I had it all under, ehem, control.
The nice young nurse takes us back to a shared room with Disney Jr. playing. Knox lays down on the bed and goes right to sleep and then gets sick. Another nurse comes in with purple Gatorade. I’m supposed to give him a syringe full every 5 minutes till he gets sick and then they will check him out.
So I do. And he gets sick after the 2nd.
Courtney, our awesome nurse then pricks his finger and he barely notices. He is worried about a shot and who wouldn’t be?
Our brave little boy is getting an IV put in. And he does great. He has gotten sick again but only minutes after the Zofran courses into his little vein, he starts perking up.
He cannot understand what is happening as they push in this little miracle drug through his skin. He keeps looking at me wide-eyed.
Next the fluids. And he reacts to the coolness flowing into him, again, not understanding. This is all new to him and might as well be science fiction for all the science he grasps. I tell him it’s kinda like getting super powers injected into him.
“They come from that bag?”
“Yeah buddy, they do.”
“Maybe I’ll be able to shoot out bags!”
Knox is better. He looks like himself and is smiling and talking and not getting sick. He says his tummy no longer hurts.
The doctor is encouraged. Dad is relieved…and pretty much ignoring any texts from the wife.
The change is now dramatic. He is cold but being silly.
And now I begin to wonder, “Why can’t we have these machines at home?”
I’m exhausted. And now my stomach hurts and I’m achey again. I’ve been taking Tylenol but now that I’m in the hospital, I don’t have any. So I ask the nurse for some and she kindly sends me to the Pharmacy.
I buy some in hopes it will help.
The Doctor orders us up some tasty “Gatorator,” as Knox calls it. Old school green. But he is happy to be drinking anything. Heck, he’s just happy. We both are, Phineus and Ferb just came on.
Knox has kept down the Gatorade and so they are sending us home. I call everyone and let them know. Everyone, that is, except Bethany. We thank the Doc and the nurses.
We get to the house and immediately set up our little “sleepover” in Daddy’s bed. He is excited about sleeping with me tonight. He falls asleep almost immediately.
There is a bowl between us, just in case.
I watch Braves baseball and read, just so I can keep an eye on him. Bethany and I text each other and I use his sleeping to keep from talking on the phone. She is relieved that she is feeling better. And even more relieved Knox feels better.
I’m thinking, “We are going to survive.”
I decide to turn off the lamp, put down the book, turn off the game, and go to sleep. And it comes quickly. It’s been a long day and I’ve longed to be here in my bed with a healthy Knox.
Saturday, May 5th, 3 AM
The phone rings. I’m delirious and cannot understand why my Mom is calling.
“I hate to tell you this but Emma has been sick now for over 2 hours.”
I’ve gotten myself ready. I’m awake for the most part and in shock.
And the question that keeps running through my mind with ferocity is, “Why in the middle of the night? why not during the day, after I’ve slept and recovered from this insane day?”
I tell you the truth, it sounds funny now but it was really horrific at this time of day. You see I hate everyone at 3 AM. When I was a youth pastor – that is after my first gig – I wrote it in my contract I would not do lock-ins. I don’t like hating people. And at 3 AM, I get crazy.
Not even God escapes my irrational fury.
Plus, I like to sleep.
Now I have to wake up Knox. This is surprisingly easy. I grab him a change of clothes and we get in the van.
“Daddy, where are all the cars?”
“In their respective garages, buddy.”
The fog was thick and we were indeed virtually alone until we merged onto the interstate. This is the same interstate we were on earlier. No longer is it a parking lot. We are traveling in a different direction. And Knox is no longer sick. In fact, he is wide-eyed. This is really an adventure for him. He cannot stop smiling and asking questions about the fog and our inability to get away from it.
Finally, he just declares it “creepy.”
We pull up to my parents. The street is dark – the house darker. But my mom is waiting and she ushers us both upstairs. Emma looks terrible. Just like Knox did about 15 hours earlier.
A suppository always works for Emma so I decide to use one.
