I’m pretty good at reading people. I can tell at a glance whether they’re happy or sad – it’s like a sixth sense. I was particularly on the ball when my wife rang me at 9.47 this morning.
“Get home, now.”
She was crying. Sad, I thought, and congratulated myself at once again being spot-on.
“The doctor says Noah needs to be admitted to hospital.”
“On my way.”
Noah had been suffering from a cold and cough for a few days, but we had thought nothing of it; just a bug that goes around during winter, we reckoned. Just to be on the safe side, Jess had taken him to the doctor – who had one look at him and referred him to the local hospital.
“Gotta shoot out.” I say, swinging my coat over my shoulders.
“Oh yeah, off out again, eh?” says a colleague, sarcastically. I don’t correct him. I thought it’d be better if he later found out why I’d dashed out, and then the guilt would really burn. My evil side, I guess. I poke my head into a meeting room where my boss is sat, garble something about my baby and a hospital, and speed home. And I mean literally, speed. Legal speed limits were soundly broken. Sorry ’bout that.
I get home, pick up Jess and Noah – who is falling asleep – and race (with a little more care) to Warwick Hospital, where we head for the MacGregor Ward, and a nice little room to ourselves. A couple of nurses do a few routine checks: his heart rate is up, as is his temperature. Mind you, it is about a billion degrees, and I consciously stop myself from stripping to my boxers. I’ve heard grown men in boxers strutting around paediatrics is somewhat frowned upon.
A nurse asks us questions. Do we smoke? No. How long has Noah displayed these symptoms? A few days. Is he allergic to anything? No.
The nurse leaves. A student doctor enters a few minutes later, and asks us some questions. Do we smoke? No. How long has Noah displayed these symptoms? A few days. Is he allergic to anything? No. Sigh.
An hour passes of being sat in a stuffy room holding a drowsy but grizzly baby. Finally, a doctor enters, closely followed by three shuffling student doctors. The doctor listens to Noah’s breathing, and passes the earpieces of the stethoscope to his pupils so they can get a good listen. One by one, they knead Noah’s tummy, try to get a look in his ear, and pry open his mouth with a stick. The doctor explains that he thinks it’s a lung infection, and that he wants to take a blood sample and send Noah for an X-ray.
The blood test happens immediately. Noah – at this point screaming his head off – is lain on a bed as one nurse holds his arm still. The doctor prods the back of Noah’s hand for a vein, eventually poking in a needle and taking some blood. The needle remains as the tube is detached, and will double up as the entry point for a drip. Noah’s blood is trickling onto his wrist. Gauze, the doctor says. The nurses give him cotton wool.
No, I said gauze. I see the nurses roll their eyes at one another and give a tiny shake of the head. Obviously this dude has a reputation.
Noah’s forearm is bandaged up so he doesn’t gnaw his own hand off, and we head down to the X-ray department. I eye suspiciously an old guy in the waiting room, lying in a hospital bed, mouth wide open as he sleeps. Is he dead? If so, can we take his spot in the X-ray queue?
Our time finally comes for Noah to have his chest X-rayed. Jess dons a fetching lead jacket as I peruse the gonad shields on the wall. A pang of sadness jabs as I realise the one on the far left is probably the best fit for me.
A screaming Noah is X-rayed, and we head back up to the ward where he is placed on a drip, as he’s only been having half of his seven-ounce bottles and refusing any solid food. Antibiotics are administered and the nurses leave. By this point, Noah has calmed down, and I even manage to coax a smile for the camera.
I grab us some lunch from the canteen: chicken pie and chips. It tastes nothing like chicken, pie or chips.
Throughout the afternoon, nurses come and go, checking his vital signs. His temperature is still high, but he seems slightly happier in himself. Jess’ mum visits, and brings along Isaac to see his little brother. After a hug and a kiss and an exclamation of “You’re my best friend!”, Isaac heads to the playroom to cook pretend sausages in a pretend oven.
They leave, and the blood test results come back: Noah has bronchiolitis, a condition which affects one-third of infants in the UK in the first year of their life. There’s no cure, as it’s a viral infection, but the antibiotics will bolster Noah’s immune system and get him back on the road to recovery. The doctor looks at Noah and describes him ever-so-delicately as looking “more alive than he did this morning”.
It’s time for me to go and pick up Isaac from the in-laws, while Jess stays overnight with Noah in the hospital. Reluctantly, I tear myself away and head back to the car, wincing at the parking charge. On the way home, I have a little cry: not a proper tears-down-cheeks sob, just one of those little cries that makes your eyes warm and blurs your vision to the point where you’re probably a hazard to other road users.
Isaac’s picked up, taken home, and – as I write this – is reading his ‘Going on a Bearhunt’ book by the light of his new toy torch. I feel guilty: Jess is bound to have a terrible night’s sleep, whilst I will probably sleep like a baby (a healthy one, that is). I offered to stay overnight with Noah, but it was a lost cause from the start; there’s no way Jess would leave him.
So, it’s just me and Isaac this evening. Hopefully by the time morning comes Noah will have picked up enough to come home. Until then, I need to set my wake-up alarm for the first time in three years.