Wednesday, April 29, 2009

best laid plans

Yes well see that's the problem with leaving a sizeable gap between posts.

I was planning to write about all manner of cheersome frolics and mad capers but instead I shall be spending tonight wiping the spew off Tricky's face (and surrounding soft furnishings as well as myself) every...oh... hour on the hour it's been so far. Brand new tummy bug, gotta love 'em.

Of course my last post was a big whinge about ill health too so now I just sound pathetic.

Yup. Lesson learned Mr Blogger, lesson learned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Cough Of The Just


Sorry where was I? 

Yes, that's right, the VIRUS OF HACKING HORROR. 

Night times have been the worst of course, one minute I am comfortably settling down to read the most boring novel in the world (a direct result of writers' block) and the next I am threatening to cough up my small intestine except I'm pretty sure I lost that the last time C brought a hacking virus home. (Although to be fair he also brought home a very nice necklace for me, know, swings and roundabouts.)

For a while I lie in bed with my face jammed amongst the pillows, trying to muffle the sounds of misery, but eventually I drag myself out and gargle something or swig something and sit upright until the coughing fit stops and I can crawl back beneath the doona. 

I'm not sure if this is a male habit or even a 40plus male habit or just one of C's own adorable pecadillos but whereas I, at the first hint of a sneeze, will start mainlining garlic and horseradish and drink gallons of water, C seems perfectly comfortable hurling his phlegm around the room and would not even think of sucking on a Vitamin C. 

Wouldn't cross his mind. 

So then I have to drag myself out to the shops, knowing all the time those microbe things are festering in my system and I am a marked woman and it's all just a matter of time, and buy bags of vitamins and zinc things and chesty cough mixtures. 

Even then it's not enough to clink them on the kitchen table and heave a great sigh of martyrdom and mutter about if only he'd thought to take this stuff before he came home and passed his lurgy amongst the family. 

I have to make up little bowls of tablets and vitamins and actually hand them to C with a frigging glass of water before he will actually take them.

Tricky has also been coughing like a fiend, albeit a tinier version, and initially there was also a bit of fever and general sickiness. The last time he had this sort of coughing virus the doctor prescribed him a puffer which came with an elaborate mask and spacer type thing. 

He wouldn't have a bar of it and the only way I could get him to use it was when he was asleep. I would hold the mask over his face and press the ventolin and count to ten. It felt vaguely creepy and wrong and so I was glad that this time, a few months after the last virus, Tricky was keen as mustard to use the mask. He presses the button himself and counts to ten - I think it's the echoey booming way his voice sounds in the spacer that holds all the appeal. That and the button of course. Kid loves a good button.

But all this night coughing and palaver has caused a bit of havoc in the sleep stakes. All the mummy attention at night during the early stages has registered with Tricky and now, as his coughing subsides, the demands, and the volume with which the demands are made, have increased.

Last night we were woken by shouts for water, mummy, doona and Charlie&Lola. Since I had done several of the earlier night calls, I nudged C into action and started drifting back to sleep.

Moments later I was woken more decisively by the sound of Tricky kicking his feet against the back of the bookshelf that makes up one wall of his "bedroom". 

DOONA! Thump thump thump. MUMMA! Thump thump thump. NO WATER, I DON'T NEEEEEEED IT. Thump thump thump. I WANT MY MUMMY.

Somewhere in the darkness C, half asleep, was lumbering about with a sippy cup of water in hand, feebly muttering shhhh shhhh. 

At some point he must have made actual physical contact with our child because then Tricky sternly and quite cruelly shouted:


It was terribly harsh, this rejection by one's child, I thought. 

I settled myself comfortably upright against the mountain of pillows I had built in a bid to stave off coughing.

But frankly, terribly fair.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

hunting stories

It is time once again for the Hunting Of  The Chocolate Eggs or at least it was last Saturday which coincided nicely with yet another visit north to see my family. 

This time my second sister T, the surfing hippie doing a Masters in Acupuncture joined us, as did my third sister Nurse K. 

