House of Horrors, part II

House of Horrors, part II September 25, 2011

When we left you, I had made the decision to take my middle child to the hospital. After six hours of solid puking and (TMI alert) diarrhea, she was pale, her lips grey, her eyes sunken, and she was beyond lethargic. I was advised by my pediatrician, Sasha Feroce, and the Ogre to take her in, cost be damned.

So I stormed through the house like a tornado, gathering up extra clothes, towels to sop up puke (look, guys, the life of a mother gets real), diapers, and trash bags for whatever may come. I tossed some snacks in the general direction of Sienna and Liam, thanked Sasha Feroce for watching my other children, snatched up Charlotte and made my way out to the car.

After I had strapped her in, covered her with a towel, handed her a plastic trash bag with the futile instructions to “throw up in this”, started the car and put on her favorite song, we made our  not-so-merry way to Dallas’ finest hospital, Medical City.

When we got there, God saw fit to send us the very thing that could make us both run at the moment.

Hello, I am evil and I want to kill you

I kid you not. I stepped out the door of the car, unstrapped Charlotte, and we were immediately beset by ominous buzzing and pointlessly terrifying loops.

I screamed. She screamed. I scooped her up and we ran for the ER entrance.

Bravery, thy name is neither Calah nor Charlotte. In the face of danger, we shall scream like the girls we are and flee in terror, stomach flu or no.

We shot through the doors, momentarily stymied by the dual entrances, but we chose “Children’s ER” instead of “Adult’s ER” and in that, I think we made the right call.

The waiting room was mercifully empty, so no one saw our pathetically hysterical entrance.

I sat Charlotte down wearily, trying to calm my own stomach while praying that she would not upchuck all over the ER floor, grabbed the paperwork from the eternally bored ER registration attendant, and began to write.

Charlotte, my poor, dehydrated daughter, began asking for water. “Wa-wa, Mama?” she asked languidly. “No, Chars, honey. You have to wait. I can’t give you any water right now.” She looked slightly alarmed at this. “Mom, may I have wa-wa, pease?” she asked, clearly confident that greater attention to grammar would earn her what she desired.

Alas, what usually works like a charm in our nerd-eriffic household had no effect today. “No, Charlotte, I’m sorry sweetheart, but I can’t give you any water until the doctor sees you,” I replied gently.

At this point, Charlotte began to look downright petrified. You’ll remember that she had been puking for six hours and had been unable, that whole time, to keep down even a teaspoon of liquid. The child was dehydrated, but horribly so.

She began to look around. There, behind the glass, sat the eternally bored ER attendant, sipping a bottle fairly dripping with condensation. Oh yes, he had water. Cold, delicious, crisp water.

Charlotte’s voice trembled as she pointed and said, “Wa-wa, Mama. He have wa-wa. Can I have it, please?” Two fat tears pooled at the corner of her eyes as she, too exhausted to hold her hand steady, dropped her arm and absolutely panted at the water the eternally bored attendant was insensitively gulping down.

At this point my writing began to resemble nothing so much as heiroglyphics. I was desperate to fill out the damned paperwork and get my daughter some frakking water. I shook my head and stroked her hair, writing furiously.

Medical City is a miracle hospital, people. No sooner had I placed the paperwork in the hands of the eternally bored ER attendant than we were whisked back to Triage.

There, in the triage room, was a sink.

Charlotte tried to frantically launch herself out of my arms at the sink while screaming, “There’s wa-wa in the sink, Mama! Please can I have the wa-wa in the sink! Can I drink the wa-wa in it, please?”

At this point, I didn’t even answer her. I just held her still, trying to convey with my eyes the depth of my desperation at the triage nurse.

The triage nurse seemed to be a bit of an idiot.

She began to speak to Charlotte in what I can only assume was meant to be a pleasantly high-pitched, slightly goofy voice. Charlotte immediately stopped trying to claw her way toward the sink and instead cowered against me, totally frightened by this bizarre dark-haired, normal-looking person who nevertheless spoke with the voice of  a Powerpuff girl.

Not what you want to hear when you’re puking

You should know that, like her father, Charlotte does not like people. She will tolerate those who speak to her in a respectful, grave tone, but if you begin to try to baby-talk this child, she will immediately begin mentally cataloguing ways in which to dismember you.

Today was no exception. In spite of her illness, I could see the severe little cogs of her mind turning furiously. The nurse began to put a hospital band on her while singing some nonsense about it being a “bracelet”. Charlotte gritted her teeth, locked her little arms, and began to growl. The nurse managed to get the “bracelet” on (in no small part due to my whispered pleas/threats), but when she turned to take Charlotte’s temperature, Charlotte balked. She stopped cowering into me and instead sat fully upright in my lap, bared her teeth at the nurse, and began to scream the most horrific of screams that has ever originated from behind a set of toddler teeth.

I apologized in between attempts to forcibly pry Charlotte’s mouth open, to no avail. The nurse, clearly the farthest thing from clever, upped the baby-talk ante and began to literally clip her syllables into unintelligible strings of vowels whilst leaning over my angry child and stroking her hair.

Charlotte stopped screaming. I held my breath. The nurse, for one-half of a millisecond, looked triumphant.

Then Charlotte kicked her in the stomach.

I heard the “oomph” of air come out of the poor nurse’s mouth as she doubled over. Charlotte resumed screaming. The nurse cast a baleful glare at both of us through her dark hair. I just sat, stunned, unsure of whether I should punish Charlotte or reward her.

So I did nothing. And the nurse sent us back to a room without a temperature, clearly just trying to pass us on to the next unfortunate, baby-talking ER worker.

