Friday 23 March 2012

When Nick is Ill and Mum is Away

Jim and I took our first vacation in a year over the past couple of weeks. Our trip to Cat Island, Bahamas, was fun, refreshing and relaxing.....until I found out that Nicholas had a cold, fever and atypical seizures. Nick was on the downside of a mild cold when we left for our holiday. Saying goodbye, I wiped his nose and kissed him on the forehead to reassure myself that he had no fever. We left Cat Island to come home on Tuesday, but the previous Friday night, Nick had spiked a fever and his cold symptoms returned with a vengeance. On Saturday, he was watching TV with his carer when his arms began to jerk upwards rhythmically. Nick remained responsive throughout this episode, but could not control the movement in his arms. This type of seizure is called "complex partial" and it's unusual for Nick - normally his jerky movements are limited to nighttimes when he is sound asleep.

By the time we arrived home on Tuesday night, Nick seemed to be a little better from the worst of the symptoms he had experienced on Saturday and Sunday. We had a grand reunion on Wednesday morning with many hugs and kisses - Nick didn't even ask to clear the room before putting his arms around me. We all laughed when someone mentioned the ad for Nyquil on television - that one with the beefy man who has a cold and says to his wife, "Pam, can you call my Mom?" I felt we had missed the worst of Nick's cold and I felt badly about that, but at least my boy seemed better.

On Wednesday night, we were home after visiting with Nick all day, when the phone rang. It was Josh, Nick's carer, calling to let us know that Nick's temperature was back up to 38.2. One of Nick's daily medications is tylenol, so this was a real fever, especially given that his baseline temp is 36. The nurse ordered a urine sample, but that came back negative for infection the next day. Nick's chest sounded clear, but collectively, we decided to call in the doctor.

Our GP, Dr. Robert Eaton, is a hero of our community. He makes house calls for Nicholas and others who are bed-bound. He is funny, gentle and smart. After a thorough examination, Dr. Eaton deduced that a chest infection was the likely cause of the fever, even though nothing untoward was discernible by listening through the stethoscope. "No point in putting Nick through a trip to the hospital for a chest x-ray", said the good doctor, "it won't change anything. Let's just give him some anti-biotics."

So today, Nick will start his penicillin and he'll be better soon.

Nicholas moving into the Rotary Home was a difficult adjustment for our whole family. But we are learning to trust the staff and Nicholas himself. The last days of my wonderful holiday were a little coloured by mental images of Nick calling for me through a fog of fever and coughing. But I also knew that he was safe in his new home with caring and trained professionals. I received scans of his daily flow charts via email and constant updates about his symptoms. Jim and I sent Nick reassuring messages of love each day along with a countdown of days till our return to Ottawa.

Part of letting go is drawing the line between what you can and cannot do for a person you love who needs constant care. We will take our holidays, but ensure that we are in constant touch. In Ottawa, we will visit almost every day, but the days that we do not see our young man are days that we phone or email. And we will feel very good about this arrangement until the next time we're away and Nick gets sick. I tell myself that I would worry as much if it were Natalie who was ill, and I know that's true.

I guess it's just hard to let our children grow up.

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