K brought her husband with her which was jolly, not just because we don't get to see him that often but because a few days prior to that he managed to save one of his fishing mates with a bucket.

When I say 'fishing' I mean 'rock fishing' which started at dawn and finished abruptly an hour later when a freak wave washed over the rock and washed said fellow down into the water, and when I say 'mate' I mean 'friend who had never been rock fishing before and wasn't a great swimmer and indeed had only been in Australia a short wee while (Scotsman)' but when I say 'bucket' I think we can leave it at that. 

Although, sister's hubby hastened to add, it did have a lid on it the bucket, which made it a flotation aid. Also there was a rope tied to one end which didn't seem too useful since Scotsman was washed out to sea. 

Sister's hubby points out that in fact this is the safest option, the swimming out to sea bit, most deaths happening because washed off fishermen tried to climb back up the rocks where crashing waves did them in. And Scotsman did not manage the bucket first go and bucket had to be thrown to him again and when it landed nearby and he called that he couldn't reach it and he was done for, they had to shout that yes he could, yes he could SWIM FOR THE BUCKET.

Scotsman swam and held on for dear life and floated (despite his steel capped boots, inappropriate for being washed off a rock yet paradoxically quite sensible for standing about in one spot on craggy rocks for the previously planned several hours). In the meantime sister's hubby ran up to the highest ground he could find (naturally they were in some remote place that required an hour walking out in the dark through the bush carrying extensive tuna fishing gear which would be washed away in aforementioned freak wave) and rang emergency assistance. Luckily the local surf life saving club was contacted and an intrepid soul dashed out on a jet ski to haul in Scotsman And Bucket.

Sister's hubby who fishes from a boat on the lake most weeks and has done since he was a little tacker has married into a family of landlubbers who love eating fish and many a time have partaken of his catch. We listen to his story and grimace and wince at the right bits and some of us scream when we hear the additional information that the last time they fished in that spot a whopping great big tiger shark had been prowling around after the bait fish.

It gives the whole easter egg hunt a little extra frisson of excitement which is probably good since there's not much in the way of tension or real competition. There are after all only two children who participate and one is a six month old who has just started on solid foods. 

Tricky solemnly carries his basket from potplant to potplant and collects his righteous bounty while his mother, father, two aunts, two uncles and grandparents troop after him, crowding to watch him earnestly gather his eggs or hissing that he missed one, over there, over there. 

Last year he collected eggs with his cousins and had no idea they were there to be eaten, preferring to roll them like marbles and throw them about the yard, marveling at the shiny papers and bright colours. I was happy to forgo the chocolate experience and redistributed them among the naughty nephews. But this year, Tricky knows about easter eggs, he knows about chocolate and by george those eggs aint going anywhere else. 

Baby L, meanwhile, lifted up to find one egg after another simply laughs and pats at them and then turns away for a glimpse of her doting parents.

Sister's hubby is a quietly spoken fella, he loves fishing and he loves my sister and their baby. He says he'll never fish at that point again and he won't be rock fishing for a long time if at all. Hippie sister later suggests we all chip in to buy him a lightweight flotation vest, just in case.

When he brought his mate home from the hospital, the media were waiting outside his home, for comments, for interviews, for pictures of the bucket. Sister's hubby wasn't keen, he's a shy man, the quiet sort. 

They kept after him though, during the day and eventually he had his photo taken and his words recorded. As we watched the babies, he added in a surprised tone, the reporter kept asking him if he was planning another fishing trip and he kept saying no until eventually he clarified - not rock fishing no, but beach fishing, sure. His comment didn't make the television interview but hers ended the report...and he's already planning another fishing trip!

My sister's face is set as she listens to him tell his story again and again. Relief, pride, love and resignation play out across her features. Most dangerous sport in Australia, she mutters. He squeezes her hand.

And baby daughter, safe in her mother's arms, dimples and laughs and reaches for her daddy's face. All smiles and gurgles and love.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

in the family

My grandfather is back in hospital. 

