Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fever Dreams

It's been an interesting couple of days here at the house. On Thursday evening Max informed me that the he thought he was coming down with something, and might not be up to going to school. In any other 11-year-old, you'd immediately email the teacher to see what test he was supposed to be studying for, but Max's teacher is a seasoned ex-high-school teacher who usually schedules exams for Thursdays. Now that's clever. At any rate, Max was convincingly sporting an unpleasant cough and his throat sounded swollen. So when I went to check on him Friday morning and found him running a fever, I didn't even wake him. I dressed Ben and Milo and took them off to kindergarten and Max had a relatively pleasant morning at home playing his gamecube until . . . he discharged the contents of his stomach around 11am. This led to the first of many naps and that led to the first fever spike and in the meantime . . . . .

Downstairs we had Mom trying to finish up a work project and Dad watching the snow fall steadily all day, feeling extremely concerned about going, and accusing Mom of having it in for him because she was encouraging him to keep his date with Boy Scouter Leadership Camp destiny. He really only had one concern: despite his best efforts, he was going to end up cold. So in between edits I tried to round up all his missing wool socks and get them washed and dried and eventually he was packed and showered and in full Boy Scout Leader regalia and off he went.

Around 2:00 pm Max's fever hit 103 and with it came the first of many hallucinations for the weekend. This set off a massive panic attack and in that frame of mind, only Mom gets through. I was supposed to leave at 2:15 to pick up Gaye and go through my pattern books and those at the yarn shop to find a nice hat or scarf to knit up, but it took 40 minutes for the advil to kick in and bring the fever down, which turned off the anxiety and hallucinations--and I was given permission to go. So I picked up Gaye and she looked at patterns in the car while I went into the school to get Ben and Milo. From there we went to the grocery store to get provisions for the weekend including a new thermometer, more poscicles, and more ibuprofin. (Max gets the adult stuff.) We got dog food and cereal and frozen chicken bits and headed home. Chris left for the frozen tundra Boy Scout Camp and I settled in for what I thought would be a quiet weekend at home. I would write textbook copy. The kids would play electronic gadgets. Grandma Judy was scheduled to visit briefly Saturday night/Sunday morning.

But it was not to be, for this was no ordinary virus. Every time the fever came back, it came back more viciously. It resisted normal pharmaceutical attempts to bring it back down, taking up to two hours to come all the way back to near normal. Every time the fever went over 103 (and it always does) the hallucinations and anxiety are near constant. If he falls asleep in this state, he has fever dreams that are far worse than the halluciations. He wakes up screaming about spiders, or "No! NO!" or something else that turns another fistful of hair on my head silver.

I prayed sincerely for Chris to be having fun, staying warm and dry, and learning lots of useful things about camping with boyscouts because the idea that this was some sort of cosmic retribution for me making him go in spite of the sleet and ice and snow and rain would just mean we'd both be sick and exhausted come Monday and I really want one of us to be up to dealing with Monday when we get there.

It was 3:30 am when I finally found the combination of pills that would bring the fever down long enough for him to fall asleep and stay asleep. It was 4:00 am when I fell asleep, too. I woke up at 8:30 when the phone started ringing. The first thing I did was give Max more meds before the others could wear off completely. Gaye and I had originally planned to do a weekend tour of the ski swap and the local craft shows and holiday fund-raising auctions, but I didn't trust Max alone that long, so we just did a quick run over to the Lion's club which is a quarter-mile down the road from home. I got lucky and found gifts for three of the women on my list. And a pumpkin pie. The twins ate Lion's club cookies and then we went back home. I got the kitchen partway cleaned up and the dishwasher half unloaded. It was about 11:30 when I headed back to the bathroom, stopped by my bedroom to just rest for a moment. I woke up briefly for a reason I can no longer remember (but it was child related) at 2:00 and then crawled back to bed under the covers until 4:00. In the living room, Max was doing much the same thing. I'd given him more medicine at the 11:30 mark, but failed to when I got up, so it was around 5:30 that the fever came back. And with it the hallucination and the anxiety and the--boy, there's just nothing to do but worry about the kid in that moment. You give him the meds and the fever just laughs at you. He had bright angry red streaks down the sides of his face with an angry red rash that didn't go away even when we put cool, wet cloths on it. We put these cool gel things on his forehead that were supposed to work up to 8 hours, but seemed to be at boiling point after 30 minutes.

It's just a fever but while it's there he's so freaked and so miserable, that you just would do anything to get it to go. He said something about the fever at one point so I did some asking around and determined that it was possible with his symptoms that he might have scarlett fever. Might. The rash he has is classic on his face but on his body, I don't see the sandpapery stuff, just little red dots around his armpits and in the center of his chest. It fades when the fever finally gives in. My Dad told me to take him to the ER, and I was waiting for Grandma Judy to get here to do that when my brother called and talked me back down. My Dad is a grandfather who believes in "better safe than sorry" and my brother is a doctor who believes that ER's are for organ failure and bones poking through the skin. I was able to balance the two and decide that as long as Max was feeling comfortable again (and by the time I talked to Dr. J, the two hours were up on Max's fever and he was his old self again, albeit, one with a funny-sounding voice because of the swollen throat.) that we could wait and find a clinic tomorrow, or maybe even Monday morning. I'm leaning more towards tomorrow because if there is strep in there, we should get him on antibiotics early enough to get him to school on Tuesday.

Anyway, I suppose in a way this weekend has been good for Mother-son bonding. I don't mind giving him the weekend. It hasn't done anything for my work relationship, which is really intense right now. But there is nothing to be done for it. Sometimes even a big kid needs you up with them at 4am and that's what you do.

My brother likes to tease and sometimes he says things that get under my skin, but he knew just how to cheer me up at the end of our conversation tonight. "O-bear needs a pair of thumbless mittens . . ." And 10 minutes later I was cheerfully clicking away at My Thanksgiving vacation knitting project will be two little toddler mittens in Cal Berkeley's blue and gold colors. Then they and the Finnish Mittens (which are for the O-bear's mother) will wing their way further East to keep their little hands toasty warm. I think the only thing that a Knitter likes to hear* more than, "Can you make me . . ." are the words, "I've worn a hole in these, can you make another?"

*from a loved-one. From a stranger you want to ask, "do you have any idea the work that goes into these?" A loved-one does know, and also knows you'll say no if you have to. Although technically this wouldn't apply to a pair of toddler-sized thumbless mittens that won't even use a quarter of skein for the pair.

On the needle for Christmas: Corazon mittens for Piano Teacher Carol; Pink wool sweater for Sophie, the last-of-the-spring-baby-girls-cousins; Viking Twist on Orange Twist for Max; Pair of socks for Chris; Pair of socks for Max. I think that's it.


Elizabeth said...

We're praying like crazy here for you all :D


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Corazon. Are they heart shaped? Is the Piano teacher a trekkie? Thanks for working on the mi'ens.

Writing and Living said...

Ugh. I've done the fever hallucinations with my oldest. It's exhausting for all involved. I'll keep you guys in my prayers.

ann said...

Oh Alaska,

That sounds horrible. My heart is aching for you and Max (and Chris out in the wild). Reading your blog is howing me more and more about what's in store for us as parents.


P.S. How does one get on the knitting list? ;-) Griffin is curious.

Dy said...

ACK! Just. ACK! I hate that feeling of helplessness, and seeing a normally strapping and healthy child suddenly seem so frail. *shudder* I'm so glad (as I see from above) that you got it figured out and can get him better.