Nothing is simple. Not in this family. Take a well planned birthday, throw in a medical emergency and a few paramedics, and you have our weekend.
By all accounts, it had been a glorious time. Daughter One, who from here on will be known as The Teenager, had celebrated in fine style. The hotel stay. The Titans debacle. And then family dinner. Wonderful fun.
Daughter Two, who from here on will be known as Daughter Two, had been unusually quiet. No teasing. No stealing of older sister’s goods and appliances.
We knew she had some sort of bug. Off colour, with a cough and a sniffle. At Skilled Park, she didn’t even yell her adoration for Scotty Prince. Unlike The Teenager, The Treasurer, and The Mum-in law.
Come feast time, at a funky Gold Coast Japanese place, she’d had enough. No food. No banter with the cousins. Something was up. Her temperature.
When we arrived back at grandma’s place, our digs for the night, she’d gone downhill. We gave her medicine and a sponge down. She went to bed, as sick as I’ve seen her.
We checked on her every fifteen minutes. That’s what parents do. Around midnight, as the oldies sipped a cuppa before bed, and The Teenager spoke to a greater section of the Western world on Facebook, we heard her talking. In another dialect.
She was bolt upright, in her Titans’ jersey, wide-eyed. Her skin was bright red. There was gibberish talk. And she was burning up.
Our family has some experience in deciphering gibber. They’ve heard it from me more than once, usually after long sessions on the truth serum. But this was different.
I asked if she knew where she was. At home, she said. Are you in pain? She mumbled something, and waved towards the sheets, which were now soaked. I need seven, she called to someone beyond me. My little girl was boiling. I had an awful chill.
The Treasurer called the Health Hotline. The nurse was calm, and helpful. More than likely, it was a bad fever. But she couldn’t be sure. We need to rule out meningitis. Keep her in bed. Stay calm. And call an ambulance.
The temperature was now above 40 degrees. We sponged her, all of us. Her alien tongue ceased, finally. Relief, of sorts. But that bright colour remained.
You think the worst. That’s what parents do. You don’t say it, but you think it. And you stand at the front door in your winter pyjamas, and wait.
The paramedics arrived, on a shift from hell. Saturday night on the Gold Coast. They went to work quickly. Temperatures, skin checks, blood pressure.
The lead operator teased about her team’s loss to the Sharks. She smiled. Good sign. Is your neck sore honey? Please say no. Please not meningococcal.
It was, they decided, a severe fever. Nothing more sinister. The peak of this damn bug she’d been battling. And it would pass. We received instructions for medication and hydration. They told us to ring immediately if it flared again.
As they walked out, the second bloke pulled me aside. He recognised me. Because he’d been at this house before. Yes, I said sheepishly. I was the bloke with the dislocated ankle. In the garden, out the front. What are the odds? The curse of Mum-in-law’s house strikes again.
They walked back to the ambulance, giggling as they looked at the tiny retaining wall I fell from four months ago. I didn’t mind. They were amazing. Able to look after sooky old gardeners, and brave young girls, all with a smile.
I know parents who deal with way more than fevers. How do they do it? One of my best mates went through leukaemia with his young son. It was touch and go. They had to split their time between Cairns and Brisbane, as the treatments continued. His little bloke isn’t little any more. Fighting fit now.
My nephew survived a serious blood disorder as a baby. It seemed never-ending. But he survived. He had to, because he’ll be playing for the Maroons one day at Lang Park.
We have friends who just found out their four-year old has diabetes. Four years old. Life has been turned upside down. But this amazing little girl is giving them strength. They’ve been all but knocked over by the love and support from those around them.
And on it goes. You know someone too. Fighting the fight. Finding strength wherever they can.
Another chum is a doctor, who fights cancer in kids. A miracle worker. A mum, and a wife, and a wonderful specialist who makes sick children better. Most of the time.
On a dark day, every now and then, she has to tell families that the battle has been lost. The cancer was too much. The fight over. Can you imagine having to deliver that news? Next time you’re having a bad day at the office, think of her, preparing for that conversation.
As parents, we would gladly swap places with our sick kids. Make it me, not them. I’ve said that prayer. I bet many of you have too. But it doesn’t work that way.
Daughter Two was on the improve the next day. She wanted to hear more about her hour in fairyland. We’ll add to the story over the years, to achieve maximum embarrassment on her 18th birthday.
Of course, she’s managed to pass the bug on to me. Prepare for more gibber talk. And get the sponge bath ready. I’ll try to be as brave as Daughter Two. Unlikely. Just don’t call that paramedic out again.