Close call and silver linings

This morning I lifted Millie out of her crib in the room she shares with Mara and carried her out into the living room so that I could lay her on the sofa to remove her from her sleep sack. As I lowered her and unzipped the fleece cocoon and her puffy, red, warm-from-bed face drew open with a smile a thought came to me that I remember often having when Mara was still a babe in arms, a sense of amazement that this little bundle was not only alive, but alive as a complete human being. She will develop more bone and muscle tissue and she lacks experience, but in the most important ways she is already all here. And the most amazing part is, she is the person Emilia, as differentiated as you or I from all other human beings.

Reflecting on a rough week over her morning milk.

I suppose my mind was turned in this direction because we had a pretty scary week last week where Millie was concerned. She’d just finished a round of antibiotics for an ear infection that came with a bad cold. We thought she was doing a lot better, but the next night she was throwing up multiple times, and the night after that she wouldn’t sleep. We took turns rocking her in the rocking chair all night. Mara had had a nightmare deep in the night on Monday night, so with the upchucking Tuesday night and the all-night vigil on Wednesday, we were zombies by Thursday, which is when Millie’s breathing became extremely labored and she started wheezing horribly and her temperature rose to 104. We ended up at Children’s Hospital overnight Thursday night. I dropped Mara off at her friend Logan’s house for an emergency sleepover, which Mara loved because Logan gets to stay up until eleven or whenever he gets tired.

Angela and Millie and I stayed in a room by ourselves “in isolation”, which meant that every doctor and nurse and aide that came into the room had to suit up outside first with mask, gloves and smock, which they then dumped in a laundry bin before going back out. Besides a massive ear infection, Millie had RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a common enough virus but one that is extremely hard on children under two, and apparently very contagious.

A silver lining. Mara, Logan and Pixie sleeping in.

We are grateful to have Children’s so close by. People bring their children from all over the world to be seen by doctors there. By midnight Millie’s temperature was normal, and she slept off and on all night. I stayed up until three so Angela could sleep on the fold-out bed, then napped next to her between visits by the nurse, which were frequent. At six, Angela got up for a shift and I crashed into a deep sleep for about two hours. Millie continued to improve throughout the day and the nurse talked about us being able to check out by midday, but you know how it goes…we were there until four in the afternoon.

By that time, Angela and I were coming down with the virus. It’s now almost a week later and we’ve been coughing and hacking all week. Our President’s Day was a bust, not the usual raucous day of celebrating past helmsmen of the Executive Branch (kidding, we usually do nothing like most Americans). Millie visited her doctor again that day and we were dismayed to learn that the two doses of high-powered antibiotic she got at the hospital didn’t get rid of her ear infection, in fact she now has them in both ears. Mara has the cough now too. I tell you true, I do not recall having a worse cold in my adult life. It’s like someone’s driven railroad spikes into my throat and pumped Silly Putty up my nostrils, and no cough drops or cold medicine or tea with honey or sleep or hot shower or anything seems to help.

Doctor Mara. Sometimes all you can do is be there for them.

The hospital staff. You're in good hands.

There are silver linings, though. Millie still has an earache (she keeps pointing to her ears and saying “hitz” for “hurts”) but her wheezing is gone and she’s happy again and sleeping through the night. Mara and Logan had a fabulous time and fell asleep side by side in Logan’s top bunk. Because everything in the hospital room would have to be thrown away when we left, the nurses told us to take stuff — diapers, boxes of tissues, whatever was there. We took the smock Millie had been in and a larger one for Mara, and several masks and our parent ID badges and a measuring tape and some colorful bandage wrap. The girls have been using all of it to play hospital.

Yesterday Mara and I were feeling better during the midday and I had a library book due, so we rode the bus downtown and I showed her around the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library, which she’s never seen. We watched the elevators working through the glass walls, and we rode the escalators and took short cuts across the famous “books spiral”, we watched for teens in the teen section (saw one) and we looked down from the “highest viewpoint” up on the tenth floor. Then we went back down and ensconced ourselves in the children’s section, where Mara flipped through books in her very complex process of selection.

