I enjoy watching election returns. This past November 2, I had the TV clicker at my side and a whole bunch of websites to visit to get local results that weren't yet on the TV. In between, I was Facebook-chatting with Younger Daughter.
Younger Daughter was at school, working as a desk guard in the dorm, and she wasn't feeling altogether well. The hamburger tasted wrong at dinner, she said; it was pink besides. I was yelling at her anyway -- well, I was typing at her with vigorous keystrokes -- because I knew she hadn't voted. I have voted in every election where I was eligible, even when I was an irresponsible college student. But example isn't everything, is it?
Anyway, I mentioned then to Long Suffering Spouse that Younger Daughter was complaining about feeling punk. Long Suffering Spouse was not overly concerned. Sadly, Younger Daughter has had more than her share of stomach upset -- and dorm food has often been a suspect. Thus, we thought, it was just another incident and not worth bothering too much about.
Opinions changed suddenly at midnight. I was still awake, still on the computer, still watching TV, but Long Suffering Spouse had yielded to the Sandman's charms and was asleep in her chair. That status changed, suddenly, when the phone rang.
It was Younger Daughter, and she was crying. This was definitely a call for Mom.
Apparently, in the four hours or so since Younger Daughter and I had chatted on Facebook, Younger Daughter's condition had continued to deteriorate, to the point where she was now violently ill from every orifice on the human body from which one may be violently ill. And it wasn't stopping.
Long Suffering Spouse offered comfort and advice. We hung around the phone awhile longer, seeing if we'd be needed again, but around 1:00am we figured it was safe to retire for the evening. The local stations were wrapping their election coverage anyway.
The clock by my side of the bed read 1:45 when the phone rang again.
For persons my age, at least, phones do not ring at that hour for any good reason. I was therefore bolt upright and checking the caller ID in an adrenaline-charged heartbeat: It was Younger Daughter's cellphone number.
But it wasn't Younger Daughter. It was her boyfriend, Olaf.
"She told me not to tell you," he told me, "but you need to know. We're in the Emergency Room." A few questions established which one and Long Suffering Spouse and I were heading south on Harlem in just a few minutes.
It was a small hospital, not a trauma center, and we were expected. We were shown to the ER cubicle where Olaf brought us up to speed. Younger Daughter's condition kept worsening to the point where the dorm authorities forced Younger Daughter to a decision: Let Olaf drive her to the hospital or they were calling an ambulance.
It may well be love: Younger Daughter did nothing nasty to the interior of Olaf's car on the short drive over.
But she looked awful.
She'd gotten so dehydrated so quickly that the doctors said she was lucky to have come in when she did; she would otherwise have been at risk for organ damage. They'd already rigged her to an IV by the time Long Suffering Spouse and I arrived. The first bag went in like water into desert sands. She had two more before they admitted her and moved her to a room at about 5:00am.
I was sent home for a couple of hours before 6:00, that being the time that our legal overnight space became illegal during the day.
Younger Daughter would be at the hospital until Friday as they ran all sorts of tests. Her white blood count was extraordinarily high Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and the medical staff had to rule out all sorts of scary stuff as a consequence.
This they did -- but they failed to identify the actual cause of her illness. Was it really food? Or was it a flu-type virus? If the latter, we were probably doomed. Thus, I was rooting for a food reaction.
Either way, Younger Daughter did not complain when we returned her to our house for the weekend instead of back to the dorm. She did not complain when Older Daughter (who had a couple of days off mid-week) drove up from Indianapolis to provide her own nursing services.
The only one who complained, really, was Youngest Son -- and that mainly because Younger Daughter took up his accustomed space on the couch in the den.
Long Suffering Spouse and I were too afraid of contracting this loathsome disease to complain much. We just waited. Olaf came by on Saturday to check up on the patient. We were worried for him, too.
And when Youngest Son asked to go out Friday night, away from the house of sickness, we didn't hesitate: Go, we said. He went to a football game -- the parish grammar school (where my wife teaches) was playing for its conference championship on the field at Youngest Son's high school. It was cold, it was wet, and there were something like 60 kids out sick with a severe flu-like illness at the parish school, but Youngest Son could stand around and be admired by all the little kids. The high school AD loves it when his athletes attend games involving their ex-grammar schools. He sees it as a golden recruiting opportunity. And, like I said, Youngest Son couldn't be on the couch anyway.
