Victoria Jelinek


Nov. 30, 2011: Illness
November 30, 2011, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Letters to Leo | Tags: , , ,

When we flew to Seattle (20 hours door-to-door, despite a direct flight from London), you didn’t sleep at all. Your father had returned home from his summer of work in the mountains with a virus that we were told in the USA, later, had ‘impacted’ in your ears during the flight, causing not only the virus itself but an ear infection. Your breathing was shallow. You were listless and sleepy all of the time. Your nose was alternately runny or clogged, requiring regular suctioning and steam showers. Your sleep was disturbed, to say the least. The doctors stateside gave you a round of antibiotics. Seven days later you weren’t better. I returned to the doctor and after much discussion because a new ‘vogue’ in the Western USA among ‘intellectual’ parents is not to give their children antibiotics (?! good job I’m not an intellectual) we decided to give you another round of a stronger antibiotic because of the flight home and potential discomfort for you. You were lying on the table in the doctors office playing with your toes when the two nurses came in with a shot of the new, more powerful, antibiotic to inject into each of your lovely, pudgy thighs simultaneously. You watched them put on their blue, plastic gloves with growing alarm in your eyes (oh, my trusting child!), then they shot you and your cried. I took you into my arms to console and feed you (it was the first time you bit me on the nipple, and this despite having six teeth for months!). They kept us in their offices an hour to make sure that you did not go into shock (?!). You did get better for the return flight, and were your jolly, calm, self again, but it was short-lived.

One night just after returning to France, you were softly crying and moaning in your sleep and could not be comforted. It was terrifying because your father and I didn’t know what was wrong. We changed you, I tried to feed you, but it was the first time you rejected my breast in your short seven months – truly alarming. Then you projectile vomited all over me and we took your temperature…it was 39.5 c (103.1 f). We dressed you warmly and put you (and a bottle of water and biscuits/cookies) into the car and headed immediately to the hospital. You were admitted. The cribs in the Paediatric ward were like something from WWII – iron, with high walls, reminding me of how a cartoon might depict a lion cage. They gave me a single fold-out cot to sleep in and you a dose of paracetomal, took your blood and your urine (three times, hey ho) but otherwise left us alone. Your father brought me a pizza to eat and the three of us played with ‘found objects’ such as a plastic cup from the vending machine, a straw, a spoon. You were a very good sport and didn’t cry. You even seemed better. You went to sleep, as did I (there wasn’t much else to do) but with the nurses coming in regularly to check your temperature, and the sound of children and babies crying, sometimes screaming, it was difficult going. So I took you into my little bed and while you’d intermittently look to make sure I was still there, you finally slept. Despite the circumstances, and you were released the next evening with a mild lung infection, it was a poignant night for me, the two of us on a single cot with a patch of bright light from the hallway, the sound of the nurses walking to and fro, the crying, and the two of us comforting each other through the night in a foreign hospital.

It’s horrible not being able to communicate with you now, or you to me, other than on a visceral and basic level (are you too warm or too cold? Are you hungry? Are you wet or soiled?) especially when you’re not well ‘cause it’s all guesswork – you can’t tell me where or what hurts….and it’s because of this that I write these notes to you.

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