Note to readers: Abi told me to stick a health warning at the top of this wee tale. If you’re at all squeamish about vomit and shit, scroll down to the bottom of the story for some pretty pictures of me and Alex! Otherwise, keep on reading.
Last week Alex was sicker than he has ever been. He was fine until about 21:30 on Wednesday (barring a hefty chunk of watery poo earlier in the evening, but that didn’t seem too out of the ordinary). He’d just had his bath, and was bouncing around happily in nice fresh pyjamas. And then I smelled sour yoghurt…
He had been sick on the rug next to my desk. Just a little vomit, but he had crawled through it before I got to him and picked him up. He had some on his face and hands, but he still seemed cheerful enough. The volume was small enough that I was able to wipe him clean, run some water over his feet, and pop him into another pair of pyjamas. All the time he was making bll-bvv noises with his lips and tongue, so we thought that he had just eaten a bit more at dinner than his stomach was capable of handling.
We came downstairs again, and he started playing around again. He was crawling around, but making tired noises, so we figured that he was getting a bit sleepy. I was sitting at my desk, doing a bit of surfing, and I took him onto my lap. Then–BLEURGH!–barfing all over my lap. And more than the last time. His new pyjamas were now covered in vomit, as was my lap.
I called out to Abi to say that he’d been sick again, and to bring me a towel to mop it up, when–BLEEEUUURGHHHH!! I lifted Alex into my arms, and as he twisted himself round to face me a fountain of puke rose from his mouth like an erupting volcano. It went all over my chest, my arms, his body, my chair, and the rug under my desk. It is possibly the most unsetting thing I’ve ever experienced. (And that’s including The Blair Witch Project, and that photo on Rotten.com.) I was soaked to the skin with nasty half-digested, yoghurt-smelling, carrot-chunked barf.
There couldn’t possibly be more to come.
Abi grabbed a whole bunch of towels. I stripped Alex and myself down and took him upstairs for his second bath of the evening while Abi dealt with the vile mess. Again, he seemed quite chipper, so we reckoned that he’d probably thrown up whatever was disturbing his digestion. After his bath, we dressed him in another set of fresh pyjamas, and Abi gently rocked him to sleep.
We laid him down in his cot on his front, in the recovery position. We figured that he’d tossed all his cookies (and carrots, and vegetable lasagne, and bread…), but we weren’t going to take any chances. So Abi went to take her bath, while I stayed downstairs and played some SSX Tricky on my PS2.
I was just tidying the console away when I heard a little BLEURGH! from the baby monitor. I rushed up to see how Alex was doing, and yes, he had popped again. He was lying in roughly the same position as we’d settled him down, but now his cheek was resting beside a slowly spreading puddle of puke.
He head me come into the room, and he started to cry. As I turned on the light, he made a feeble effort to sit up before barfing again–this time on the other end of his mattress–and falling down on his side. I called out to Abi, and pulled Alex up out of his cot. He looked really unwell this time. He’d recovered quickly after the first two episodes, but now he has wailing inconsolably, and seemed too weak to wiggle. I stripped him and cleaned his face while Abi called the doctor. (You call a central number, leave your details, and then an on-call doctor phones back).
Abi then took him into the bath with her to clean and soothe him. He just lay there with her, his abdomen sunk in and his face ashen. Abi said he looked like I did when I had my bout of winter vomiting.
The doc called back, and I talked to him. Apparently, Alex’s illness wasn’t unusual. Plenty of other children around Edinburgh were succumbing to it. The doc recommended that we keep him off solid foods and on clear fluids for at least 24 hours. He suggested we give him sugar water, or Dioralyte. We had been intending to give him some breast milk, seeing as it’s usually good for every other ill, but the doc said that would be a bad idea–quite difficult for an immature, and struggling digestive system to tackle. Clear fluids, no food.
Alex fell asleep with Abi in the bath. He looked awful, but at least he was resting. We took him out eventually, and put him in yet another set of pyjamas. While he’d been sleeping in the bath, I’d done my best to clean his mattress with antibacterial soap and water and bicarbonate of soda. It wasn’t a perfect job, but it would see him through the night in a relatively non-stinky cot.
Neither of us expected to sleep well that night. I woke up around 01:30, thinking that he was gagging again, but when I went through he had only turned over onto his side. We all slept through the rest of the night.
In the morning, Abi woke first. In my own half-asleep state, I heard her go through to Alex’s room, and then there was an exclamation of “Oh my goodness!” I snapped to full wakefulness and rushed through to join her. I thought something terrible had happened! But instead it was just a terrible smell…
Alex had thoroughly crapped himself. At some point in the night, juicy poo had leaked out of his nappy and coated the inside of his sleepy suit–and his entire body. From his neck to his wrists and ankles (for the sleepy suit had contained the damage) his lovely baby skin was encrusted with sticky, stinky poo.
And it wasn’t coming off with baby wipes.
So it was bathtime again, for the fourth time in twelve hours. This time I took him in the bath with me and got him properly clean. He was having a hard time waking up, and his head lolled about in my arms. He was very floppy, but at long last he had nothing left inside him that could come back out.
We gave him some sugar water, and I went out to the pharmacy to get some Dioralyte before I went to work. And during the whole of Thursday, he had only clear fluids. He wasn’t very happy about this, but on the other hand, he didn’t have much energy to protest with. (Oh yes, and I went out to Ikea in the evening to buy a new mattress for Alex’s cot. I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that we’d let him carry on sleeping on a barf-encrusted bed. I got a rubber under-sheet this time, too!)
On Friday morning, after a long day of nothing to eat, we gradualy reintoduced him to the idea of food. Abi gave him a Weetabix for breakfast (he usually has two), and he had some bread and yoghurt during the day. But then at around six o’clock he barfed it all back up again. By the time I got home, just after 7, he seemed very distressed. Rather than being sunken like on Wednesday evening, his abdomen was swollen and taut. When we tapped his tummy it resonated like a drum.
So we called the doctor again. And as we were waiting to be called back, Alex just got more and more upset–until he let rip with a series of violent farts, culminating in an explosive poo. He felt better after that.
When we spoke to the doctor, Abi explained the situation, and the doc gave us the same advice again: keep him off solid foods for another 24 hours, and keep giving him clear fluids to drink.
Alex struggled through Saturday, hungry and grumpy, but he did seem a lot healthier than he had just 48 hours before. He even took the time to stand up on his own for a good 15 seconds at one point! (He’s definitely getting started on this whole stand-alone thing.) On Sunday we gave him Weetabix…several times. He likes it, it’s nutritious, and most importantly he kept it all down.
We were a bit unsure about putting him into nursery on Monday, but he seemed well enough to go. As it turned out, he had a fine time. And when I dropped him off on Tuesday morning, for the very first time he didn’t cry!
I don’t think his spirit was broken. He’s back to his normal, happy, bouncy, energetic, scary, stubborn self. He climbs the stairs in under a minute now, and this evening he managed to pull himself out of the bath and up onto the rim of the tub.
Nothing is safe any more!