Middle Son came by to visit on Sunday. To visit and eat dinner. He more than paid for his supper, though, by offering to take Younger Daughter back to school. He lives near her school; his old alma mater is right down the street from hers. And, frankly, Long Suffering Spouse and I were tired. We weren't looking forward to spending the hour taking Younger Daughter back.
No sooner was Middle Son out the door, however, than Youngest Son announced that he was feeling poorly.
Pretty soon he, too, was vomiting and having diarrhea. It's not particularly difficult to do both of these activities at the same time; it is, however, difficult to do so in a way that does not require a Level I hazmat cleanup. Youngest Son created an environmental situation. Long Suffering Spouse took the brunt of this.
Problem was, Youngest Son wasn't able to stop. I absolutely had to go to work on Monday the 8th -- a story I can't yet tell -- so I didn't fight too hard when, after consulting with the pediatrician, Long Suffering Spouse advised, in the wee small hours of Monday morning, that she was taking Youngest Son to the ER -- and that I was to stay home.
Youngest Son went to a different ER, but the same actions were taken: Youngest Son got rigged up to an IV because he had also become badly dehydrated. He also got three bags worth of fluid and an anti-nausea medication that calmed him down enough to allow him to come home the next morning. Although I did doze in the course of all this, Long Suffering Spouse kept me pretty much up to date via text during this whole time.
Long Suffering Spouse was now certain that she and I were doomed.
And she was worried.
Not for herself, of course; she can take care of herself.
She was worried about me.
I haven't had an illness of this kind since large quantities of my innards were removed nearly four years ago. There was some question, in her mind, as to what a bout of this business might do to me. As Long Suffering Spouse reported it later, when she outlined her concern to the ER personnel treating Youngest Son, they got something of a glow in their eyes that made her think they were seeing future business opportunities.
The ER doc prescribed an anti-nausea medicine for Youngest Son to take home -- with the understanding that Long Suffering Spouse and I could also use it should the need arise.
The need, and the gorge, arose for Long Suffering Spouse on Tuesday night.
I followed on Wednesday morning.
By Wednesday morning, Youngest Son had recovered to the point where he wanted to leave the house again. And who could blame him? By comparison to his parents, Youngest Son was the picture of rosy health. Of course, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
Even in my state, I suspected that Youngest Son was not in as great shape as he thought he was.
But Youngest Son was determined. He explained that there was a baseball meeting after school. He couldn't possibly miss that now, could he? That he had missed a history paper, a Spanish quiz, a math test -- these were of no moment to Youngest Son. These could be made up at any time. But miss a baseball meeting? Impossible.
Long Suffering Spouse and I were in no position to enforce our wishes. We hoped, indeed, that he was doing sufficiently well to get through the day. Certainly we understood that he'd rather not stay home with us polluting the place. Thus, we bid him a reluctant adieu and went back to our respective miseries.
The phone rang not two hours later: It was the school attendance lady. Youngest Son had been sent to her office; she took one look at him and said he could not drive home. That meant one of us had to go and pick him up.
Since I was still on my hands and knees, and Long Suffering Spouse was no longer, Long Suffering Spouse drew the short straw.
We're pretty sure that Younger Daughter and Youngest Son had different bugs. We think Younger Daughter's issues may have been food-related after all because Olaf never took sick.
We had far more contact with Younger Daughter than did Youngest Son. If it was her bug that felled us, you'd think Long Suffering Spouse and I would have toppled before Youngest Son. But it went the other way 'round.
So we think Youngest Son was the source of our illness last week. On the one hand, it is nice that a teenager is still willing to share with his parents. In future, however, we'd rather that he did not share his loathsome diseases with us.
The good news? Neither Long Suffering Spouse nor I wound up in the hospital.
I don't know if Long Suffering Spouse took it, but the anti-nausea medicine seemed to do the trick for me. That may be how I avoided a trip to the ER. Either that... or maybe I'm made of sterner stuff than my kids, right?
No, I didn't think so either.