Archives » July 14th, 2006

July 14, 2006

Sick Sammy

Poor Sammy’s been sick the last couple of days. And not the usual, runny-nose-and-a-cough sick. That we’ve dealt with a hundred times by now. But this time it’s just a fever, a relentless fever that refuses to go away and has been haunting him for days now.

It started as a low-grade fever, 100, 101. When it’s only that high it’s something to keep an eye on, but nothing to worry about yet. And even though he had this fever he was still running around, playing, and acting like there was nothing different. Then last night we were up at Lake Tahoe visiting some friends that are in from out of town, and he was running around playing with their two boys like nothing was wrong. But all of a sudden he started to get really clingy, and low on energy, and hot. Like really hot, burning up. When we got home we checked his temperature, and it had gone up to 102. Definitely more of a concern, but we still chose not to worry and to ride it out.

Then at 3am this morning he woke up vomiting. We took his temperature: 104. Now we’re in panic territory. Anyone with a kid, or just a body of their own, knows that 104 is not a good temperature to have. But still there weren’t any other symptoms, except for the vomiting. And that could easily just be his body’s way of saying that it doesn’t like what’s happening. So we called the urgent care, they said to get a doctor’s advice before bringing him in. So we called the doctor’s office and had the poor doctor woken up to give us a call back. Fortunately the doctor seemed pretty calm and knew just what to say: give him plenty to drink and some ibuprofen. That’s the pediatrician’s version of “two aspirin and call me in the morning,” so it put us at ease a little bit. But there was a problem: Sam’s still crying and screaming, apparently not as reassured by the doctor’s words as we were. So we’re still looking at a long night. And, on top of that, we didn’t have any children’s ibuprofen in the house. The one concrete thing the doctor did say to do, and we can’t do it. So it was up to Viola to calm Sam down, and up to me to put on some pants and shoes and trek down to the one place you can always count on to buy medicine in the middle of the night: Wal*Mart.

Going to Wal*Mart in the middle of the night is always a singular experience. The only other customers you run into are parents looking for medicine just like you, or guys with bags under their eyes in the munchie aisle. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll find some nocturnal recluses shopping for socks at 3am, but it’s not likely. The store isn’t empty, though. The night crew is always there, hard at work, and hard at the job of ignoring customers. The night crew does their work with tunnel vision; they stack their huge pallets everywhere so you can’t manuever a cart. They block what few aisles are free with their own bodies, crouching down, stocking shelves and barely acknowledging you as you squeeze by. If you’re really lucky they’ll be polishing the floor when you go, and the fumes from those propane motors they use can linger for hours. I still remember working the morning shift at Kmart eons ago, and coming in at 7am with the smell of propane wafting down the aisles.

So anyway I grabbed the ibuprofen, and few other items that were missing from our fridge, and dodged the night crew, and stepped outside. I glanced over at the horizon with bloodshot eyes, and saw that dawn was already starting to break over the mountains. There was no doubt now that the night was ruined. Drove the ten minutes back home, and got there to find that Sam had fallen back asleep on his own, and his fever had dropped a few points. There was no need for me to rush out after all.

All through the day, though, his fever stayed at around 102 or 103. So we finally broke down and made an appointment with the doctor. Some things you can only put off for so long. And wouldn’t you know it, but right before we were about to leave his fever subsided and his temperature dropped below 100. The doctor, luckily, didn’t look at us like we were crazy. She was not only understanding, she had a diagnosis for us right off the top of her head. Roseola. Turns out roseola is a pretty common ailment, caused by one of the herpes viruses, herpes virus 6. Just about every kid gets it, and it’s completely harmless. Of course, “completely harmless” means four days of high fever and screaming kids. And you can’t even be sure it really is roseola. It turns out it’s impossible to positively diagnose it while it’s going on. The only way to be sure it’s roseola is to see if a rash show up after the fever goes away. If it does, you can make the hindsight pronouncement of roseola.

And there’s no treatment for roseola either. Just let the body fight it off, which is what the fever’s there for. So we’re stuck with a sick little boy for another day or two, until his body can finally get rid of that virus. Of course if the fever doesn’t go away, then we’re dealing with something else, something that’s not roseola, and we’ll have to bring him back in. That’s always comforting to hear a doctor say. We’re used to it, though; we’ve been watching House, M.D. on DVD, so we know that the first diagnosis is always wrong. Second, too. Doctors never get it right until 45 minutes past the hour, and then it’s all smiles and smooth sailing.

Until the rash comes. Yuck.