I’m going to tell you now about something which actually happened last week – but it was so scary I haven’t been able to get the words down till now.
Child One had a fluey cold, poor thing, after starting her new school and her AS courses in one frantic burst of activity. I knew it was only a matter of time before Child Two got it too – they have been playing sickness-tag since they were born – and so I started looking out for symptoms. Sore throat, headache, fever, runny nose, hacking cough – Child One went through them all. A couple of days later, Child Two got the sore throat. Then stuck there. It was sore throat/headache intermittently for a couple of days, with the odd bit of temperature coming and going. Nothing alarming.
I insisted that Child Two go to school as usual. She has just started year 10, the beginning of the climb towards GCSEs in two years, and it’s hard to catch up. You have to cadge the books, you have to photocopy stuff, you have to do the homework without having been in the lessons.
Meanwhile, Child Two carried on with the headache/sore throat thing, and seemed not to be improving. I was in two minds about sending her to school the next day, but I did anyway. When I picked her up that evening she was grey and complaining of a pounding headache and – yikes – a stiff neck. Of course, a stiff neck is one of my panic buttons. Meningitis! Eeek! I immediately started asking her if she could touch her chin to her chest, and did she have a rash? She said, ‘why, Mum, do you think I’ve got meningitis?’ Ooops. I forgot she’s not two any more and knows stuff I didn’t teach her. Anyway, she was fine-ish that evening, no rash, still the headache, a just-raised temperature, and I dosed her up with Calpol (they both still love the taste).
The next morning, I popped up and she still had a headache. And her cheeks were flushed. I sighed, and decided that, to knock this thing on the head, she’d better stay at home. So she turned over to go back to sleep.
A few minutes later I heard her shouting down to me. ‘Mum, I can’t hear. And my chest hurts.’ I bombed up the stairs and she collapsed onto me, then fell to the floor backwards, hitting her head on the door as she went down. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her arms started to twitch. I, obviously, freaked out. I shouted her name, increasingly desperately. After about a minute, which seemed like 24 hours, she came round. ‘Have I been having a dream?’ she said weakly.
Ten minutes later an ambulance was whisking us off to the hospital, where we were brilliantly treated by the lovely paediatric emergency staff, and she had every test under the sun. They decided she’d probably had a febrile rigor, brought on by a spiking temperature.
A scary episode, but with a happy conclusion – she’s now back at school, and absolutely fine. And the NHS staff were beyond brilliant. The doctor, though she looked exactly the same age as Child Two, was lovely, the nurses were cheerily efficient and the paramedics were like a comedy double act, full of jokes and very calming when I was feeling anything but. As they disappeared off to deal with another emergency, one of them leaned over to Child Two and said, ‘next time, make sure you don’t do this on a Friday. If you’d waited till Monday, you’d have got the week off school.’ In her dreams.