The top of the library. I doubt we were still contagious, but if Seattle is wiped out by RSV, it's our fault. Sorry.

All things considered we’re doing well. Many others have it so much worse, and any danger to any child is a fright to his or her parents so I know I’m not saying anything profound or new here, but I haven’t posted for ages and I felt like writing. I know how fortunate we are and I’m content to be grateful, though I will be even more grateful when the pain in my throat finally goes away.

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10 Responses to “Close call and silver linings”


  1. 1 dogindogout February 23, 2012 at 10:08

    Lovely. Made me all teary. So glad everybody is on the mend. L is down with a terrible cough starting last night. Sigh. It’s that season. L & I have never managed to get down to the “new” downtown branch of the public library. I’ve never even seen it myself, so it’s still new to me. I’m inspired to go!

    • 2 Matt February 23, 2012 at 10:26

      Hi dogindogout,
      The downtown library is what Mara would call “impressive”, but for kids especially I think the branches are cozier and warmer and feel friendlier. Still I recommend a visit. I didn’t like the design at first. The exterior seemed like a more angular EMP and communication from one section of the spiral to another I still find confusing. Walking the spiral is inefficient, so there are these short cuts, like magic wardrobes from one world to another, but they are not all positioned in the same place on each floor and some floors of the spiral don’t have them. Also, I keep running into a stairway where I thought there was an escalator. Really, my problem is that I tend to think in a grid but the central branch is designed more organically. Which is also the coolest thing about it. Best of all, they got books!

      Sorry to hear about L. I hope it’s not from contact with Mara, though she didn’t come down with it until a few days later. Health and peace upon your household and thanks again for throwing a rope.

  2. 3 Kate February 23, 2012 at 10:39

    Lovely post and I’m so glad to hear that you all are beginning to feel better! What a terrible thing. Please give my best to your sweet family.
    And about the SPL downtown branch – don’t.get.me.started.

    • 4 Matt February 23, 2012 at 11:01

      Thanks Kate,
      Slowly getting weller are we, yes. About the library — if we trash the central branch then my friend Librarian Girl, who may or may not work there, may come over here and open a can of whoopass on my blog. I think the downtown branch works best for those who know it intimately or not at all. The problems arise when you sort of know your way around a little and you’re on your lunch hour and in a hurry and you want to cross the spiral. At least they fixed that front door — boy, THAT was a downer for a long time.

  3. 5 Ami February 23, 2012 at 18:20

    I’m glad you are all mending! As a parent I know that horrible feeling you get in the depths of your soul when you realize your child is sick enough to need a hospital, and your heart drops into your stomach. Big hugs to you all, especially Mara. We know how tough it be on siblings.
    Quick side note, when Claire had RSV, they color of the gowns and mask’s were yellow. Claire still has a strong dislike for the color yellow!

    • 6 Matt February 23, 2012 at 21:33

      Ami,
      I’m sorry you’re so familiar with that feeling. And poor Claire! We were surprised Millie was willing to don the smock again once she was home. Good call on Mara…we’ve been hard put to set aside special time for her. She’s a wonderful big sister, but she needs her share of attention, too.

  4. 7 ken February 26, 2012 at 10:38

    What an ordeal for the whole family!! I am so glad you are all getting well and past it all.

  5. 9 Jana February 28, 2012 at 07:18

    Matt – you mentioned you’d been under the weather but I had no idea! Glad you are all on the upswing.

    Even when we lived in south Kent, we made the drive up to Children’s a couple times with our son who has asthma.

    Teen-spotting at the SPL – LOL!

    • 10 Matt February 28, 2012 at 08:43

      Thanks Jana. I think “doozie” is the technical term for what happened to us. Allthough I’m unsure of the spelling, this has definitely been one. Still climbing out of it, snotwise.


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