There’s a sense of esprit de corps in the waiting room of Nottingham’s Emergency Doctor services on a Friday night. Or, there is for us. Perhaps I was expecting more casualties of an end of the week drinking session, but in the event, there’s us, the parents of a very small baby, two older people, a couple of blokes and a blonde well made up lady a bit younger than me. We all smile encouragement at each other and they make sympathetic faces whenever E gets upset. The blonde lady leans over and says “Has she got (something that sounds like Slapcheek?)” I can’t hear her as E is coughing very hard so I just nod. (Try and remember how socially inept I am, I’m not going to ask her to repeat it. She replies “My daughter is five and has just got over Slapcheek.” I smile and nod again wondering what the hell she’s talking about.
What are we doing in the emergency doc’s? Well, I came home from work to find E in a bit of a state. She’d had a cough for a day or so, was up in the night with it, and now was sounding very rough. There’s not a whole lot I feel you can do with a cough. Usually I just make sympathetic noises and we ignore it but she was coughing for 10, 15 minutes at a time, not stopping, still trying to do things like look at her sticker book or read. And then I suddenly realised, I’m not just someone who just thinks there’s nothing I can do, I’m actually responsible for this person. It’s weird how a switch can be flicked.
I phoned my emergency service – my mum – and asked what whooping cough sounds like. She didn’t think it sounded right for that but recommended we try the emergency services anyway. We called 111. S spoke to them so I could comfort E who was exhausting her self with all the effort.
We’re so lucky to still have such medical services available. The people on the phone asked lots of questions, put us through to someone else, and then had a doctor call us a bit later. While each time we spoke to a new person it meant that we gave E’s date of birth and our phone number, it did instill a sense of confidence that we were in fact not panicking or overreacting, and that we were being taken seriously. They made us an appointment to come into the emergency docs at 8pm and so there we were, having made a journey to find it using the GPS on my phone.
Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s a time and a place to listen to ‘Sexual Healing’ and a doctor’s waiting room isn’t it. Smooth FM please take note. Still, it seemed to do the trick somehow, E calmed down and fell asleep. Even as she shifted position and sat up to cough, her eyes rolled back in her head – she was absolutely flat out. I’d put her in her sleepsuit and a fleece before coming out and brought a stuffed toy dog with us which she used as a pillow. We waited for an hour and a half. The system puts emergencies first so an old man who’d been brought in by a lovely kind community paramedic got seen before us, and so did a couple of other people. Other people were more prepared – one couple came in with Sainsbury’s carrier bags full of shopping and spent their time doing the Guardian crossword. We just sat and chatted occasionally. Of course by now I felt that if we’d simply put her to bed she’d be ok, there’s nothing like a sleeping child to make you think you’re over reacting.
Eventually we were called in. The doctor (Dr Sword, great name) took his time in asking questions, listening to E cough and tried to examine her a little. She was flatly against this, cried a lot, pushed his hands away, wriggled and generally made her displeasure known. (Can you blame her? She was asleep, now some chap wants to listen to her chest – pah!) I had to settle her so he could listen to her breathe, and we waited so he could see her drink. He looked in her ears (waxy – gets that from her dad), in her eyes (blue – gets those form her mum), commented on a “rash” on her arms (not a rash, it’s a skin thing – gets that from her mum) and looked down her throat (massive tonsils – gets that from both of us). In the end, he thought she had a mild sort of croup. It wasn’t like a full croup, though I couldn’t tell why as he ran through various other possible diagnoses at the same time, including slapcheek. (So it is a thing! Who knew? Certainly not me) She seemed to puzzle him with her symptoms, she was clearly not full on ill but still on the way. We both liked that he didn’t rush us through anything or seem brisk (though he did tell me off for not taking her temperature or holding her still enough when she was being examined.)
My only knowledge of croup comes from Anne of Green Gables, where Anne saves Diana’s younger sister one night when the adults have gone to a political rally. Anne administered ipecac and asked for lots of boiling water. It turns out that things are only slightly different these days. In place of ipecac, we had prescribed steroids to reduce the inflammation, but the boiling water still stands. Cooler, damp air is good for croup. Apparently. So boiling water in a bowl in her room was good.
It was after 10 when we left the docs and drove off to find a 24 hour pharmacy (Top Valley Tesco’s – pharmacy closes at 10.30pm, always good to know.) Of course the next trick was trying to get the steroids down E’s throat – I gave her Calpol to bring her temperature down and spooned some of it in after that, hopefully she swallowed some of it. She fell asleep almost immediately, glad to be in the familiar safety of her bed.
Today she’s been bright and cheerful, though not eaten as much as usual, coughed less and seems a bit better. She was tired very easily and went to bed early but I think she’s on the mend. Dr Sword called this afternoon to check on her which I thought was a nice follow up.
So today’s blog post is dedicated to the nice folk in the waiting room, the wonderful people of the NHS, and Anne Shirley, who taught me that a cool head and patience are key when looking after a croupy baby.
*This post is also dedicated to the memory of Nicola Iredale who loved Anne as much as me.