Monday, 11 January 2016

Surviving gastro

I'm extremely pleased to say this is not my area of expertise. We've had bouts of illness but last week was the first time I have experienced anything like the horror of an entire family suffering gastro. It was a living nightmare. 

This is what I have learned.

Prevention is SO MUCH better than cure. Easy to say now. I thought we were pretty on the ball with general hygiene. Ed has had varying levels of a compromised immune system ever since his first round of chemotherapy back in 2009. So for almost seven years we've been fairly familiar with alcohol wipes, disinfectant and hand sanitiser. Admittedly we got a bit slack in 2014 when the twins had their eight week vaccinations and Ed ended up getting rotavirus. Yes, I had practically newborn twins, a just two year old and a husband with rotavirus. Not a time I look back fondly upon.

So what went wrong this time? I think some bugs are simply unavoidable but in this case I'm pretty sure the problem got worse because Master S vomited in the car and I didn't take the necessary time to clean up properly. We were on our way to the airport to pick up my sister. Instead of stopping I just passed Miss 3 the baby wipes so she could attempt to clean him while sitting in her own five point harness seat. This was a complete waste of time because those car seats really don't allow much movement so she couldn't reach anyway, not to mention she wasn't particularly committed to the cause. Probably just committed enough be infected by the evil bug but not enough to actually clean up. Once we arrived at the airport I cleaned up as best I could but it's not easy without running water so nothing was thoroughly cleaned until we got home.

I didn't actually think much of it from a contagious point of view. Master S has always had a bit of a weak stomach and there have been plenty of times when he's vomited a few times and then been perfectly fine after. I just thought it was another one of those occasions. 36 hours later though, Miss 3 and I were both in a world of pain.

Use the bursts of adrenalin. For me the vomiting started at about 10pm New Years Day. I'd been feeling not right for a while and actually was quite relieved to finally get something out. I went to bed feeling pretty rough but assuming I'd be fine in the morning. About 20 minutes later, there came almighty screams from Miss 3's room. At first I left Ed to see what was going on but it soon became apparent it was something serious. I walked into her room and I honestly don't think I've ever seen such a mess. It looked like she had vomited up an ocean. It was everywhere. Everywhere. The adrenalin kicked in and I just scooped her up and we drowned our sorrows together in the shower. I've never been so empathetic and she's never been so compliant with having her hair washed. It was just a disgusting mess that I never want to think about again. 

By the time we got out, she had calmed down and Ed had changed her sheets. I left Ed to settle her back to bed and collapsed back into bed myself. Adrenalin rush over but well used. I proceeded to wake and vomit at 12, 2 and 4. Miss 3 apparently had got it all out in one go and while there were a few extra spit ups I'm pretty sure she slept soundly from about midnight.

Relax the rules. Having not slept all night, regardless of health, I was feeling pretty broken in the morning. Ed of course also hadn't slept well having to deal with Miss 3 and me all night but he took first shift with the children. Unfortunately our bedroom is adjacent to the living room so it's pretty much impossible to sleep while the children are awake but I rested up knowing they were in good hands. We are usually pretty much a tv free household but there was a lot of Playschool watched that day. This was not the day to care about screen time. This was a day to survive.

I rested until I realised that Master L was vomiting. The difference between a three year old vomiting and a one year old vomiting is that you can reasonably ask the three year old to try to get it in a bucket. Not so much with a one year old. I lost count of how many loads of washing we did that day. I'm sure when we get our bill there will be a massive spike in water consumption over the new year period. Again, this was not the day to care about that.

Teamwork. By the afternoon, Master L had vomited himself awake during nap time and woken up his brother in the process. We were now dealing with not just illness but also massive over-tiredness for everyone in the house. By my 4am vomit, I had started to panic about how we would cope the next day. In an effort to save Ed's sleep, I'd resorted to vomiting out in the backyard, trying not to wake him. Despite my best intentions he still hadn't got much more sleep than me and now I could see he was fading fast and it was hours until we could reasonably put the children to bed. 

It was my turn to rally. I gathered my strength and headed out for a walk. We weren't far out the door when Miss 3 announced it was too hot and wanted to stay home. This would have been the wise move for all of us but I struggled on with the boys. In hindsight a drive would have been a much better idea. It was so, so hot and I was so, so fatigued. I only walked about 2km but it felt like a marathon. The upside was that it took ages and by the time I got home Ed had actually had a pretty decent nap. Together we battled through the witching hours.

Just give them pasta. Neither of us felt at all like eating but we had to at least offer the children something. They got pasta with cream cheese stirred through. Very plain, very boring, very easy. Pasta really is the easiest meal and I'm yet to come across a child who won't eat it. I think we continued to have pasta for the next few days with only slightly more exciting sauces. 

Call for help? This is a difficult one. We had my sister staying with us and she had little choice but to help out but I feel absolutely awful about it because she was on holiday and she did end up getting sick. The reality is that if you have someone in your life who you feel you can call upon in such diabolical times, no matter how much you suggest to them only to do 'clean' tasks, they probably love you and your children too much to really hold back. My sister was paranoid about picking up the bug and fastidious in her hygiene but it apparently was unavoidable.

It will end. This isn't going to be one of those situations which we look back and laugh about. It was simply horrendous. My only advice on this point is simply that it will end. It has to. There will be a time when you will want to eat again, there will be a time when you will laugh again, there will be a time when you will sleep again and there will be a time when your children will smile again. You've just go to hang in there.

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