Monday, May 25, 2009

On Friday when I picked Lula up from school I noticed that her cheeks were red and that she seemed unusually quiet. When we got in the car she put her fingers in her mouth the way she does when she's very tired and she told me, in a little voice, that she didn't want to have dinner with the neighbors after all (they had invited her that morning).

Warning bells immediately went off in my head. She didn't want to go over to her friend's house? How come? Had something happened at school? Was she upset? Was she sick? I toned down my inner hysteria (WHAT was WRONG with my BABY???) and gently quizzed her. No, nothing had happened at school; no, she hadn't been in the sun too much at recess; no, she wasn't thinking about something sad.

When we got home she went straight to the couch, lay down, and fell asleep. When I touched her forehead it seemed warm, so I opened the living room windows and watched her closely. Joedy was working late in LA, so besides Malko's murmurings and an occassional abbreviated bark from Diablo and Astrid ("Diablo, shut...the...hell...UP!"), it was quiet and peaceful in the house.

After a while it became clear that Lula was not just napping but sleeping heavily, well on her way to dreamland, so I scooped her up in my arms and carried her into Joedy's and my bedroom. Her body felt hot, especially under her knees, and the warning bells went off again, a little louder this time. The three kids across the street had all recently had bad cases of the flu, with fevers of 103 degrees and lots of vomiting, and of course I couldn't help but wonder about swine flu.

I put her on our bed and felt her forehead with the back of my hand; it was definitely warmer. Her cheeks were still red, redder than before, and she had "sick breath." I pulled the sheet up to her shoulders and smoothed the hair away from her face, and then I brought Malko into the room and fed him on the bed. Lula woke up then, and said in a groggy voice that she wanted me to stay with her. Her eyes were glassy and she was sweating, so I knew she really was sick, but I told myself not to worry, that it was just sunstroke or a cold.

As it got later she got worse, sweating and shivering under the blankets; I found the thermometer in the medicine cabinet and put it on the bedside table. Soon her forehead felt warm enough (although I had the thermometer, I knew using it would scare her and possibly make things worse) that I thought she should have some Tylenol, so I poured a good amount in the dosage cup and lifted her overheated body into a sitting position. She didn't want to take the Tylenol, of course, so I had to beg her to drink it, and luckily she finally did.

After about half an hour she felt less hot, but she seemed restless, her limbs twitching and her head tossing from side to side, and when I sat next to her on the bed she stirred and woke up again. In a teary voice she asked me where Joedy was, and when I replied that he was working late she cried harder and said she wanted him to be there with her, which was sweet and sad and almost made me cry, too. She became more upset, her words garbled and hard to understand, and she started talking about colors, asking me if I saw "the blue color" and "the yellow color" over by the wall. A plastic cup of root beer (an unsuccessful attempt to get her to drink fluids) was sitting on the bedside table, and I asked her if that's what she was seeing, but she just cried more and said something else I couldn't understand. It was clear that she was a little delirious, and if her fever hadn't already dropped I would probably have thought about taking her to the emergency room--with Malko in his car seat and all--because seeing her in that state was very disturbing.

The bout of delirium passed, to my relief, and she settled back into sleep. Her forehead had cooled and her limbs had stopped twitching, so I got under the blankets and turned out the light. Gently, so as not to wake her up, I pulled her close to me, nestling her head under my chin and hugging her body with one arm. I kissed her forehead and felt her chest rise and fall steadily, and fell asleep to the sound of her and Malko's peaceful breathing.

When I woke up the next morning, Lula was eating cereal at the kitchen table and laughing with Joedy. She was fine again, her usual happy, healthy self. I poured myself some coffee and felt grateful.

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