A couple of days ago when I intended to write this I was going to say I thought it was the end. Let the record state that I think it is grossly unfair and seven sorts of complete shit that having gone through the diabetic horrors of having his leg amputation it has just been one ghastly ailment after another, from infected testicles to phantom leg pain to catheter issues and now to enormous mystery weeping blisters. The man should be able to perch atop his enormous wheeled chair shouting orders to lackeys, arguing over what sport gets watched on the communal plasma screen and swigging back plastic tumblers of his semi illicit rum. He's probably only got a few years at best why can the man not be comfortable?

Instead, he looked horribly bloated and was covered from neck to toes in this god-awful rash, we're talking bubbling blisters some of which were the size of my palm. Skin samples had been taken from one arm and so in addition to the blisters the skin was bright purple. And he was wheezing and gasping for breath and slumped to one side and so very very uncomfortable.

My youngest sister K, the nurse, was with me. We stood by the side of the bed, rubbing the hospital disinfectant into our hands. Then my sister swung into action. 

There are moments when it's a bit shitty having a nurse in the family, like the time my sister AJ stepped on a pin that broke off in her foot and my mother attempted to excavate it herself with a home scalpel and a pair of tweezers, because she was a nurse and so she could. 

But there are excellent times too -  and this was one of them. K snatched up a pair of bright blue latex gloves from the box on the sidetable and whipped them on. HOW ARE YOU GRANDIS? She shouted at his ear as she peered beneath the sheets. This was not cruel, this was sort of comforting, Grandad's hearing aid, like the Tasmanian tiger - much discussed but never reappearing, had disappeared "in the move" and he had reverted to his customary shouting.

He rallied a little and yelled his hellos back to us. I leaned in to kiss his face. DO THEY HURT GRANDIS? I asked him and he shrugged his cheeks a little. THEY ITCH  and as if to illustrate he suddenly swatted at his chest and underarms.

WE'RE GOING TO MAKE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE GRANDIS, my sister announced and in a few seconds the pillows had been readjusted, the bed lifted and my grandfather hoisted into position. My sister is a small girl, my grandfather is a big man and I was no help at all really but it was done. 

I reached across for the buzzer but K scooped up a handful of some sort of ointment from the table by his bed and matter of factly rubbed it into his torso.


Next my sister snooped at the drip, scanned his notes - showing me the photocopied pages describing various horrible blistering ailments and their possible remedies (boil ye a toad and stir it thrice widdershins under a cresent moon) and examined the canula in the back of his hand. 

A couple of nurses came in and my sister drifted into the background as they checked his blood sugar levels and made reassuring noises. There was some small talk with my sister, she works at this hospital too although currently on maternity leave.

Have you had a good look at these, one of the nurses said, I've never seen anything like it, and she whipped off the sheet to expose the raw weeping groin and thighs. My sister's face was a tight, professional mask. She nodded shortly and made little mmm hmmm noises, then she said in a seemingly casual manner: I was thinking, he sounded a bit...overloaded.

Yes, the nurse nodded back, I was just thinking that myself...we'll have a look at that drip, because he is drinking fluids after all...
...and with his cardio problems, K said, and I was just wondering how those bedsores were going...

They're so busy, my sister told me afterwards when we had said our goodbyes and re-disinfected our hands and headed toward the lift. And he's such a big takes 2 or 3 people just to move him, and things get missed or get postponed because other stuff happens on the ward, but I did think they needed to do something about the overloading, that's way too much fluid...

That afternoon the dermatologist called our father and told him that they were pursuing an aggressive treatment for these mysterious blisters and rash. There could be sudden reactions. And then later the doctor in charge of  the second team, monitoring the diabetes and heart and kidneys and bladder infection rang too and they both asked about the same thing. The NFR sign, Not For Resuscitation. K took the second phone call, our parents were out and she was still at the house with me watching vampire movies.

We haven't broached that conversation yet, I heard her say and then the hmm mmm noise again. She asked about the medications he was on and then replied that yes she was a nurse too, at the hospital. And then I heard her say...well of course he's surprised everyone before...quite a few times actually.

