Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Gross Anatomy of Childhood

Fair warning: this post is gross. If you don't like feet, toes, or doctors, stop right here.

Still with me? You sicko! 

Childhood health is strange. I don't remember being sick at all as a kid, not until chicken pox in the first grade, really. That's good, because it gives me hope that my children will also block out their own childhood maladies. What seems so minor can turn into a BIG THING pretty quickly.

Today, we headed out to one of my fortresses of parenthood survival, the Coastal Children's Museum in Rockland. It's a bastion of peace for parents of small children. James and Violet can both run amok in the place, and as long as we all keep the various toys in the rooms in which they belong (which is apparently much less complicated than doing the exact same thing at my house) and don't cause injuries that leave scars on other kids, it's all gravy. 

On the way there, Violet wouldn't stop screaming, "Ow! Hurt! Hurt! Toe! Hurt!" I reached back, took her socks off, and felt her feet - they seemed fine. She kept screaming, and I began to wonder if we had different ideas about what "hurt" meant. Like, maybe she meant, "It's a pain in the ass to be strapped to this lousy car seat!" For 45 minutes, from Belfast to Rockland, she screamed at me about how much she hurt. She would grab one foot, and then the other, and then yell.James, who was in the best visual proximity, told me that her feet looked fine to him. 

After 45 minutes of yelling, we finally made it to the museum, all slightly deaf, I'm sure. Why, you might ask, didn't I stop before then? Well, once I determined, from feeling and from seeing-eye-James, that there was no blood and no bones were broken, I figured that whatever it was would be best served by arrival at the museum.

I parked the car and immediately turned around to examine her feet in greater detail. To my surprise, I discovered the source of the problem almost immediately - it's easier to do a visual assessment when your eyes aren't supposed to be, you know, on the road, to prevent certain death and all. Violet had an ingrown toenail. I was completely flabbergasted, though. Not because James hadn't seen it - I mean, how the hell would he know what an ingrown toenail looked like? He had never had one! But that's where my confusion came in - I didn't know kids could get ingrown toenails. And I sure as heck had no idea what to do for one on a kid. If it was me, I'd go to the doctor and have it cut out, or cut it out myself. I can handle pain. I'm a grownup, most of the time. But a toddler? The thought made me wretch.

"Violet, do you still want to go to the museum?" I asked.

"YAH!!" (Violet's a closet German right now)

"But does this hurt too badly to play?"

"NO. Hurt. Want moo-em." 

I gathered, correctly, that meant her toe hurt but she was going to be damned if she let that stop her from wreaking havoc at the children's museum. I looked up "toddler ingrown toenail" on my phone. Some people said go to the doctor, some said soak it three times a day in warm water and use antibiotic ointment. I opted to initially try the latter, especially since she was determined to go. So, gingerly, I put her socks back on (no bare feet in the museum, because ick, feet) and we headed in.  She and James ran up and down the climbing structures, the slides, hammered nails, banged on drums...all as per normal, and lasted their average hour and a half before getting hungry for a healthy lunch. (Ahem. I'm not going to admit right here what they really had for lunch.) 

She started complaining about her toe hurting again in the car, but I gave her a bottle of milk so that she would at the very least forget about it for awhile and doze. She is no longer what I call transferable, though - as soon as I placed the car in park in our driveway, her eyes flew open. 

"Violet, do you want a bath?" I said.


"With bubbles?"


The bubble bath lasted about ten minutes, longer than usual, before she wanted to run around the house screaming like a naked, wet banshee. But while she hadn't complained of pain while in the tub, as soon as she got out and started to run, she started to cry.

This was not okay with me. 

Both of my kids are tough. I think kids in general probably are, when given the opportunity. This particular kid had a big fall two days prior that resulted in a bloody scraped knee, and she didn't even cry. So crying in pain meant something really hurt.

I called the doctor's office. First, they had an appointment with Dr. K. I barked, "No, not Dr. K. She doesn't believe in modern medicine, she'll send me with instructions on homeopathy or something. Someone else." See, Dr. K's crusade to fight the over prescription of antibiotics - an excellent crusade, by the way - manifests itself in an unwillingness to give anyone antibiotics, ever. And if my kid's got a damned infection that hurts, I want someone who prescribes them when they're needed. 

The receptionist chuckled. "Okay. Dr. N has an appointment at 5." Fine. Dr. N's good. He has sent me home telling me I'm overreacting to something and he has also sent me home with prescriptions for stuff when needed. I trust his opinion and I trust that whatever ideological crusade he's on won't completely cloud his decisions one way or another.

Well, poor Dr. N. He ended up with us in the exam room for nearly 45 minutes. We both wrestled with trying to keep the topical anesthetic on her toe for long enough to numb it and she kept doing her best to thwart our efforts. Dr. N did an awesome job speaking to Violet like a person, too, which is good, because she's pretty verbal and responds well to people who do that. And she IS a person, for goodness' sake. But she was frantic. She didn't understand what the word "numb" meant and she sure as heck didn't embrace this concept of "waiting" or, especially "sitting still."

I won't go into further details, but by the end of it, some of the topical anesthetic had managed to stick around, some small amount of stuff had been trimmed and sterilized, and a strong antibiotic to combat what I now understood was an infection was prescribed. Every three hours, as needed, she could have Tylenol or Ibuprofen, alternating. And, last but not least, it was highly possible that both Dr. N and I would be needing hearing aids in the fairly immediate future. We grabbed our prescriptions at the pharmacy and headed home.

So, finally, after a dinner of Thai food, some Blue Planet on Netflix, and a bottle, she's asleep in her crib. Thank goodness. After today, I understand why people used to give their babies bourbon.

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