I’m ill. Not as ill as I was on Monday, but ill enough to be grumpy and tired and wanting to stay in bed all day. Benjamin had strep throat last week and decided to share his germs among us. While he spent two days off school (and the second day he bounced around the house, full of the joys of spring), his ageing mother was run over and flattened by the strep juggernaut. I started feeling bad on Sunday night, all aches and pains and a sore throat. I hobbled up to bed, and spent the night shivering and roasting and tossing and turning with the pain. Michael got up to take my temperature, and stuck a fan beside the bed to cool me down. Now I know how irritating I am when the kids are sick and want to be tucked in. I kept pulling the duvet back over me and he kept taking it off again – “you have a temperature!” – until I wanted to kill him. Except I didn’t have the energy. I crawled out of bed on Monday morning, packed the kids off to school and headed to the doctor with Nicholas, who also had a sore throat. 45 minutes of sitting in the waiting room finished me off. By the time we got to the doctor’s office, I was a shivery achey mess. She examined Nicholas, decided to do a throat swab, and eventually had to call a nurse to help her hold him still on the bed. He was gagging and complaining and I was longing to lie down for a week in a dark room. Ten minutes later, I was all tucked up, under hot sheets (that the nurse had kindly warmed up in the microwave), full of paracetemol, waiting for a phlebotomist to come and take bloods. Nicholas had assumed the role of Keeper of the Handbag, and was busy sneaking chewing gum out of it at every opportunity. Michael had to leave work to come and collect me, and I crawled back into bed feeling very sorry for myself.
I’m sure it’s the same in most houses, but the impact of the woman of the house being sick and the impact of the man of the house having to take to his bed are entirely different things. He gets sick, goes to bed, takes his medicine and has his meals handed to him. Everything in the house continues as normal. She gets ill, and the house falls down around her ears. Nobody can find anything. Everyone eats random items out of the fridge. The floors get crunchy underfoot and the bedrooms resemble bomb sites within half a day. The laundry….well….there are no words.
The kids wandered in and out, looking for help with their maths homework, for forms to be signed, for suggestions for food. Michael started cooking the dinner, and arrived up to see if I wanted anything to eat. At this stage, I was practically catatonic in the bed, and so off to the Emergency Room we went, with Eddie and Kelly kindly sacrificing their evening (and sanity) to mind the kids and get them off to bed. I was feeling so unbelievably awful at that stage that I didn’t give a hoot about anything except lying down again, so the fact that I was sitting in a wheelchair, with my mouth open, my eyes closed and my hair all over my face, intermittently keening and occasionally retching into a bowl, didn’t bother me at all at the time. Now, I look back and hope to God that nobody there will ever see me again and think “there’s that woman that was mooing like a cow in the ER that night. And she wasn’t even wearing a bra!”.
I was wheeled off to a bed, covered with mountains of blankets (bliss), and hooked up to a drip (urgh). I could hear doctors talking to Michael, but I wasn’t really able to speak, and so I just curled up with the drip, the pulse thing, the oxygen mask, the blood pressure cuff, and tried to go into a nice peaceful coma (which is difficult when you can’t turn over without getting tangled up in all the wires). Not that there’s anything peaceful about the ER in any hospital. Doctors were discussing all the various cases, and there was a dispute going on as to whether some man was having a heart attack or not. The woman beside me was elderly, I think, and her daughter was looking after her. She was so calm, and her mother was obviously agitated, because she kept pulling off all her ECG wires, and sliding down the bed. It all became a background soundtrack and I drifted off into a semi-aware state, morphined up to the eyeballs and toasty warm. Every so often someone would arrive to ask me questions. The kind of questions they ask to make sure that some weird virus isn’t frying your brain. “Hey Barb, do you know where you are?” “The hospital”, I’d slur. “Which hospital?” “The Royal University Hospital”. Seriously, what a mouthful when you’re sick. Thank God they didn’t start asking me questions about Canadian trivia. I’d have been carted straight off to neurology. The doctor came back to talk to Michael again about tests that I’d had that morning in the doctor’s office. “She had a swab for strep throat and blood tests for West Nile Virus”, said MIchael, “which were sent here to the hospital”. I struggled into consciousness. “Regina”, I whispered. They turned to look at me. “Regina“, I said again, starting to feel cranky that they weren’t understanding me. Michael nearly had a heart attack. “Oh my God!”, he said, “she thinks we’re in Regina!” Thankfully, the doctor had belatedly realised what I meant, and rushed to reassure him that I hadn’t started losing my mind. “The tests for West Nile Virus go to Regina”, he said. I decided it would be safer not to offer any more helpful remarks.
It’s amazing what being rehydrated and shot full of morphine can do for a person. After being wheeled in looking like a saggy bag of limbs and hair, I managed to walk out of the ER five hours later, still feeling awful but well enough to realise that I must have been really ill to have left my bra at home. At the time, the thought of having to manoeuvre my way into it was enough to kill me. I got into my own bed, put my head onto my own pillow, and slept all night. Two days later, I’m still not right, but I’m hoping the weekend will bring a new me – no more germs, all-day pyjamas, unwashed hair and general sickie-ness. The Canadian health service is great, but I don’t really need any more close-ups of it.