The next day, after nearly 24 hours of the treatment we saw Grandis again and he was like a new person. The swelling was down, the wheezing was gone, the blisters were still there but less angry and he was much more animated, flinging his arms about and grilling C, and K's husband T, about football results and the view from his window. In fact he was almost a little too animated, I felt, like he was over compensating for my tears of relief or... maybe even...high. But whether it was the sensitivity to blubbering granddaughters or the heavy duty drugs coursing through his bloodstream, he seemed much more comfortable.

The new regime involved heavy duty antibiotics and steroids and cortizone creams rubbed into his body three times a day, being wrapped in dressings and warm wet sheeting and then covered in space blankets. That's three nurses three times a day. Extra staff were put on to the ward to ensure the treatment took place.

Extra staff? I exclaimed when my sister told me this later.
Yup, she said. The doctor told me she was very impressed with the care of nursing and I have to say...I am too.
Was it because he was your grandad?
Well in theory, she said, everyone should get that level of care, but I don't see it happen all that often. Maybe him being Grandis was just icing on the cake.

He's very lucky, I said. And I meant it in so many ways.
Mmmm hmmm my sister agreed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Crushed Beneath My Mental Block

Ack. It's a new month and so many many days since i last posted. I have no actual excuse except I am so blocked up at the moment. It's the mental equivalent of that hideous two week period after Tricky was born when i became the constipation queen and found myself crying to my father-in-law for his stash of laxatives. 

I'm hoping there's some new significant work on its way because I have been huffing and straining over my laptop for the past few weeks and it's not a pretty sight. I keep pathetically googling such things as "How to write my book" and "great new play idea". 

And it's not even like I've got bulk eons of time to do stupid googling and idle research. I have three days of childcare a week and when C is away working like he has been on and off over the past few weeks, those three days are it. 

Except of course as soon as Tricky is whisked away (either by myself or his live in uncle or aunt) then I start to do laundry, or perhaps clean the bathroom which is so festy a colony of sea monkeys has taken up residency. Then I must have a coffee, do some stupid googling, phone another writer friend about procrastinating and mental blockage, make lunch... ok, I do actually manage to scratch a few feeble words onto a slate each day but basically I am an idiot and I should have got a proper job all those years ago when my father told me to.

Also i have just this minute given up wine and sugar. This is based on me reading a newspaper article that said two glasses of wine a night were enough to increase a woman's chances of contracting breast cancer. Nice one, science heads. Those two glasses got me through the day. I'm sure you're right but God, is there no fucking fun to be had?

The sugar thing was even more indisputable. I overheard a shelf packer at Coles supermarket talking to another shelf packer and saying that the weight just fell off her when she stopped eating sugar. I couldn't see these people, i just heard their voices floating vaguely from the next aisle while I was perusing tins of baked beans. 

Unfortunately it took about five minutes of anecdotal evidence about Shelfpacker One's horrid blimpishness and her nasty unsympathetic relatives who had been trying to tell her for months that she had to give it up (what? what? Just say it you cow). 

But then, miracle, the new fabulous svelteness, the putting on of clothes that previously no longer fitted (here I nearly fell face first into the tinned Heinz spaghetti shapes, so sharp was the prick of recognition that accompanied these words) and so i was forced to examine in minute detail those baked beans; the ham flavour, the reduced salt, the generic brands, before I finally heard the culprit named...evil evil fat-inducing sugar.

Two and a half years ago, it took me half a box of medically prescribed laxatives, gallons of water, a coffee meringue and a brisk promenade along Bondi Beach before I could get any kind of movement at the station. I'm not in need of the first (yet), I've just ruled out the second and I don't have the time to do the third. Interestingly, and quite unconsciously, the last few mornings i have found myself drinking loads of water and dosing my breakfast cereal with extra fibre. Almost as if, instinctively, I'm making the connection between brain and bum (most of my friends would of course point out that in my case this was patently obvious).