I know what you are thinking but you have to understand we have had to admit Emma twice to stave off dehydration. And I’ve already been to the ER once in the past 12 hours. This madness has got to stop.
The suppository has been, errr, administered. Knox is on a pallet at the foot of the bed Emma and I are in.
Now, we wait.
No change at all. This virus is having it’s way with her just as it did with Knox. Every 15 minutes a nightmare.
I’m having to come to grips with the fact this looks exactly like what happened with Knox. And the result is going to be the same. I call the ER at Children’s. The doc I get tells me the exact opposite of what I was told by the pediatrician earlier in the day.
Dear Doctors, Can y’all get on the same page, here? OK, thanks!
The sun is up. Lights creeps through the blinds. For some reason this brings relief and resolve. It’s around this time, I realize I feel fine. No nausea and no achey joints. Just worry over Emma.
I’m going with my gut. I let my mom know, Emma and I are headed back to the ER.
So I dress my beautiful little girl, pick her up and carry her down to the van. Bowl in hand.
She also gets sick on the way to the ER. The drive is twice as long as when I took Knox. But she does well. She sleeps most of the time.
I should probably admit that if there had been no free valet parking at the ER I would not have been as ready to go. Feels good to admit that.
We walk in with a couple of nurses who I assume will be starting their 7 AM shift. No one is waiting in the waiting room. We go back at once and are helped by the doctor who I talked with on the phone. He takes vitals and is nothing but kind to Emma and myself.
We are in a private room and in walks a nurse – one of the nurses who helped us yesterday. She wonders what is going and realizes it is a different kid.
“It spread, huh?”
I explain that she reminded me too much of what I saw in Knox. And she responded by telling me they would take care of it.
They may think I’m insane but they did not say it to my face.
I am now famous throughout the ER for being the Dad to bring in two kids in two days while mom is on vacation. They know she doesn’t know. There is often 3 to 5 people in our room – nurses, doctors – some helping, some just talking and hanging out.
I’m kinda one of them now. I mean, I know where the bathroom is, how the TV works and where the Pharmacy is. I belong.
hankfully they give Emma some Zofran. It works like magic. I make a note to invest in Zofran and hoard supplies of it.
They finally let me know I made a good decision in bringing her in. She was “very dry” according to the awesome young lady Doctor.
She does not do quite as well as Knox with the IV but once it’s in, she goes right to sleep.
I’m glad to see Emma already doing better. There is much more color in her face after an hour of fluids. But now I’m wondering how Bethany is.
She sends me a text –
“How are y’all?”
“We are doing good. How are you?”
“Woke up feeling normal!!! really hope that continues. So glad y’all are better.”
“I feel totally normal also. I’ll call you after I get the other two and get home.”
Phew. I don’t like lying to her and leaving out the fact I am in the ER for the second time in 24 hours but she is about to have an epic day at the beach with two of her best friends. She deserves this.
The truth can wait.
“Ummm, can we get some red?
She barely wakes up to drink a little every 5 minutes or so.
Doc says she is looking good, so we are free to go. I make all the calls necessary letting the in-laws and my folks know we are leaving the hospital soon. My mom says she will have the boys ready when we get there.
I start calculating – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – OK, all of us have had it now…
We pick up the boys, thank my parents for the heroic help, and head home.
Sat. 12 PM – Sun. 6 PM
It was pretty much sleep, sleep, Phineus and Ferb, Spider-man cartoons and more sleep. There was one point not long before bed time where Emma said her tunny hurt a little. So I quickly called my father-in-law who lives around the corner and got him to run down to the Pharmacy and pick up a prescription for Zofran. He made it just as they were closing, like a hero. I was stoked to see this was a drinkable version and she was feeling better within minutes.
Wait, I need to back up.
Sunday 5 PM
Bethany is about an hour from home. And so I decide to tell her the whole story before she gets home. She didn’t even know Emma had gotten sick. So I started by telling her that because I didn’t want her to worry about her getting sick. She can relax knowing we’ve all had the disease now and lived to tell.
She was thankful but could not believe it.
nd to be honest, I lived through the whole thing and I still have trouble believing it.