Thursday, April 08, 2010

Covered in crap...but a good day

On the patio of the coffee shop, holding crap-covered pairs of pants and socks, facing 3B who was similarly coated from the waist down except where his socks had been, I thought, "This has been a long day."

Perhaps it seemed long because our day actually had been longer than one day.

It started the previous evening, at about 5:30 p.m. I'd just gotten off my final work call for the day and our babysitter, who had been watching 3B while I worked, was finishing feeding him his dinner. He abruptly started crying, grabbed his left ear and sobbed, "My ear hurts inside."

Immediately, two facts flashed across my mind:

  • in all his prior ear infections, including his dual full-blown infections with a raging fever, 3B had never complained of any discomfort in his ears
  • we were flying to California the next morning at 7:30 a.m.
I felt his forehead, took his temperature--normal--and got some Motrin down his throat in five minutes. Then I got on the phone to the doctor, said, "ear infection, morning flight" and got an appointment two hours later. I called the airline and found that they would charge the change fee if we needed to reschedule, but then waive it if I faxed in a note from his doctor.

Because the appointment was after the time I had hoped to have him in bed before our early morning flight, I got 3B into the bath and into his pajamas before getting him into the car. Along the way I found that I'm going to have to be more clever in my white lies when he asked, "Daddy, why does the doctor need me to take a bath and get into my pajamas for my appointment?"

I took the high road and changed the topic to what books he was looking forward to reading at the doctor's office. This caused a minor breakdown when the book he wanted to read wasn't in the waiting room, but the doctor nicely explained how books move around the office, from the waiting room to examining rooms.

She also diagnosed a full-blown infection in 3B's right ear and a nascent infection in his left. No idea, then, why he grabbed his left, but grateful that he had, triggering this appointment before we went winging across the sky. She agreed with me that it came from allergies draining out of his nose down his Eustachian tubes while he slept, which made me feel like an awesome horrible parent--I had observed his morning coughing since Mama, Jewel and Grammy had left, but hadn't put him on anything to dry it out.

Bad dad, no biscuit.

Turns out she could confirm allergies because a cold turns the inside of the nose red, allergies turn it white, and 3B's was white. We discussed decongestants and antibiotics and then I asked her about our flight the next day. I waited until she was done with the diagnosis and prognosis because I didn't want our trip to color her opinions and suggestions. She said, even after a few skeptical questions from me, that it was fine to fly with him. It wouldn't do any damage to 3B's ears...but it may hurt some.

Some? Could you quantify that? Will he be squirming a little or trying to tear his ears off his head and punch me in the face at the same time?

Based on her diagnosis, my knowledge that 3B generally doesn't feel discomfort during ear infections, my possession of several bottles of Motrin and my complete disregard for my fellow passengers, I decided to go ahead and fly the next day. We raced to fill his prescription and pick up some decongestant--which do you think he picked out...the liquid version the doctor recommended or the chewable grape tablets that look like Sweet Tarts?

By the time this was all over, 3B had only seven hours to sleep before we had to leave for the airport. He usually sleeps for 12 hours. As for me, I still had to do all the things that I had planned on doing during the time we went to the doctor's and pharmacy, so I ended up getting about two hours of know, just to ensure that I was in fine shape to deal with whatever came up on the flight.

During that time is when I remembered that even though we were on VirginAmerica, our flight out to California wasn't nonstop. We were flying to L.A., then shuttling up to San Francisco. Awesome--four ear pressure changes instead of two. Planning for the worst case scenario, I tucked a car rental voucher in my wallet in case we got to LAX and 3B refused to get on another plane due to the pain from the first flight. It wouldn't be much fun, but we could make the six hour drive north if needed.

After all that buildup, I hate to say it, but the flight went well. Actually, "well" isn't the right word. 3B was f'ing spectacular. Then again, so was VirginAmerica.

When we pulled up to check our bag, the man working the desk said, "I have a nonstop to San Francisco, would you prefer that?"

Uh, hm, let me think about that for half a nanosecond: Yes!

I was so stunned that I forgot to check our car seat, which I didn't even realize until I saw that it wouldn't fit through the x-ray machine. It wasn't that bad to schlep it through the airport, given how bright my mood had become--we were not only going to make it to California in one flight, we were going to get there three hours earlier than we'd originally planned. That meant that 3B might even take a nap that day.

You know, provided he didn't erupt in a demonic rage from the stabbing pain in his ears while we descended.

We did have to hustle through the airport, along the way changing a diaper, buying lunch, filling water bottles and texting family to let them know we'd arrive three hours early. As we got on board, I started to relax a bit, knowing that if there was going to be pain, it would likely come on the descent, so I had a few hours of reading to and playing movies for 3B. Before takeoff, I dosed him again with Motrin and Benadryl to not only keep him pain free and decongested, but also to keep him on schedule to get more of both just before we began descending.

On the way up, he did mention that he didn't like "this stuff coming out of my ears," which was likely the fluid weeping through his eardrum to help balance the pressure, as the doctor said it might do--after which the pain should stop, she said, although 3B never reported any pain. Across the country, he was great, if impatient for the flight to end...but hey, who wasn't?

He appreciated having Nickolodeon on the seatback TV directly in front of him, and watched that for awhile before switching to movies on my laptop, which he could watch for the whole flight since I could plug into the AC outlet under my seat. Again, thanks VirginAmerica.

On the way down, he didn't mention any pain, although when we did land he said...or rather, screamed, "I can't hear what you're saying, Daddy." Then he lay down on the floor under our row and tried to take a nap. I was hoping that the underwater sensation didn't last in him for long, and it did seem to clear up a few hours later.

And we did get to the house and take a nice nap--both of us, as it turned out, since he required supervision to get to sleep before he got into trouble. Then it was off to a friend's bluegrass jam session. Our friend brings a 3/4 size guitar for 3B to play, which is nice, because 3B does break down crying from time to time, missing his instruments at home. Seriously, what other three-year-old needs a hug because he misses his guitar? Ukulele? Drum? Xylophone?

Like the previous one, the jam session was wonderful. On some tunes, 3B even sat in. (You can hear our friend take the mandolin solo in the video.)

It did go late, but thanks to his nap, 3B was able to make it through pretty well to the end. As we were leaving, however, the antibiotics and the half bag of dried fruit he ate on the plane did catch up to him, and so there I was on the patio of the coffee shop, holding crap-covered pairs of pants and socks, facing 3B who was similarly coated from the waist down except where his socks had been, I thought, "This has been a long day."

But a good day.

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