When Alfie Was Sick

16.03.2011 When Alfie Was Sick

On Monday 7th March Pete set gaily off for the far off region of Chin state, in the north of Myanmar, to visit some of his clinics for the first time. A three day journey there and three days back plus plenty of time allowed for reaching the villages meant he would be away for two weeks. Which is OK, we’ve done that before. For the first few days it’s nice to have the TV remote to myself and eat cereal for dinner.

That night Alfie didn’t sleep well which is unusual these days. Perhaps he was fretting about Daddy though he doesn’t usually notice he’s gone gone (as opposed to gone and coming back) until about Day 3 or 4. Tuesday night was the same and Wednesday and he’d also started clawing at his mouth though I couldn’t see anything wrong.

Thursday and Friday was hot, hot, hot and he sweated a lot my boy. Amber came back from a neighbour’s house saying it was too hot for Alfie as they didn’t have the AC on, so they came home to cool down. A few sporadic syringes of Calpol and he seemed to rally. Friday afternoon however, Amber told me that my pasta sauce was too spicy because Alfie had taken a spoonful and cried. Hmm, curiouser and curiouser.

Now, I should at this point say that there are far lovelier people than us who have far worse problems than a poorly toddler and don’t feel the need to whinge, I mean blog, about it. But you’re stuck with me, so here goes.

Friday night was another nightmare of waking and cuddling and settling and waking again, sometimes drenched in sweat poor love. We were now on 5 nights of barely any sleep and his daytime naps had gone the same way. Not only but also the poor love had developed a huge spot on his chin and I joked to our Friday morning playgroup that he was heading for teenagedom already. Saturday, after more Calpol, he seemed to rally and we went to our playdate that afternoon as planned. I knew something was wrong when he was unusually antisocial, preferring to play by himself in another room and, well, whining a LOT. Even when pasta and cheese, plus strawberries and cake were served, he had zero interest. (By the way, the German Ambassador makes a great babysitter! He whisked Alfie off to see the koi carp in his ponds which was a welcome relief for all). We then made our early and hasty exit and when we got home I noticed, for the first time, ulcers in his mouth. Ulcers?? Isn’t that an adult affliction? Two tiny white spots on the end of his tongue and then two craters on the side. I don’t know how I could have missed them as I was inspecting his mouth regularly – he has some incisors coming through as well which I thought was the problem for long enough.

Time to phone Daddy in the back of beyond, who luckily was not only in an office full of doctors but was also Skype-ing his sister in Australia, also a doctor. Lots of very kind and helpful advice came my way but I also phoned Pete’s boss, a paediatrician, to double my defences so to speak. And in a final attempt to help my boy (and my sanity) in any way I could, I telephoned Dr Helen. She practices in the Australian Embassy Clinic and was not at all perturbed by being contacted at 7pm on a Saturday night, God bless her (ALL the expat mums go to her so she’s used to it). Remarkably, she asked about spots around his mouth and told me she was thinking either Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease or Herpes. Herpes? Common coldsores? I’ve had these all my life and never suffered ulcers and fever so it seemed a stretch. Keep up the Calpol and the fluids and call her again if anything changes.

But lo and behold, on Sunday morning there it was, the dreaded coldsore on his lip. His mouth was in shreds poor love, not only ulcers and coldsores but bleeding gums too. No wonder he’d not eaten for two days! Cue a frantic mummy badgering the neighbours for a lift to the ice cream shop which seemed the only thing he even considered eating, that day at least. But it still hadn’t hit me how ill he was. I remember I Skyped Pete that I’d brushed his teeth and not realised the toothbrush was full of blood until later. Bad mummy!

Monday afternoon we went to Dr Helen’s practice to have the diagnosis confirmed. It’s the initial onset of the virus which is so er, virulent. About 90% of us carry the Herpes Simplex virus, it just depends on our antibodies how we deal with it, which is why some people never experience the coldsores for example. Alfie had now been hit with the first onslaught and was busy making those vital antibodies, hence the fever and lethargy. He was so miserable she gave him a chocolate frog, reserved for vaccination cases. He ate half of it before it hit the ulcers, ouch. By now we were into Day 2 of the siege; the two of us laying on the sofa watching endless CBeebies DVD’s and mummy fruitlessly plying him with an endless parade of cool, smooth ‘food’ such as jelly, yoghurt, ice lollies, ice cubes, cold pasta and of course ice cream and lots of bottles of milk. Even water made him wince and anything vaguely related to fruit was agony. Calpol every 6 hours including at night and Nurofen 3 times a day. He was listless and glassy eyed and wanted nothing but CBeebies and Mummy, in that order I think.

Of course he’s not been ill at this age before and previously has managed to remain quite cheerful in between bouts of fever or diarrhoea or whatever. But he could barely manage a smile for 4 days. Amber still took him for his daily walk down the lane in the buggy and reported that all the compound staff and his friends along the lane were very sad that he was so ill, being used to him smiling and chatting when they met him. Day after day they asked her “is he better yet?” Sweet.

One night around 3.30am, with Alfie in my bed once again and neither of us sleeping once again, I lamented to him “all I’ve heard for the last 4 days is crying, crying, crying” at which point he repeated it back to me as ‘kine, kine, kine’ in exactly the same plaintive tone I had used. He carried on all the next day too and I felt thoroughly ashamed. Still, good to know I was adding to his vocabulary!

OK, I am making a meal out of this. Of course he recovered. He never got dehydrated enough to need hospitalisation, the fever went on the Thursday and Daddy came back on the Saturday when of course normal service resumed vis-à-vis the sleeping at least. His appetite has been slower returning but his gums are still sore and in fact he still has the remains of the coldsore on his lip. Thankfully he is back to his yummy self and his friends and neighbours are very happy at the news, Amber tells me. In fact this morning, the pool guy, on Amber’s instructions, brought him a papier mache cow from the Pagoda and he was absolutely thrilled with it. Alfie, that is, not the pool guy. Although actually he was too. Double sweet!

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