When we got into a room, my poor child collapsed against me. It seemed that kicking the triage nurse had taken up the last of her meager supply of energy. She didn’t even ask to drink the water in the sink…she just stared at it longingly, with her tongue hanging slightly out of her mouth.

I tried to distract her with television, to no avail. I tried to cheer her up with the news that Mimi and Papa (my parents) were on their way bringing with them her favorite thing in all of creation, a new pair of shoes that squeaked. No response. Finally, desperate, I divulged the surprise that I had been jealously guarding for my children for the past two weeks.

“Charlotte,” I said gently. “Guess who’s on an airplane right now?” Charlotte didn’t even look at me. “Daddy! Daddy’s coming to see you! He’ll be here in just a few hours!”

Of all of my children, Charlotte has had the most difficult time being away from the Ogre. My girls are both Daddy’s girls, but to Charlotte, the Ogre is the sun and the wind, the rain and stars. He is the whole world. I give her food and baths; the Ogre gives her the stuff of life.  The laughter, the joy, the mystery and the wonder. For Charlotte, the Ogre is all of that and more.

If it wasn’t so lovely, I would be jealous.

But today, poor Charlotte barely even acknowledged the news. “Da-da?” she whispered. “Yes!” I said, much too forcefully. “Da-da is coming!”

Charlotte nodded and then slumped back against me.

At this point, I became truly alarmed. Before, I had begun to worry that perhaps I over-reacted, and perhaps she didn’t need to be in the ER. But now I knew. My child was very, very ill.

The nurse came in, I answered some questions, and she came right back with anti-nausea medicine. Charlotte took it without complaint, a miracle on any other day but today just another testament to how truly weak she was. The nurse said she would return in 20 minutes with a popsicle, and if Charlotte could keep it down, she would be released without IV fluids.

At this point, I was torn. I felt that my child should be given IV fluids. She was obviously dehydrated. And yet, after the debacle with the triage nurse, I knew that the hospital staff would most likely have to sedate her to get a needle under her skin.

So I let them make the rules, and decided just to play ball. Charlotte devoured the popsicle in record time. My parents showed up right at the end, and instead of leaping into their arms, she just hid her face in my stomach. But she kept the popsicle down for half an hour, and the ER doctor released us with a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine and a sippy cup full of water for Charlotte.

We were in and out of the ER in an hour and a half. We went straight to Tom Thumb, where my parents mercifully helped me get Charlotte’s medicine, some Gatorade, Popsicles, and other essential Sick Child paraphernalia. Charlotte seemed to be feeling okay at this point. She was clearly still exhausted, but she was keeping down small sips of water and was at least able to sit upright in the supermarket cart.

My parents followed me back to the Coach and Sasha Feroce’s house, which I warned them to stay out of if they liked their previously eaten food to remain inside their bodies.

Charlotte and I walked inside. Sasha and the Coach had put Sienna down already, and I was just preparing to put Liam down when I heard the most ominous sound of all:  Charlotte projectile-vomiting grape popsicle and water all over the kitchen.

Her vomiting was, as usual, accompanied by hysterical screams and hand-wringing. I cleaned her up and then handed her and the trash can off to Sasha Feroce so that I could at least put Liam down.

Once Liam was down I returned to the living room, where Charlotte was falling asleep in the red play wagon which Sasha Feroce had lined with blankets and Charlotte’s pillow pet. It was nearly time for the Ogre’s flight to arrive, so the Coach took off to get him while I began to make a pallet for Charlotte on the living room floor.

I laid Charlotte down and she didn’t even open her eyes. She was asleep instantaneously. Relieved and still a little nauseous, not to mention exhausted from one hell of a day, I slumped onto the couch and waited for my husband to arrive.

He finally walked in the door twenty minutes later. This visit was markedly different from the last in so many ways, but most prominently, I was actually shocked to see him. I don’t know if I had actually forgotten what he looks like or what, but I genuinely felt surprised at the sight of his face. I almost hesitated when he held his arms out for me, but once I was wrapped up in them all that faded. The world made sense again.

The Ogre hugged me closely for a few minutes, put his luggage down, kissed Charlotte’s sleeping eyes, then went to check on Sienna.

He returned a few minutes later to report that Sienna was wide awake. Laughing, he said that it was because she couldn’t sleep without Charlotte, but immediately my spidey senses began to tingle.

Charlotte may be the most like the Ogre, but Sienna sleeps the most like him. The two of them could sleep through a bleeding hurricane and wake up none the worse for wear. For Sienna to be awake in the middle of the night was bizarre. Alarming.

I headed straight for the girls’ bedroom. I swung the door open and turned the light on there, on the floor before me, was such a sight.

Oh, I wish I had a picture to show you. There sat my eldest, Sienna, cross-legged in the floor, both arms held out as if she were in supplication, absolutely covered in vomit.

Seriously. I have never, in all of my 27 years, in every sketchy place and drug house and dive bar I’ve stepped foot in, never have I ever seen anything quite that…gross.

The poor child’s hair was matted to her face. She had vomit all over her head. Vomit in her eyelashes. Vomit in her nose. It was covering her arms, her fingers, her nightgown, her thighs, her calves, her toes. She was sitting in a puddle of her own puke, and when I opened the door and gasped audibly, this is what I heard.

“Mommy….I don’t feel good!

I know I promised 2 parts, but this tale is getting longer in the re-telling, so I’ll wrap it up tomorrow (or the next day) with part III (and possibly IV). Don’t hate me. This is an epic tale of an epic plague, and it deserves justice. 

Also, if you feel sick after reading this (and I only say this because I felt slightly sick after writing it), be advised that wine will cure your ills. No, really. Try it. 

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