The phone rang in the last 15 minutes of Bible Study last week. Middle Daughter who usually answers the phone on such days, was in the woods, helping her father clear some property. It’s rare for the phone to ring on Thursday mornings, unless it is an emergency (or a telemarketer). For some reason, this felt urgent, so I excused myself and went to answer. It was Youngest Son, Lem, and he sounded concerned.
“Uh, Mom,” he said, “I just got a call from Jessica, and Stella is throwing up dark stuff, and we think we need to take her to the hospital. I’m on my way home from work, and we are going to decide what we are going to do! Please pray for us!”
I was immediately concerned. Stella, our almost five month old granddaughter, had caught a stomach bug from somewhere. Her parents had her to the pediatrician the day before and were following strict instructions, but it seemed that a brief reprieve had turned into something more serious. Strictly breastfed, a dark vomitus was not a good sign. After promising that we would pray, and murmuring some words intended to reassure, I went back and finished the minutes we had left. “My girls” ever ready to support and care and pray, promised to do so, and then we were done.
It was then that Stella’s other grandma, Lynn, called, and asked if I knew what was was going on in Washington. I told her that Lem had called, and she said, “I would just like to get in the car and go over there and see if I could help in any way.” I’m pretty clueless, and I didn’t really think about going over there at all, but then I picked up my phone and realized that Lem had messaged me a little earlier (before he called) and had said, “Any chance you wanna make an afternoon run to DC?”
This galvanized me into action, I checked my calendar, and it was free. I called Daniel to see if it was okay with him if I went. He thought it would be fine. Then I tried to call Lynn to see how long it would take her to get ready. She had taken her troubles out to the garden to work out some of her feelings and to pray for her beloved grandbaby. And she had left her phone inside. It took a while to connect with her, but when I did, she was more than ready to go to Washington.
“How soon can you be ready?” I asked her.
“I can be ready now,” she said. “Or at least in ten minutes. I can be ready when you get here.”
While I was waiting for her to call me back, I had gotten the bright idea of throwing the ingredients for a beef and barley stew into a container, and measuring out the ingredients for a small batch of bread that I could mix up in Jessica’s Kitchen Aid mixer. I was almost done collecting things, so I told Lynn that I would be there in another half hour. It was a little longer than that when I finally pulled out of my driveway, and then stopped to pick her up, and we were on our way.
The ride to Washington was pleasant. We chatted, commiserated, and wondered how “our baby” was doing. We heard that she was at the Children’s Hospital in Washington, that Youngest Daughter, Rachel, who works quite close to Lem and Jessica’s house, had actually taken Jessica and Stella to the hospital and Lem had joined them there. The baby was dehydrated, and they were running other tests, starting IV’s and doing labs. Shortly before we arrived in Washington, we got a text from Rachel, asking us to please disinfect the house when we got there. “It’s super contagious!”
A kindly neighbor let us into Lem and Jessica’s house, and Lynn grabbed the Lysol while I opened windows. The day was sunny and bright and very windy, even in downtown Washington. It wasn’t long until the house was full of breeze and the smell of Lysol. Then Lynn and I got busy and got the soup started, and the bread going. The Beef and Barley stew that I make is heavy on the onions, and because I’ve heard tell that onions are a great fighter of germs, it seemed appropriate to make this particular favorite of Lem and Jessica’s. We gathered up all the laundry that had been puked on and anything that wasn’t pretty much tacked down and started the first of two loads of wash. All the while, we waited for updates and progress notes from the Washington Yutzys.
The updates kept trickling in, and about the time that the bread came out of the oven, we heard that Rachel was coming home. She breezed in and gave good reports, said that it looked like Stella would be released, and that everything had come back clear except for the “mild to moderate dehydration.” The dark in the barf? They thought that was probably a small tear somewhere in the esophagus from the projectile vomiting, because blood work was normal, and the x-rays came back fine. When would they be able to come home? “Soon” was the response, but, as Stella’s daddy texted somewhat ruefully, “that could be hours by hospital time!”
