Monday, February 6, 2012

And a Side of Strep

In the last week we have cultured an impressive collection of illnesses in the Eby House Petri Dish: pink eye, sore throats, runny noses, coughs, fevers, and vomiting. But now Toby has come down with the all-time winner: strep throat.

He'd been walking around the house with green ooze dripping from his nose for two weeks, so when he came down with a high fever Friday afternoon I figured he might have a sinus or ear infection. I would have taken him to the doctor sooner, but it was Friday afternoon, and I didn't want to be the paranoid mom who rushes her kids to the ER for every fever. I talked myself back down to earth: it could just be a viral fever, or a little infection his body will handle soon on it's own. It won't hurt to wait until Monday.

Toby was miserable Friday evening and Saturday. He coughed incessantly, lost his appetite, and walked around with dark, puffy, blank eyes. His fever went up and down between 100 and 103, sometimes responding and lowering with Tylenol and sometimes not. He put himself to bed early, but wouldn't drink the cup of milk he requested.

Sunday morning, however, he appeared so much improved with no fever and bright eyes again that we figured he'd turned the corner on some nasty virus and it wouldn't hurt to take him to church with us. We kept him out of the nursery just to be safe. But by the late afternoon the dark, bleary eyes returned, then the refusing to drink, then the horrific coughing fits. His breathing became rapid, his fever spiked up to 103 and refused to come down with Tylenol, and he was becoming dehydrated. He cried and cried but wouldn't tell me why. "I just feel so sad," he said. I called the on-call nurse and she advised us to head to the ER.

I've made a lot of ER runs before and I have decided that the three hours during the Super Bowl are the best hours to head to the ER out of the entire year. The place was deserted, except for two couples glued to the big-screen TV in the waiting area. We walked in, signed two forms and went straight back to triage. The triage nurse wanted to take Toby's temperature in his mouth. This was a new experience for Toby (I always use the armpit), and he wasn't in the mood to cooperate. He held his mouth open and still got a reading of 103 degrees. His oxygen saturation was also down to 95%. The nurse led us straight back to a room where Toby sat on my lap listening to me read Curious George stories. As we went I heard another nurse call one of the ladies from the waiting room. Reluctant to leave her big-screen entertainment during the last quarter of the game she asked, "Do they have TVs back there?" When the nurse assured her that they did, she responded, "Oh good, otherwise I'd be staying right here!"

The doctors exam of Toby didn't take long: one look in his throat and she said, "Whoa! He's got strep throat! That looks pretty bad. Yep, his lymph nodes are swollen too." I asked if she was going to do a rapid strep test, but she said she didn't need to with a throat that looked like that. I asked about a chest x-ray to look for pneumonia, and she said it would be pointless since the antibiotic to treat the pneumonia would be the same for the strep. So we were in and out of the ER in less than an hour--an all-time record for us.

"Toby," I asked, when she had left the room, "does your throat hurt you?"

"Um," Toby thought, "no. It doesn't." Right, he won't eat or drink, his throat is pocked with pus and blood, and he's sick as a dog, but he's not going to call it painful. That kid is made of nails. After a minute he did concede weekly, "Mommy, I'm a little bit sick. Put me in bed."

He cried as we waited at the pharmacy for his antibiotic and gladly snuggled up in bed once we got home. Today he is feeling brighter, drinking some water, and he ate a little rice pudding. He still refused his cup of milk before nap, but happily greeted his pillow and blanket. His fever is around 100 and disappears with Tylenol now. Hopefully he'll be more himself by tomorrow.

What am I doing today? Washing everything I can in hot water, wiping everything I can with Lysol, passing out blops of hand sanitizer like it's candy, reminding Toby to cover his mouth every time he coughs (which is about every 10 seconds), and lecturing the girls about the dangers of touching Toby's sippy cup. I also sent out an apology e-mail to the other families in our church with small children warning them that they were exposed to strep yesterday. Yes, I feel guilty, but I really didn't know it was that bad. Matt was supposed to have the day off of work today (after logging 56 hours last week), but he was called in to work again today. Feeling a little disappointed as he got dressed, I asked him where he'd really rather be today: at work or at home disinfecting the entire house and caring for sick kids. "Well, I guess I have less of a chance of getting sick at work," he agreed. That's right Matt: run, save yourself.

On the bright side, a friend from church just dropped off some take-n-bake gluten free pizza for us (made in a place that's careful about cross-contamination), so I can cross two hours of dinner prep off of my "to-do" list. And little, Elijah, bless his sweet, smiling face, has sailed through all of these disease-laden seas without even a sniffle, one of those amazing benefits of breastfeeding. There's always something to be thankful for: pizza and a smiling baby happen to be two of my favorites.

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