I am the master of catching vomit. Even my 12 year old son says so and is openly impressed that I can whip in with a towel and have caught, scooped, wiped, rolled and removed the towel with it’s vomitty filling – before you can say “ Roulade Regurgitata ”
I’ve had years of practice with Claudia – who has a pattern of un-wellness which for years and years has followed the same routine.
Her mouth fills with saliva which she won’t swallow despite continuing to attempt to talk, she goes very pale, she clearly wants to lie down and not move or be moved before she has a little cough and then next up comes the previous meal, largely un-chewed before she closes her eyes and goes to sleep.
It’s just like escorting a certain ex-flatmate home from the Captain Cook on a Friday night at Varsity in Dunedin. But unlike my old mate I can’t threaten her with being left under a hedge unless they get up and neither does she wake up the next day, jump on to her scooter to fetch some potato and gravy from KFC , often washing it down with a beer.
No, despite her youth and clean liver, she generally stays down and out for three days.
She sleeps and sleeps, waking only if we insist on washing or changing her (when the motion will generally make her throw up again) and then – on the third day – she rises!
Its a regular miracle at our place.
We’ve become adept at injecting 10 ml of water at a time down her reluctant throat to keep her hydrated, we’re skilled at putting panadol up her bum when she won’t take it any other way, catching the vomit, whipping sheets and nappies in and out from under her and tucking her back in quick smart.
Never underestimate the strength of a sick disabled teen who doesn’t want to be moved or interfered with.
We have bursts of frantic energy around her cares then long, silent periods of quiet where we feel guiltily amazed at how peaceful and easy she is when she’s sick.
If she doesn’t rise again on the third day we know there’s something more afoot and will seek outside advice or take a trip to hospital.
But despite the cause (usually unknown – a cold? A bug? A reaction?) her physical response has always been the same – purge, shut down, sleep it off with a three day resurrection.
But things have changed since puberty – high pitched moaning (f#) began to accompany the routine and we noted a regularity of symptoms which often coincided with her period.
In Geraldine she was getting the Depo Provera – always a terrible mission of terrified nurses with needles, terrified Claudia thrashing about and being held down by other people roped in to help who were terrified in equal measure of the needle and Claudia and her phenomenal super-strength in a fight.
It was of course all absolutely stupid and the wrong thing to be doing.
The Education team in Christchurch were horrified that she was even on Depo Provera and said all the girls in the unit at her school had a mirena.
Yes it would require a general anesthetic to insert it, but it would offer 5 years of minimal/ no periods and in addition help even out those hormonal moods and frustrations and migraines she was experiencing. Great! Except for the part about the general anesthetic.
And the logistics of having to first find a GP in Christchurch (not easy) who was prepared to take on Claudia (really not easy) plus make immediate referrals to three other teams, surgical (to assess her hernias) dental (to get a decent tooth examination ) and gynecological (for the mirena)
My mad idea was to try to get the three departments to liaise and co-operate to best serve the needs of the patient, by possibly having several procedures under a single anesthetic.
We waited optimistically for the 2 months, 3 months, 4 months for the referrals to the specialists to come up and things ground to a bit of an awkward halt when the surgical team, after examining her and her 2 sizable hernias for several seconds, declared they “probably” weren’t hurting her and they didn’t think they would operate.
Dammit – that left Dental to come to the party. Luckily the sympathetic dentist said that despite evidence of her teeth having been very well scrubbed indeed (big ticks to Mother) she would schedule a hospital appointment to have a good clean, repair and protect under a general. Hooray! Now the gynecological team could confirm they’ll whip in while she’s under and insert the mirena. Hopefully within 9 months of that first referral to try to sort it out!
In the meantime her periods have been spasmodic and not any real cause for concern. But the frequency of her periodic illness has been increasing to the point where she’s now having a vomit and a lie down every couple of weeks.
She can’t tell you where it hurts and will point to any random part of her of you ask – elbow, leg, tummy, – but she will say “tired, so tired”.
Often it starts on a Friday – at the end of a busy week. I know she’s working hard on the treadmill at school. She also had swimming on Friday but was fine after school then suddenly went down around 5. She was back up on Saturday – eating normally by Sunday – but I decided to test my theory that it is something to do with fatigue.
So I made us all go for a gorgeous spring walk in Hagly Park yesterday afternoon.
After we came home, she said she was hungry, ate early, then suddenly got dribbly, wanted to go to bed, “so tired” and sure enough a couple of hours later the vomiting started.
My friend Jenny (a nurse) happened to be around enjoying a late afternoon sunny Sunday glass of wine and saw Claudia’s decline. She has also been aware of the increase in incidents all year.
“Have you had her iron levels checked” she asked casually.
No. That would involve a blood test and that would involve needles and that would require some sort of anesthetic and we’re still on the list to get all that done and oh my god how did I not think if this?!!!
Could it be that all Claudia’s illness is in fact due to her being a teenage girl who is more physically active now than she ever has been in her life and who doesn’t eat much steak or kale?
She doesn’t eat sweets, she rarely asks for a snack – she eats big meals but they’re easy to chew things like weet bix and toast and sandwiches and sausages and mash.
I feel terrible ; she’s a functioning woman on a toddlers diet!
Because she requires feeding and doesn’t chew well and doesn’t take control of her diet like other stroppy teens might, wolfing down pizza and gummy bears, I’ve treated her like a child!
She’s probably constantly faint and needs some sort of miracle vitamin cocktail.
Steve had the realisation (as he dealt with a round of chunder) that this isn’t looking after a sick kid, it’s looking after a sick adult.
She’s still our daughter – but not a child. She’s a grown up.
We are the ones suddenly growing up here ; she’s been doing it for years and we have failed to keep up. Her childhood is over – it’s a whole different ball game and we’ve only just figured it out.
But I’m on it now.
As she dribbles soundly into my pillow today I’m filled with hope that we may finally be on top of something here. I’ll ask for blood tests while she’s getting her teeth and mirena done and in the meantime I’ll up the energy foods and vitamins.
I welcome any suggestions or advice.
With the exception of handling liver, thanks sister Jane!
Sorry. Ain’t going there.