It is Thursday evening. Exactly a week ago both children started being sick. And I don’t mean “being poorly”, I mean vomiting their hearts out. In bed, in the bath, over the walls, over me, over each other – it just didn’t stop. Well, with Léonie it did but it went southward resulting in chronic diarrhoea – with Tommy it didn’t stop. He was sick every ten to fifteen minutes all night and throughout Friday. He couldn’t even keep a teaspoon of water down. He was so thirsty, begging me for water, but when I gave him some it just came back up again, into his blue bowl by the bed. That bowl became his best friend for 24 hours. When I took it away to empty it he would scream for his bowl. I spent Thursday night racing from Tommy’s room, to the bathroom, to Léonie’s room, to the nappy-changing mat, to the washing machine, back up to Tommy’s room … it went on and on and on and after a couple of hours like this I gave up even trying to get back to my bed. It wasn’t worth it; as soon as I lay down there would be another scream “MUMMY!!” and I was back up again, frantically trying to keep everyone as clean and comfortable as possible, which wasn’t very much, given the situation. Of course, this was all happening while L’Homme was away. It ONLY ever happens when he is away.
On Friday morning Léonie seemed a little perkier, despite the odious, radioactive yellow gunk in her nappies. She even ate a dry biscuit and played with Tommy’s playmobil toys while I tended to him in his bed. Tommy kept being sick. He was getting badly dehydrated – cracked lips, sunken eyes – I wondered whether I should drive him to the hospital. And then Léonie had a seizure.
It was one of the worst three minutes of my life. Part of me stayed very calm, holding Léonie in my arms, telling myself that it was going to end soon, that the “What to Expect” baby book has a page on seizures explaining that they’re not necessarily damaging. And the other part of me panicked and stared wildly at my baby girl convulsing in my arms, my mind screaming out at me, “she might be dying, she might not come back, she might be brain damaged, I’m losing her, I’M LOSING MY BABY GIRL.” And then the convulsions stopped and she went all floppy. Dead like. I clamped my ear to her chest and heard her heart beating. She was breathing. I grabbed the phone and went to dial 999. “Bollocks, no, that’s England, what the hell do you dial here?” No bloody idea. And then my fingers just dialed “18” of their own accord and I got through to the emergency services. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘seizure’ and ’13 month baby’ the voice said they were sending the firemen straight away. Firemen? “THERE IS NO FIRE..” And then I remembered that in France, the firemen have medical training and are often sent out to medical emergencies. “Ils seront là dans 20 minutes, madame”. so I sat on the sofa with my little unconscious Léonie, stroking her forehead and talking to her. After a while she started to come round. She was dazed though. “MUMMY!” screamed Tommy from his bedroom upstairs “ME GONNA BE SICK AGAIN!” … “I’m coming Honey, try to do it in the bowl”. I carefully carried Léonie upstairs and helped Tommy, not that there was much to do as he had become a professional puker and had perfect aim by then. But he wanted me to be with him each time, as if that made it easier. The phone rang downstairs, I went as fast as I could with Léonie in my arms, it was the firemen, lost in our tiny village, trying to find our house. By the time I had explained a neighbour had shown them anyway. They came dashing up the stone staircase, about to overshoot our house, and jumped when I called them. In they came, three big firemen in their firemen uniform and all their equipment. Our kitchen suddenly seemed tiny. I lay Léonie on the sofa and the one in charge examined her while his colleague went upstairs to check Tommy out. “She seems okay, but we need to take her to emergency ward.”
“Fine” I said, “I’ll just grab some clothes for the two of them.”
“Er, no, we can only take one patient per fire engine.”
“Ah. So what do you propose I do with my 4 year old boy who has been puking his guts out for the last 18 hours and is now severely dehydrated and panicking because I’m not up there with him right now?”
“Could you leave him with a neighbour?”
“Right. Okay. Thank you for coming, you can all go now. I’ll drive both of them to hospital in my car. Good bye.”
“Erm, you probably shouldn’t drive right now madame – you’re in shock and you haven’t slept all night …”
“I AM NOT LEAVING MY SON HERE ON HIS OWN, ESPECIALLY NOT WHILE HE IS IN THE THROWS OF A VIOLENT GASTROENTITIS VIRUS. SO EITHER YOU TAKE THE THREE OF US OR YOU LEAVE NOW.”
They looked at each other. “Okay, we’ll bend the rules, we’ll take you all. Quickly get their things. You carry your baby and we’ll carry your son and your bags.”
So I threw all the clothes in the clean washing basket into a bag, grabbed my phone and some other bits and bobs which I was only half conscious of taking, wrapped Tommy up in a towel and handed him to the biggest fireman, bundled Léonie up and off we went, Tommy calling out for his bowl and the fireman reassuring him that they had everything he would need in the fire engine.
To Be Continued … (mainly because I am knackered and want to go to bed, but partly because I thought I would try out a cliffhanger technique to see if this gets you tuning in to the next episode : “Double Gastro : Hospital and the evil Doctor She-Devil”.