No-one wants their child to be ill. I certainly didn’t want Isaac, our four year-old, to be unwell when he was pulled past me by the arm as I got home from work yesterday.
“I’ve got him an emergency appointment at the doctor,” said my wife as she bustled him into the car. “There’s blood in his poo.”
And so, phone on charge, I pace around the kitchen, waiting for a phone call and worrying myself about the kinds of illnesses that have poo blood as a symptom – and, despite my brain yelling at my fingers not to type the words ‘poo blood symptom’ into Google, they did anyway, and you scan down the two-page list of illnesses it could be and all you see are words like CANCER and ULCER and DISEASE.
The phone rings: Jess has been told to take Isaac to hospital, and – as there are no beds on the children’s ward – she is to take him straight to A&E. Mother-in-law comes round to look after our youngest, whilst father-in-law drives me to the hospital (parking charges are a killer, you see). There’s small talk, but I’m not engaged. All that is swirling around my head is CANCER and ULCER and DISEASE.
I get to the hospital gates and run to A&E, in true hospital-drama style. All I needed was for ‘Wires’ by Athlete to play in the background and a couple of people to bash into as I run down the corridor in slow-motion.
But unlike the dramas, where I grasp the side of a hospital bed being wheeled to theatre as my son lies with an oxygen mask on and my wife chokes back tears, the reality was a rather more – dare I say it – dull affair. Instead, I stagger wheezing into the waiting room of A&E to find my wife and son just sitting there. The only indication he’s ill is that he seems a bit tired. And it takes me ten minutes to get my breath back.
And so, as is all-too common in hospitals, we wait. For four hours. During which my son poos no fewer than ten times, one of which my wife handily caught in a bedpan for the doctors to have a nose at. I took a sneaky peek. It looked like split pea soup with a raspberry jus, and I’m sorry for ruining every future episode of Masterchef for you.
The thing is, I know my son is ill. My wife knows he’s ill. The boy is pooing blood, after all. But he doesn’t look ill. He’s dancing around the waiting room, playing with toys, being a pain in the backside because he’s bored…basically, he’s doing everything a poorly child doesn’t do. And, for some reason, this grates on me.
I know full well that the doctor isn’t going to say to me, “Well, he looks happy. Look, he’s walking around and laughing and everything. Forget the fact that he’s pooing blood, we only treat patients who don’t look very well.” But it would be nice if he just displayed a little hint that he was feeling rubbish. My son is inherently British: when he was in hospital with tonsillitis a week ago he responded “Fine” every time a doctor asked him how he felt, despite the fact that he could barely move and looked like death. So, back in hospital a week later, my wife and I keep pulling him aside to tell him to tell the doctor he feels poorly, and to make sure he doesn’t say “Fine”, because he’s pooing blood and he might have CANCER or ULCER or DISEASE (we don’t say that last bit to him, of course). But whatever you do, Isaac, please just act poorly.
The problem is, my son has a thing for blonde women. His hairdresser his blonde, and for the entire duration of his haircut he sits in the chair with a soppy look on his face, a black pyramid of cape with a head on top which giggles every time the hairdresser so much as brushes his face. And so, when a tall blonde doctor finally calls us into a room and begins to diagnose him, he turns into a soppy giggling flirtatious ball of rosy-cheeked shyness. A soppy giggling flirtatious ball of rosy-cheeked shyness who doesn’t in any way look ill. The doctor tickles him: he giggles in the cutest way he can muster. She tries to listen to his breathing, pressing her stethoscope to his back: he makes daft panty breathing sounds and laughs at himself. She bats his foot with her notes as she leaves the room. “Ow!” he says, grinning. “Oh, that didn’t hurt!” she responds, smiling at him, and suddenly I’m in a room with a child who is like a three-foot version of Valentino.
By the time he is diagnosed with some kind of bowel infection (I can’t remember the exact diagnosis, but it included the word ‘gastro’, which – unless it’s used in ‘gastro-pub’ – is rarely good news), Isaac is fast asleep. They even take blood from him while he is sleeping, which makes him seem all the more cute to the doctor. And we leave, glad that he has been diagnosed, but a bit miffed that he didn’t act just a little bit more poorly.