"No vacation goes unpunished." ~Karl Hakkarainen
[Warning: This post contains detailed descriptions of mucous, boogers and related grossness. In the event that you are not immune by being a health care worker, a seasoned parent or a seven year old boy, viewer discretion is advised. You were warned. *Cough*]
One of the perqs of being a "senior" nurse is the vacation time. Although we don't spend it all in one place usually, it helps to try and regain some semblance of a work-life balance. It's given to us in hours, which when you apply it to shiftwork, can have some pretty cool results. I work a wacky schedule that sees me work two twelve hour day shifts, two twelve hour night shifts and then have four or five days off before starting it all over again. I've spent 45 hours (4 shifts) of my vacation bank this week (as I refuse to work on my birthday), which when added to the five on either side, gave me 14 days off. Sha-ZAM!
Sounds great right? It certainly was leading up to it. I was almost skipping out of my last shift; it was truly difficult to resist shouting "So long, suckers!" at my relief that morning. I was OUT. I was DONE! I was on vacation and I HAD THINGS TO DO AROUND HERE!
Enter the Virus.
This house has been besieged by one bug or another since Quinn returned to school in September. First we had a round of colds which, in all fairness, were pretty tame. Except for Sean who, for a guy that only gets sick once every 3 to 5 years, got a whopper. He was completely miserable for a full week. I thought I was coming down with it for 12 hours, only to have it go away. It powered through all three kids and then finally sidled off into the sunset, only to be replaced shortly thereafter by Boogie Nights.
I went in to get the babies up one morning, only to find my son's face to be two thick streams of greenish mucous. Oh the huge manatees! I had never seen anything like it. He looked like a walrus. I can handle most things, but boogers and spit are two of my least favourite. He didn't seem to be too troubled by it, other than flinching when I attempted to wipe his face eleventy million times a day. His sister got it a few days later and Quinn after that. I had a few hours of it and then it was gone again. Sean, well, his cough came back. They all ended up with a cute little smoker's cough and I was happy to see the ends of the walrus impersonations (and the fights to suction out their little heads).
By this point, it was the beginning of November. Quinn decided to start having nosebleeds, probably to break up the monotony. An increase in the overall humidity fixed that. However, I found the kids with runny noses again, this time clear (much to my initial relief) and we started all over again. This bug quickly became "Boogie Wonderland" as sticky booger bits were everywhere on the kids. They were stuck on their nose, they were on the backs of their hands, they were stuck in their hair. They hung on like little hitch-hikers and needed a firm swipe with a baby wipe to remove them safely. All the kids learned to duck and cover when they saw me coming as it meant I was going to wipe/pick off/deal with some nastyness or another. Again, I felt crummy for 12 hours or so, but it cleared up again. Eventually this too settled down, everyone was sleeping again, coughs were productive and disappearing and I was poised to take vacation.
That was my mistake, right there.
Yes, we are talking about colds here. However, when you have Trisomy 21 (and an AVSD as well), you can get very sick, very fast. What is a cold for Zoe and Quinn could quite easily be pneumonia for Wyatt. I don't keep my kids in a bubble, far from it. However, this little factoid kept me awake many a night. Is he breathing okay? Is he blue?
About a week ago, his cough slowly became drier. I listened for the bark of croup and was sort of denied. Sort of. We proceeded as if it was croup and dealt with any fevers that popped up. As time went on however, it became more evident that he (and the other members of the family, but to a lesser degree) had what became known as the Martian Death Cough. The kids would wake up with their noses almost sealed shut with dried greeners. Then the coughing would start, the chest-burster cough that seared your throat dry. Once it really took hold, they would cough all through the night. Zoe had it first; she became more haggard looking every day as she lost more sleep because of it. She would cough and cough and her eating almost ceased completely. She even developed a new phrase "ohhh noooo!" Between coughing fits she would walk around and declare "ohhh nooo!" and be our own little Voice of Doom. We pushed fluids and tylenol and one night she actually got some sleep; by morning she looked a million times better.
Then it was Wy's turn.
He coughed off and on through the night for a few days without much problem. We pushed fluids and dealt with fevers as The Voice of Doom made sure that we took this seriously. He would cough and she would say "ohhh noooo!" very dramatically and look very sad. Then, somewhere around Thursday, things started to really worsen. His chest was an orchestra of rattles, squeaks and groans and you could see that his breathing was faster and took a lot of energy. As time went on, his hypotonia became more pronounced and he literally wilted before our eyes. Friday night was particularly scary, after listening to him cough non stop for what seemed like forever, I brought him downstairs at 4 am to asses him. He was burning up; in went the Tylenol and a bottle of juice. I had abandoned the sippy cup the day before as the need for fluids out did his need for oral development. You could see him using his intercostal muscles to breathe, you could see him assuming sleep apnea-head- thrown-back poses to sleep. He did start to look better once everything kicked in; I changed him into a onesie and went back to bed, one ear glued to the monitor. I could hear the chest noises through the monitor at times. He was going to the doc in the morning, no matter how much he rallied.
The doc agreed with me and stuck him on some antibiotics. I was a bit concerned at first as we could barely get the juice into him. His throat hurt badly from coughing and while all this is going on, he decided to try and grow some more teeth. Food was completely out of the question, even ice cream. What kid refuses ice cream? I even made some Italian wedding soup which was so chock full of yummy goodness that even big brother had two helpings. De nada. He was even fighting us on the Tylenol and liquid meds.
I spent last night glued to the monitor again (and snuck in there I don't know how many times to check his breathing). There were a few coughing fits, but not a lot. We are all sleeping in later these days, probably due to our nocturnal prowls, so I was pleased to see some of his spark back this morning when we woke them up at 10. He's even had some chatty bits today, which is encouraging. The indrawing is still there at times, but he is doing more. He's moving around the room again and pulling up on things, a feat that would have completely exhausted him two days ago. He's eating soft squishy things like yoghurt and applesauce and if I pretend to not see it, right now he's nibbling on a waffle while the boys watch the Grey Cup. Don't watch him eat it, don't even look at him. He may drop it.
Now it's my turn.
It feels like I am slowly being strangled and my chest hurts with the Martian Death Cough. Luckily, I can drink hot liquids and take things like Robitussin to help with the cough and Tylenol to get rid of my headache. I'm also officially on vacation starting today, so I will have plenty of opportunity to sleep (I hope). I will slather myself in Vaporub and steam the hell out of the bedroom with the vaporizer. I don't care as long as the kids are ok.
No good deed goes unpunished and, as it turns out, neither does any vacation. I should have known that slowing down would allow the bugs in. We are armed with plenty of fluids, Clorox wipes and healthy immune boosting num-nums so we should see the other side of this at some point. I look forward to the day where this place is no longer Boogie Wonderland. This was not the destination I had in mind for my vacation, but apparently this is what was needed for me to slow down. We are lucky... as I've said before it could have gotten very nasty, very fast. I also know many people that are facing so much worse with their kids right now. We'll take our medicine and count our blessings. In the meantime, pass the Vaporub. Menthol and eucalyptus are the new sexy.