Friday, 20 April 2012

Sweet child o' mine

Eeyores & rockstars

This time last week - Friday the bloody 13th - I was slap-bang in the middle of a 48-hour stay in Olivedale HospitalI had taken Goran to see his paediatrician the previous morning, to try and figure out what we could do about his runny nose and chesty cough, both of which had been going on for several weeks by that stage, and for which over-the-counter medication simply wasn't working. She took one look at him and said: "RSV". Human respiratory syncytial virus. A major cause of lower respiratory tract infections and hospital visits during infancy and childhood. The very same ogre we fought off a year ago with that six-month course of Synagis shots. R10k an injection. One shot a month for six months. R60k in total. All covered by our medical aid. Thank God.

In temperate climates like we have up here on the highveld, there is an annual epidemic, or RSV "season" as the medical fraternity like to call it, during the winter months. In tropical climates like they have in Durbs, infection is most common during the rainy summer months. Goran's first season started at exactly this time last year, in an autumnal April, when his little lungs were only about six weeks old (adjusted age). 

For high-risk babies like preemies and those with other medical problems, such as congenital heart disease, Synagis is a highly recommended course of treatment during their first RSV season. It is a prophylactic medication - not a vaccine - and basically works on the principle of prevention being better than cure. The issue of cost versus benefit for this extremely expensive preventative treatment shows just how effective the medical aid considers it to be. For them, it's actually cheaper to fork out R60k in 'maybe / perhaps / just in case' fees for a high-risk member than it is to hospitalise him once he is man down with a severe RSV infection. They obviously take into consideration the fact that although infection with RSV induces immunity to the virus, this immunity is short-lived, and babies can become infected (and need to be hospitalised) more than once, even within a single RSV season. The dire financial implications of this scenario are obvious.

Once diagnosed, treatment of RSV is limited to supportive care. In Goran's case, chest X-rays confirmed the paediatrician's suspicions - he had bronchiolitis (inflammation of and mucus build-up in the bronchioles, the smallest air passages in the lungs) - and he was immediately admitted to the paediatric ward for what she called "aggressive" 48-hour in-patient treatment. This included course of antibiotics administered via a drip, nebulising every three hours with cortisone and epinephrine (adrenaline), plus oxygen therapy (supplementary oxygen administered via nasal cannula). Because the virus is highly contagious, especially amongst a group of babies under the age of two living or being cared for in close quarters, and they didn't have an isolation room available, Goran ended up having a four-cot ward all to himself for the entire duration of his stay!

Once discharged, we had to spend the next 48 hours nebulising the little tyke ourselves at home, and he then had to go back for one final shot of antibiotics, administered via drip, the needle attachment which they had left in his hand. Two days after that he was well enough to go back to crèche.

It's funny, I secretly swore I'd never be one of those paranoid parents who has to run to the doctor every time her child has a sniffle or a cough. It's probably just 'crèche cooties', as I like to call them. But after this episode, hell, have I eaten a slice of humble pie! I fully understand why these moms are as neurotic as they are. And from now on I won't be so damn blasé about all the seemingly insignificant coughs and sniffles. I, too, am joining the legion of 'helicopter moms' and adding the paed's number to my speed dial.

So much for my hopes of 2012 being a quiet, uncomplicated, hospital-free year. Hmph! Between Goran and I, we have now seen the inside of the maternity ward, NICU, ER, operating theatre (twice), general ward and paediatric ward. All in the space of 16 months. It's gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, I know.

The sweet correlation between these two pics (above and below) wasn't lost on me. Above is Goran in his 1m x 0.5m iron 'cage' - tethered to a monitor and drip, poor thing! - 'reading' his favourite picture book about farm animals. And below is a snapshot I took on my Nokia driving past the architecturally intriguing Circa gallery in Rosebank last week, the day before he landed up in hospital. The current exhibition is Strijdom van der Merwe's Drawing clouds in the Karoo. He was the very last artist I profiled for Live Out Loud magazine, and I found his work incredibly inspiring. I think this whimsical sculpture of a girl on a donkey is quite beautiful. At first glance, one presumes it to be the Virgin Mary - before realising she is nekkid, clearly not preggers, and riding astride the ass rather than sidesaddle! *facepalm*

And on Sunday night, after the claustrophobic confines of a hospital ward, Lee and I needed to blow off some steam. With his folks babysitting Goran, we rounded off an emotionally and physically draining weekend by heading downtown and supporting a friend's band playing an open air SkyRoomLive gig on the roof of a 19-storey building. Spectacular!

Me and Marianne

Monday, 9 April 2012

Organised chaos

Yesterday we went to the Clearwater branch of Papachinos for an Easter family lunch. In a country of 50 million plus, ours is the only Gruben clan that we know of. There are eight of us in total - my parents-in-law, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and his wife, my husband, myself, and of course, young Goran. Would you believe that all eight of us were at that table yesterday? How awesome is that!

For those of you who haven't yet experienced Papachinos firsthand, it's a pretty ingenious concept. One half of the premises caters to 'normal' restaurant-goers while the other half caters to families with young kids - the latter bordering directly on a fantastic, partially-shaded playground, with at least a dozen staff members at any given time who somehow manage to contain the organised chaos that is children-at-play. There is also a supervised make-and-bake section indoors for littlies who want to create their own pizza. Oh, and a comfy section far from the madding crowd for us smokers, too.

All in all, an extremely pleasant experience. Except for the one rude manager who, just as we were leaving, came up to me and asked who had "authorised" me to take photos. I was like, what the fuck, dude? It's a free country, and you should be grateful for any free publicity you can get! I wonder if he went up to and posed the same question to every Tom, Dick and Harry who I had personally witnessed snapping away pics on their iPhones all day, or if it was just me with my professional-looking Nikon. But the best part is when he told me, a paying customer, that it was "common decency to ask". Excuse me, but where the hell do you get off preaching to me about manners? And insinuating that I need your permission to take photos of my family enjoying a lovely day out?  Nothing like a small man's ego to leave a sour taste in one's mouth.