It was around 7:00 when they finally pulled in. Stella was sleeping, but looked pretty good. She was allowed to have something to eat, so Jessica nursed her a little bit and then brought her out for me to hold before I left for home. And that is when it happened. Suddenly, with no warning, she projectile vomited all over me, all over the floor, all over herself. The poor little thing emptied her tummy of everything in it. So then it was a mad scramble to clean everything up, to give her a bath, and her Daddy went forth to procure a prescription that had been given them. I wiped myself off, decided that when Lem came home, I was going to make my departure, and get myself on home. I put away the last of the soup, washed my big pan, and got everything ready to go. Lem came home, and they got the first dose of medicine in her, and I left. It was a little after 8:00. Lynn had packed to stay overnight because she guessed, rightly so, that she might be needed the next day.
It was a busy couple of days at Shady Acres. Friday was a usual day with some extras thrown in, and then Saturday, it was birthday party time for our oldest granddaughter, Charis. Everyone was coming here, and I was so glad that I didn’t need to go anywhere. Rachel and her boyfriend, Rob, were coming for the party, as were some very good friends. Tacos were on the menu, and I was to make the meat and the drink – southern sweet tea and homemade lemonade. I felt grumpy all day, for some reason, just a little edgy, and the longer the taco meat cooked, the less I liked it.
I kept thinking that I was just good and sick of smelling tacos when I suddenly felt like I was about to toss my cookies. I suddenly remembered that “Highly Contagious” business and with a sinking feeling, I knew that something was amiss. I kept on working at trying to get ready, but I probably wasn’t much help. Finally, after most of the guests were here, and I felt like it might be a kindness to them if I didn’t stay around, I mouthed to Daniel across the room, “I’m going upstairs!” He nodded understandingly, and I made my way up to the comfort of our big old bed. How wonderful it all felt! I found an old prescription of Phenergan in my dresser drawer and swallowed the recommended dose of two teaspoons, and then I slept. I got awake around ten of nine and discovered that almost everyone had gone, and I was sure I was going to throw up. I wished for a bucket of some kind, but finally sat on the porcelain convenience and held the trash can. Eventually, the urge to throw up passed, and I gingerly descended to the lower level where all the guests were fully departed except Rob and Rachel, and they were cleaning my kitchen. I sat on my chair and watched the transformation. Deborah had a break from work, came in and tended to Cecilia and OGN, then went to document her Hospice visits. Rob and Rachel left to go back to Washington. Eventually, Certain Man said he was going to bed, or did I want him to stay downstairs with me? No, no. It was fine, he should just go on, I was going to sleep on my chair and see how I felt.
I slept good until around 2:00, and then woke suddenly. I felt a lot better. Almost no nausea at all. I did need to go to the restroom, so I hauled myself out of my chair, and cautiously made my way across the dining room and kitchen to the bathroom door. Huh! The light was on. There was a double whammy when a most unpleasant wall of odor hit me when I opened the door. I looked across to the room shared by OGN and Cecilia. Huh! Nettie was not in her bed. But there were black deposits across the rug, and a cowpie on bed. About then, Nettie stuck her head around the edge of the dresser and said, “Mare-ann. I got trouble!”
And she for sure, did! I sat there, all miserable on the potty, and looked while she tried to explain. I was cross and irritated. Then I went around the corner and looked, and there was a bunch more on the floor by the closet!
“Nettie! How in the world did you get all that poop over there by the closet?”
She looked at me with her owl eyes. “I ‘on’t know! She insisted. “I was just going to get another pull up!”
It would be so easy to be really impatient with this botheration. I’ve explained and explained to OGN that the pull-ups are supposed to stay up until she gets to where she is going, even if she is in a hurry, but when she thinks she is going to have an accident, she tries to save time by pulling them down on her way to the bathroom. With her pullups out of the way, there is a great splaying of fecal matter all over the floor, all over anything in her way. So I understand about the trail of poop on the floor between the bed and the bathroom – but into the closet?
“I was getting a new pull-up,” she said, as if that explained everything.
Oh, so that is what it was. She had messed the one that she was wearing, and wanted to go get a clean one from her stash, and apparently was struck by an attack of diarrhea when she bent over to pull one out of the bag. “From now on, Nettie, when you have an accident and want a new pull-up, don’t try to get one from the closet. Just grab one of Cecilia’s from the bag beside the toilet. It’s the very same size and it won’t matter at all if you use one of hers under those circumstances. At all.”
She gave me her stock answer. “Okay! I will!” But she probably won’t. She is fiercely territorial when it comes to these sorts of things.
