Monday, September 19, 2011

I can feel your pain

Well, it finally happened. It took almost 6 months, but our son Elliot finally got sick. Nothing bad, just some congestion and a fever, but for first-time parents it was a novel experience.

The first thing that struck me was just how fast it hit. When I get sick, I usually start getting “signs” about 24 hours before. A little scratch in my throat, a headache, maybe a weird ache or chill. Not so much with Elliot. We had just put him down after a great evening that had consisted of my wife, Lauren, dancing around the house with him and him laughing hysterically every time she would pretend to “drop” him.

A few hours later we heard him on the monitor. This definitely qualifies as an anomaly, as he is a world-class sleeper. I went in and rocked him slightly, and he drifted off. I did notice while rocking him that he seemed a little “stuffy.” He woke up again about an hour later, and this time it got our attention. It was a panicked cry that we hadn’t heard from him since I had gotten soap in his eyes during a failed bath attempt.

We both ran in and found him in a state of baby panic. He couldn’t breathe through his nose, and he’d scared himself. We also noted that he seemed hot. I checked his temperature. We have one of those great foolproof ones for late-night use. If the light turns green, you’re good; red means fever, and yellow means enter the intersection with caution.

The only real remedy for a child that age is Tylenol, and we’d already been apprised at our last pediatrician visit of the correct dosage and had the little eye dropper ready to go for such an instance. The only experience I’d had with giving medicine in that fashion was when our cat had a bladder infection – you had to wait for an opportunity, squeeze it in as fast as possible and blow in his nose to make him swallow it. I figured the same technique would work perfectly for Elliot.

Speed was my first mistake; he gagged, as any human would. Then he coughed and spit it all back out. Lauren and I had a heated debate as to how much, if any, went down and how much we should use on our second attempt. We decided on half the first dose, and this time the slow and steady hand of his mother got the medicine where it needed to be.

I volunteered to stay up and try to coax him back to sleep, and one of the longest nights of my life ensued. Poor Elliot would drift off to sleep as I held him and then startle awake between 5 and 10 minutes later because he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Even in that awful moment I was amazed at his intelligence and ability to adapt. The first few times, he was terrified; he thought he was suffocating. As the night progressed, he slowly realized that wasn’t happening, and he became more and more peaceful when he would awake. When Lauren got up to go to work about 4:30, she saw Elliot asleep in his crib and me face down on the floor. Not sure how I ended up there, but, man, my ribs hurt for a week after that. The floor is hard.

His cold lasted a couple of days, and the fever finally broke after a day and a half. As I have said before, we are blessed to have family that lives close. My mom stepped up big and stayed with him while we worked the rest of the week, since “babysitter” and “fever” are not complementary terms.

During that long night I can’t tell you how many times I sympathized with Elliot, saying things like “I wish I could understand what you are feeling right now” and “I wish you could tell me what’s wrong.” Well, I got my wish about 36 hours too late as that little scratch in my throat turned into a very painful sore throat. Wow, no wonder that kid was crying; it really hurt! So I called my mom, as I usually do when I’m sick. She timidly answered the phone. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Oh, I’ve had the worst sore throat ever since I babysat.”

Somehow I get the feeling this isn’t going to be the last we get to sympathize with Elliot’s pain.

Jordan Echols is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and new Dad to Elliot born in March.


  1. So, I laughed the whole time! I love reading your 'horror' stories! Thanks for making me laugh this morning!

  2. Oh yes, it's so sad when they're sick and can't tell you what's wrong. And yeah, you'll pass lots of things around. Wait till the first tummy bug makes the rounds... Hope everyone is feeling better!