It all started with a trip to the Bronx Zoo. Zoe slept in the stroller the whole time we were there. We couldn't rouse her interest. In that way she was just like the animals. If we spotted one at all in the far distance (See, over there. Where? Next to the tree. You sure that's not part of the tree?) they were also sleeping. Still, lethargy was an unusual choice for Zoe. It's true there was nothing going on but even if there had been that's never before stopped her from ignoring it in favor of picking up rocks. In fact, we'd gone to a petting zoo the previous week, and as I was sacrificing my olfactory centers, that's what Zoe did, ignored the animals in favor of picking up rocks.
Now, I'm a city girl. Cows frighten me. I prefer pictures. There's no smell with pictures. Unless they're scratch and sniff. And there I was, not only running a nasal gauntlet for this child but I actually bought (bought!) some animal feed, put it in my hand (my hand! that I use!), and proffered this hand to a goat, who proceeded to slide its sandpapery tongue all over it. Mom of the Year that I was, I kept down the vomit as I said, Look, Zoe, a dirty, disgusting goat eating out of my hand. Look, Mommy, said Zoe, holding up a rock. That's terrific. Meanwhile, Mommy now has to amputate her hand; it would be the only way to feel clean again.
Bronx Zoo trip seemingly a bust, we went home, and Zoe went right to bed without eating dinner. At 2 a.m. she awoke crying. Inconsolably. But not with the usual gusto and not at the decibel level I'd grown to fear and admire. Just nonstop moaning and crying. And it continued into the next day, when we decided to take her to the emergency room.
A brief history of Zoe and sickness: She's a daycare baby and, as is apparently common, she was sick a lot her first year, interacting with the germs on whatever wasn't Lysoled and bleached to within an inch of its life by my meticulous daycare, i.e., most of the other children. That first year she had a constant cold, and when I'd bring her to the doctor every few months for her routine inoculations, he'd ask me how long she'd had "this" cold. And I would think, This cold? You asked me that last time. And the time before. Truth was, I could not pinpoint when Zoe's cold had started. As a gamete? I seemed to remember her sneezing during a sonogram. Besides the ever-present running nose that first year, she had several 24-hour fevers, contracted the pink eye her classmates passed around like a game of hot potato where everyone got a potato, and on occasion little red dots would appear on her hands, feet, and torso, which were apparently fever blisters.
Which brings us to the day of the emergency room visit. Zoe was about twenty months old so she could talk but not well enough to tell us what was wrong. I arrived at the hospital, carrying a very unhappy baby and juggling a car seat (husband would arrive later), and needless to say I was flustered. The ER entrance wasn't located by the ER, because why make sense, so when I finally found it I was even more flustered. I handed my insurance card to the person at the intake desk and this led to months of phone calls afterward to clear up billing issues since I'd given them the wrong card, one from several plans ago. Why had I kept it in my wallet, along with each and every one of my expired driver's licenses? Because you never know. Husband says I should be in Hoarders: Wallet Edition.
So we're checked in and sent to wait in a crowded room with several other parents and children with various obvious to not-so-obvious afflictions, i.e., arms in slings, dried blood, pouty faces, etc. Luckily because Zoe was so young we got a bed right away. Not a room, just a bed with a curtain, but it was a vast improvement over the car-seat-crying-baby lap dance I had been an unwilling party to in the ER's green room.
A resident came right away, examined Zoe, and announced: Coxsackie.
As I looked around for a tissue (cue snare drum), he explained that was the name of her virus. It was also called Hand and Mouth disease after the infection it caused. So at first I thought her ailment was connected to our visit to the petting zoo and thought it was my fault since it was my hand that had undergone the goat-saliva bath and I hadn't followed through on the amputation, but the doctor explained that Hoof and Mouth was entirely unrelated and not something humans contracted. His tone was slightly condescending (emphasizing "hoof"), but I didn't mind, I was just so relieved. He said we wouldn't have known because Zoe didn't actually have blisters on her hands but she did have them in her throat. Which explained the crying.
Of course now that we were there, Zoe seemed to be experiencing a miraculous recovery. She may have still been in pain but you wouldn't have known it. I guess the new surroundings had revived her and she wanted to Explore.
If you're ever in the ER with a toddler here are some of the games you can expect to play: Grab Bag of Death, for which you just need two things: a hazardous materials bin and an unhealthy curiosity. Then there's Guess That Stain for which you just need a gruesome imagination. And finally, the simple and perennial favorite among the toddler set: Unsterilize!
Even though we had been given our diagnosis of Coxsackie (gesundheit!) we had to wait for An Attending to examine Zoe and agree. After that we waited to be discharged, which in turn meant waiting for a dot-matrix printout that said "Coxsackie" and a prescription, or two or three.
There were a host of infections that sprang from the Coxsackie virus. There was the hand-mouth thing, which required an oral antibiotic. Pink eye, which meant eye drops. And underlying it all she had some congestion (How long has she had this cold?) which required a nasal spray. Oh and by the way, the antibiotics might cause "loose bowel movements." Love the way they dress that nugget up. Suffice it to say for the rest of the weekend, almost every orifice Zoe had was under assault. Except for her ears. Instead it was our ears that suffered. Because I knew she was getting better when her cries resumed their normal decibel levels.
By the following weekend Zoe was fully recovered and wanted to go to the park, where as usual she only let herself be entertained by the swings and slides for so long before running into the grass next to the fence to find the best sorts of rocks to put in her mouth. She had sat herself down in a circle of plants with unusually shaped leaves when I pulled her out. With my luck it'd be poison ivy and just as she was getting better she'd get a rash. An itchy one. After her reaction to mouth blisters, I couldn't imagine what an itchy Zoe would be like. But over the next week no rash appeared so it seemed she was fine. That next weekend we went back to the park and passed that same patch of grass where she'd been playing. Everything there was dead and brown, as if it had been exposed to something toxic.
Zoe: 5; Universe/Mother Nature: 0