Sunday, August 28, 2016

Comfort stations

"Mom. Mom. Mom."

I might have slept through the commotion had my husband not nudged me awake upon hearing a tiny voice repeating the magical word that allows him to stay in bed:

"Mom ... Mom ... Maaaahhmaaa."

Along with the low moaning of a child, I could hear the dog’s nails clicking nervously against the hardwood floor.

It was after midnight, and my 12-year-old daughter was writhing on the floor of the bathroom, willing her body to rid itself of whatever offending bacterium was ailing it. The dog at her side looked at me with a Do-Something-About-This-Will-You stare.

Her Timmy had fallen down a well, and I was moving a might too slowly in the direction of good care.

"What does it feel like when your appendix bursts," she asks wearily as if she could be resigned to such a fate.

I rubbed my eyes and reached for her forehead. It was cool.

I was reassured, but the dog was still pacing.

"Where does it hurt?"

My daughter’s slender hand circled her abdomen a comfortable distance from her skin. "Everywhere," she said with a dramatic sigh. "It hurts everywhere."

"It's not likely to be your appendix," I say with the most reassuring "mocktor" voice I can muster.

I know (from attending the Dr. Google School of Medicine) that appendix pain often starts at the belly button and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. The pain gets worse as you move your legs, or when you cough, or sneeze, or get jostled around inside heavy machinery.

And while the pain of an infected appendix can wake a person from sleep, I also know this particular person hasn't been sleeping as much as she's been trying to hang on to every last minute of summer vacation by indulging in late-night Netflix marathons with the cast of "Royal Pains."

But to be safe, I check for rebound pain.

"Does this feel better when I push here? Does it feel even worse when I release?"

"No ... it just feels weird and hurt-y all the time."

I suppose it could be a bug. Or maybe stomach upset caused by too many cookies that had passed through her mouth before they registered with her mind.

"Try to go back to bed and get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."

She just groaned pathetically and asked me to get her a pillow and a blanket so she could camp out around the comfort station "just to be safe."

I offer ice chips and a puke bucket if she will just go back to bed, but the words offend her sensibilities. She'd much rather weather the elements in the comfort of a cold, tile floor.

She's not a baby anymore. She doesn't need me to hold her hair, but should wouldn't mind if I would be so kind as to bring her a blanket.

I give her a bathmat and a pillow, and she curls up next to the commode. I tell her to wake me if the pain gets worse and go back to bed, feeling a little more tired and a lot less motherly.

"What's the matter?" my husband groans as I steal back some covers. "Stomach ache."

I stayed awake a while longer, listening for signs of distress. But from the bathroom, I heard only the tinkle of collar tags as our canine child circled the girl, and the dog's satisfied groan as she flopped down beside her for the night. I closed my eyes thinking of our furry friend as the real nursemaid of the family.

"She'll be okay."

When I awoke in the morning, I discovered the bathroom campers had moved to the end of my bed, where they had settled together in an adorable tangle. My daughter’s arm encircling the dog's shoulders; the dog’s head resting in the crook of the girl's neck.

Both were snoring lightly.

She tells me she feels better when she awakens a few minutes later.

"Maybe it was just a little pneumothorax?"

At this, the dog lifted her head and yawned.

"It was not a collapsed lung. And no more Hank Med before bedtime."

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