Homestead happenings: oral disasters
Greetings from the 6512 infirmary where you will be spared only by diligent hand washing and extremely good karma. Also chocolate seems to helps a little. And beer. Yesterday, after many consecutive hours—days worth of hours—inside, Dan sang: it’s time, it’s time for beer, before I go crazy in here. And then he left the sickhouse to buy beer and more herbal medicine and I hissed, “come back quick” as he waltzed out the door gripping his ticket to the vacation resort: liquor store.
It started last Wednesday, Rose was playing with her friend Tara, bossing baby dolls around when Rose announced tearfully that Tara bit her tongue (which was untrue).
That night a red bullseye bloomed on the tip of Rose’s tongue. Two days later I counted eleven ulcers in the small pink shell of her open mouth. Now the lesions have spread to Col’s mouth.
My friend Claire, who just graduated dental hygiene school (which these days is an insanely rigorous medical program and Claire is a single mom with 2 kids and I just have to sing her praises because I am so proud of her!) brought her oral pathology books—filled with stomach-churning photos—over and diagnosed the kids with primary herpetic gingivostomatitis. This is a fancy term for herpes, and I’ve typed and deleted that word ten times now, because it’s just sounds so horrible and I picture us showing up at playgroup next week and everyone waving “hi” tentatively while backing up into the bathroom to scour their hands clean.
The phrase “oral distaster” keeps flitting through my mind, which is dramatic I know, but spending time in our house right now is a little like being on the set of ER while filming Episode oral soft tissue disease, take 53: Rose, rolling around my bed like she’s trying to extinguish the flames of her own body, howling “I just want an apple but I caaaaaaan’t eat an apple;” Col sobbing and hiding from me because he’s terrified that the berry-scented medicine I want to smear on his lips will make him throw up.
Claire, who turns out to be a good therapist too, points out that all her books list “extreme irritability” as a symptom of a primary herpes outbreak (the good news is that there’s a 70% chance they’ll never have another outbreak and if so, only at a fraction of this intensity). “Our mouths are so sensitive,” Claire says soothingly. “Think about how annoying it is to have a stray hair in your mouth, and imagine your mouth filled with painful sores.”
My babies! Seeing my kids in pain is like fire pinballing through my nervous system and suddenly I could lift a car off my child’s pinned body but there’s no car to lift, and really nothing to do but dab a little more berry-scented lysine balm onto their sores, gather everybody up and read another chapter of Farmer Boy. It’s so sinister, this virus, the way it slinks around the wilderness of their tender mouths, tagging new territory as they sleep.
Yesterday morning everyone piled in our bed and Rose whispered “there’s four persons in here,” as if we didn’t start everyday with a quartet of elbows jangling about while Dan and I inhale their childhood-scented scalps. Then Dan got up to make breakfast and Col asked me, “are you still ticklish when you have cold sores?”
I extended a wiggling hand out to each kid on either side of me, reaching for hips and necks and sides, and the kids—who need laughter and merriment like a flower needs sun—howled with giggles before I even touched them.