It’s Thursday, our 5th day of holiday at La Rochelle. The weather is glorious, the cafés on the port are screaming for me to sit in the sunshine with a fat, steaming coffee in front of me, the shops in end-of-sales excitement await my browsing fingers and credit card, the beach longs for my toes to sift through the sand. Unfortunately, I am spending rather more time than hoped for in our hotel room, tending to a very measly three year old. This is Tommy’s third day of soaring temperature (40,5°C, 105°F), his eyes are sore and streaming, he’s covered in a bumpy rash from head to foot, he coughs and sniffs, he can barely walk and he hasn’t smiled since Monday. And there’s nowt we can do, aside from tanking him up with Doliprane, the French equivalent of Calpol, soaking his eyes with damp cotton wool and persuading him to drink water. And wait for it to run its course. He is a sorry sight indeed. He’s lying in our bed, propped up with pillows, tomato red and looking miserable, watching Wallace and Gromit over and over again until he dozes off again. As a result, our little seaside break has turned into a repetitive cycle of ward duty, each of us taking turns to stay with Tommy while the other one goes for a quick walk to the beach/chemist/Monoprix, trundling Léonie along in her pram. Nights are a haze of hourly awakenings, of thermometres and doliprane and changing sheets drenched in sweat, of coughing and tears, not to mention breast-feeding Léonie … This is definitely not quite what I expected when we talked about joining L’Homme on tour by the seaside.
I just hope I had measles as a child. If I did, I’m totally immune and so is Léonie, thanks to the antibodies I passed onto her at birth and also through breastfeeding. If I didn’t, we’re doomed, both of us, and will end up in hospital sometime next week, as a 2 month old can’t cope with a temperature of 40,5°C. Unfortunately, none of my parents can remember whether I was measled when little.
Now I come to think of it, I shouldn’t really be writing today as my sense of humour has vanished down the hotel drain. Seeing Tommy so ill is truly depressing, and of course I keep blaming myself as a) I didn’t get him vaccinated and b) I took him to a party and encouraged him to play with “the big girls” – 3 sisters, carriers of measles (we discovered a few days later when they broke out in a feverish rash). Bad Mummy.
………… the next day ………………………..
I’m writing from the hospital. Indeedy. We brought Tommy in yesterday afternoon after the doctor from SOS Medecin who saw Tommy a few days ago called us up and advised us to get Tommy, Léonie and myself checked out. So we bundled ourselves off to emergency ward. La Rochelle and its population are much bigger than our little Ardechois towns, and the hospital follows suit. Everyone was busy, no-one said hello, nurses and doctors and receptionists bustled about patients and phones and papers and we remained invisible for ten minutes. The only person who looked up from what he was doing was a very thin Johnny Halliday lookey-likey in the waiting room who was reading Femme Actuelle, the equivalent of Woman’s Own. Another chap with rolled up trousers and no socks in his bashed up shoes was trying to persuade an ambulanceman to drive him home to his mummy. He must have been 45 years old. When I eventually got the attention of a sullen receptionist and persuaded her to put me through to the “service pediatrie” I fortunately got Docteur Antoine on the line who was intelligent, thoughtful, and as we discovered a few minutes (and a few lengthy corridors) later, quite sexy. Which somehow seemed to help, in the midst of a lot of grey, gloom, sniffles and antiseptic. He wanted to run blood tests on Tommy and I – on Tommy to see if the measles had run amok and created an infection, and on me to find out if I am immune and thus whether Léonie is protected through my antibodies. They did all this and took photos of Tommy’s rashy body to show to their doctor mates in the pub. We sat there for an hour and a half awaiting the results, Léonie attached to my right nipple and Tommy watching Winnie the Pooh in French (very wierd) on my phone, sitting there in his pants.
It turned out Tommy had a high level of infection. They wanted to test for meningitis, they were keeping him in for the night. So L’Homme got to sleep the night on what looked like a weight-lifting bench and sing Pirouette Cacahuette throughout the dorsal puncture operation. Léonie and I were banished from the pediatric ward as they didn’t want Léonie to catch anything. So we went back to the hotel and followed the saga by phone as L’Homme sent messages to say all was well, the meningitis results were negative and Tommy’s temperature was coming down. Léonie and I fell asleep at 11pm and I was extremely (and happily) surprised to be woken up at 6 am for a feed before we both fell asleep again.
Tommy is a little better today. They should let him out tomorrow, so he might actually get to go on the little bateau-mouche which crosses the port and eat a crèpe in the sunshine before we head home on Sunday. We have decided to come back to La Rochelle another time to do all the holiday things we were hoping to do. And as soon as Léonie is old enough I shall be getting her vaccinated against measles, mumps, the black plague, bongo flu and anything else that could potentially cause me to continue my exploration of French hospitals and their children’s wards.