But what was with that big cow pie on the bed??? OGN has two protective pads on her bed. One is disposable, one is washable, and somehow (don’t ask me or OGN, because “I ‘on’t know!”) they both had been pushed back just enough for this large deposit on the bed. Through the sheet, and staining the thick, comfy (but thankfully, waterproof) mattress pad. There was not a single bit of anything on either pad.
“I really got a mess!” announced OGN from somewhere beyond the reaches of my bewildered brain. I wanted nothing more than to just retreat to my chair. I looked at her “real mess” and groaned inwardly. “Nettie, I’m sick,” I said quietly, almost under my breath. I ached all over, and it was an effort to even lift my arms. She looked at me like, “Well, what am I gonna do???” It did no good to try to explain. I thought, briefly of Certain Man, asleep upstairs, and of Middle Daughter, also sleeping, but on call for her hospice job, and decided that I needed to get busy.
“Did you get yourself all cleaned up?” I asked her. I saw that she hadn’t changed her night gown.
“I tried to,” she said, matter of factly. “I fink I did!”
“Come here,” I said. She came, and I saw that she really hadn’t gotten herself cleaned up, at all. And there was stuff on her nightgown. I first of all cleaned her, and instructed her to get a new nightie and pull-up and to sit over on the pottie until I got things cleaned up. She meekly did as she was told. I got the carpet stain remover, and the scrub brush on a long handle and set to work. I sprayed all the spots and then, while it sat a bit, I took care of the bed, wiping off all the loose matter, and then covering it all up with the disposable pad, face down, and added a clean washable pad, “We’ll strip your bed in the morning,” I told OGN. “This is covered well for the night, and it will be fine.” I scrubbed and scrubbed the spots on the carpet and she watched from the bathroom. When I had them fairly well scrubbed into oblivion, I got clean towels to put over the spots for the rest of the night. “Are you done?” I asked Nettie.
“Yeah, I fink so, ” she answered.
“Then let’s get you into bed,” I said. “I think it’s all ready.” She ambled over to her bed and looked at it critically.
“It needs ‘at other pad,” she said, petulant and critical.
I looked at the bed. “What other pad, Nettie?” I asked wearily. She was impatient. I should know!
“‘At other one,” she insisted. “‘at goes on the top.” Oh. Her disposable pad. A couple of months ago, she had gotten struck with a great jealousy over the fact that Cecilia has a disposable pad on top of her washable pads, and wanted some for herself. I had explained that they were expensive, and that she didn’t really need them, but she was adamant. She did need them. She wanted them, and when some good quality ones became available free of cost, she was the happiest gal around. I thought about the fact that it had appeared that she had pushed it back before making a mess on the bed, and I wanted to tell her that she wasn’t getting any more tonight, but I was tired, and it was easier to just get the extra pad. So I fished it out and spread it out. I did not waste the opportunity, though to instruct her as to how the pad was to be put on the bed, so that it hung down a little over the edge of the mattress to catch any accidents. She again, said, “Okay!” with her resigned, martyred air, and she climbed into her bed.
All this time, Cecilia had been whimpering in her bed. I Kept reassuring her that as soon as I was done with OGN, I would take her pottie. I surmised, and rightly so, that she just might need to go to the bathroom, too. Then I put her back to bed and covered her up and my job in the room was done. I checked to see whether both ladies were comfy, and then came out to the kitchen. A terrible smell followed me from the other room, and I decided to light some candles, and at least try to get the smell out before morning. I lit a Bath and Bodyworks one in the bathroom and two new in the kitchen.
Then I went back to my chair and slept until morning. I’m so grateful that cleaning up that mess didn’t affect the delicate balance of my stomach. I really didn’t have anyone to come to my rescue, and I was able to get it all done without throwing up. I snuggled under the warm blanket of my chair, and gave grateful praise. I really was feeling better! I had a day to rest ahead of me, and hopefully by the time Monday morning rolled around, I would be good as new.
And that is the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man has been keeping a respectful distance, the children are mostly absent these days, and this Delaware Grammy has gotten a much needed break!
One response to “Of Stomach Bugs and Families and Birthday Parties”
I remembered reading this when it was first published, but now as primary caregiver for my father, I read it with a completely different perspective!