The Night Watch: Tonsillitis

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It’s 3am and I haven’t slept a wink. I’m covering the night watch. I’ve been lying on a sofa bed listening to the strangled breaths of the Rascal for hours. I just can’t stop feeling worried every time there’s a prolonged silence before he gurgles in another breath. After a lovely week of sunshine and playdates, he was suddenly stricken down with a mysterious illness on Thursday evening. Initially it was just his cheeks that turned bright red and started burning up. Teething, Daddy decided. Meanwhile I had severe Mammy guilt about whether I might not have been diligent enough, and let my poor baby get too much sun. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong that evening as a fierce fever developed and his breathing grew strained.

He seemed better in the morning, but was exhausted after barely 2 hours out of bed. He was off-form and very unsettled and clingy all day. When he started burning up again, I searched the house for a baby thermometer (how do these things manage to always go MIA just when you need them?) and endured the inevitable struggle to keep it in the general area of the Rascal’s armpit. 39 point something degrees. Whoa! Not at all comfortable with that. I booked us in to see the doctor for a last minute appointment before the weekend. Inevitably this resulted in sitting about in a waiting room for a long time after our appointment time as people slowly drifted in and out. Obviously we were the very last on the patient list. The Rascal sat there, cheeks aflame, dressed only in his pjamas, looking rather miserable.

 

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When we finally got in to see the doctor he took one look at the sad little face in front of him and apologised that the only patient he’d seen in the past hour that was obviously actually ill, had to wait so long. Lots of poking and prodding ensued which did not go down well with a now highly irritable toddler. High fever, no ear infection, checked the chest, then on to mouth and throat. “Ahah!”, exclaimed the doctor delightedly, “Tonsillitis!”. Ok I said, rather less enthusiastically. “No no, this good”, he says, “Tonsillitis I can fix… otherwise it would be some kind of a viral thingy”. Ok, fair enough. Better to have a more concrete diagnosis than ‘undefined virus’ to work with.

This was only the second time I’ve seen this doctor, and he then asked the questions I’d been somewhat dreading about whether the Rascal was taking any solids or water. He was not. He’d absolutely refused to let any into his mouth. “He is breastfeeding lots…”, I offered, internally bracing myself in case this turned out to be an anti-breastfeeding healthcare professional. Thankfully the only response was “Great, he’ll be fine then!”. I’ve heard some nasty stories about mothers being lectured on their perfectly legitimate choice for feeding their baby by uninformed doctors. I was relieved not to have to deal with one of those on this occasion.  Having a sick child is bad enough without having to defend yourself for following the WHO guidlines on what’s best for your child. We left with a prescription for antibiotics, and another alternative in case he ‘rejected’ the first one. Unfortunately my husband is very allergic to penicillin. I was about to find out if the Rascal was too.

He was not allergic, but he was a very unwell baby that did not want to be put down AT ALL for the next few days. All solids and water continued to be rejected. Aside from sounding like Darth Vader by day, and a drowning baby by night, he also took to vomiting once a night to keep me on my toes. The Rascal’s survival instinct is quite strong though. Every time his breath faltered at night, he startled himself awake. Often very upset and insistent that he not be on his own. As a light sleeper, I could barely stand the noise as he sputtered and gasped in the darkness. It took 48 hours before the fever subsided and the Rascal could start wearing clothes again. He’s been slowly increasing his solid intake as the bottle of antibiotics grows nearer to empty. And most importantly for all our sanity, his breathing is returning to normal. I’ll happily return to the ‘normal’ sleepless nights after this prolonged sleepless state of anxiety. At least until the memory of the past few nights fades. Then I’ll feel entitled to have a good old moan about my lack of sleep once more.

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