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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mine Oldest

Cole turned 12 on Thursday (the 15th of January - he shares a birthday with MLK Jr.) and boy, oh boy is it ever a great age. My mom always says the even years are easier than the odd years. And I think she may just have something there. Currently, our kids are 12, 8, 6, and 2. And let me just say,

Life is awesome.

We leave for Mexico on Tuesday, for three weeks. We have a little lot in a little village just north of Puerto Vallarta, called Sayulita. This was the first purchase that Dave and I made as a married couple (aside from a puppy - but we really didn't pay for her - oh, and our VW Bus - we used to be so cool!). Anywho, one winter we packed up our puppy and our 13 month old baby and headed for the border of Mexico. (Like I said we used to be way cool.) By then we had upgraded to a Ford F150 extra cab pick-up with camper shell (good times, lemme tell ya).

We drove across the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (p.s. Texas is a ridiculously large state. You should know this if you ever find yourself driving across it). We crossed the border into Mexico near Brownsville, TX and proceeded to drive down the east coast of Mexico to the southern most state of Chiapas (which borders Guatemala, f.y.i.). While there, our darling first born contracted a nasty case of E. Coli poisoning. Not pretty. He couldn't keep down breast milk or water and his poop (not diarrhea) was out-of-control-stinky (you should know this in case you ever find yourself with such symptoms). After consulting the pediatric medical encyclopedia that we had lugged all over Mexico for just such an occasion, we proceeded directly to the Chiapas Emergency Hospital...

Let me paint a picture for you of our day at the Chiapas Emergency Hospital:

The waiting room looks like a solitary confinement cell at Alcatraz: all cement cinder blocks with light bulbs dangling precariously from the ceiling. There are about 10 families waiting to be seen, with an old woman crying loudly in the corner and praying to God, while clutching her heart. Her adult son looks ashen as he tries to keep her propped up. Did I mention there are no chairs??? Families are huddled on the floor (the cement floor) while they wait. There is a receptionist sitting (yes, she has a chair) at a card table just inside the entrance. We tell her our woes and she points to an unoccupied corner. We wait for a while and eventually we are ushered into the E.R....

Let me paint a picture for you of the E.R.:

There are little cubicles along one wall, each with its own gurney, a curtain for privacy and two live wires sticky out of the wall at the head of the bed. We assume this is to attach the defib paddles should a patient go into cardiac arrest (like the woman in the hall). But, we don't really know. In the cubicle next to us is one family I recognize from the waiting room whose 15 or 16 year old son is having relentless and uncontrollable seizures. His family is huddled around him praying and keeping him from bouncing off his gurney. A couple cubicles down is the woman with the heart pain, still crying and praying, "Aye, Dios mio! Aye, Dios mio!" I'll probably never forget her voice...haunting really. There is a woman in labor, pacing back and forth, behind a glass-windowed wall (I think that was the Labor and Delivery wing). Around the corner, in another area of cubicles, is a man with a gun shot wound to the leg. We have a picture of that guy (I don't know why) and he's smiling. Hmmm.

And at the nurses station, across from the cubicles, there are two nurses. (Who, by the way, are wearing very traditional nurse uniforms, like from the 50's. You know the ones? Crisp white blouses, knee length skirts, white platform nurse shoes, and the little white origami caps held on with bobby pins. We had one of those costumes in the Halloween box when I was a kid.) You'll simply never believe what the nurses were doing at their station, so I'll just go ahead and tell you. They were blowing up used latex exam gloves (like how you do when you want to make a cow utter) and they were washing them off in the sink and laying them out to dry, so as to be used again. (If you look closely at the above pic you can see one of these gloves drying on the counter.) It made me wonder what else they washed and reused. Needles? Please don't let him need an I.V... Please don't let him need an I.V...

(see the live wires above my head?)

At this point we didn't know that Cole had E. Coli. And that's a good thing because I'd have been freaking out. All we knew was that he was lethargic, wasn't keeping down fluids, and had a low grade temperature (and really stinky poop which didn't seem to concern anyone besides me). The doctors there (one had been trained at Stanford and spoke perfect English) wanted to send us home with some Tylenol to lower his temp. I, however, knew better (having been trained at the groovy school of Trusting My Intuition - thanks, Mom. Oh, and there was that medical enclyclopedia that said there was something seriously wrong with stinky poop and not keeping down breast milk - as in, proceed directly to the E.R., do not pass GO, do not collect $200). So, I insisted that they take my carefully preserved diaper and have it tested. Please. They rolled their collective eyes and were thoroughly irritated that this 22 year old gringa was telling them how to do their business. I didn't care. Take the poop. Go on. Take it. And don't come back without test results.

As we waited for the results, the nurses, when they weren't scrubbing their gloves, tended to Cole and made sure that his temperature didn't get too high (they were concerned about seizures, they told me, and rightfully so, what with the kid in the next cubicle). We had refused the Tylenol, wanting the fever (as long as he was staying hydrated) to do it's job in fighting off whatever was causing our child's infection. (The poor medical establishment - I can be so difficult. Surely, there's nothing more irritating than parents who think for themselves.) So they kept a cool cloth on his head and kept him hydrated with electrolyte water which tasted like sea water but he thought was heavenly. He was so thirsty, poor baby. He wanted to guzzle, but if he drank too much he would throw it all back up. So they gave him little sips at a time. They took very good care of him.

Finally, the test results came back and the doctors were apologetic as they explained that Cole had 6 times the normal level of E. Coli bacteria in his gut. For the first time that day, we were very scared. We remembered the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of E. Coli earlier that year, and people had died. But they told us not to worry, wrote us a prescription for some antibiotics and sent us down the street to the farmacia under very clear instructions to come back if he couldn't keep down the medicine or showed any signs of dehydration. Later that night he was significantly better, and by the next day he seemed 100%. I've never been so thankful for antibiotics. But that was a close call. We could have lost him. Easily. And I really feel like our angels were watching over us. If our pediatrician hadn't recommended that book, if I hadn't bought it (we were so poor and it was like $23), if we hadn't remembered to pack it, if we hadn't been the neurotic, first time parents that we were, busting out our enclyclopedia to look up "fever" and "vomiting" (I don't even think I'd do that now, as I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on fever and vomiting in children), if we hadn't saved that stinky diaper and insisted that it be tested, etc. You get the idea. Close call. Scary close. But he made a full recovery and two days later we were back on the road to continue our Mexican adventure.

So we left Chiapas (rather glad to leave it behind us) and crossed through Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast. There we headed north along the amazingly beautiful coast roads of Michoacan (like Big Sur amazing). We camped on beautiful sand beaches and in quaint little fishing villages. We played in the surf with our toddler, thankful that he was better (although I don't think we fully understood the magnitude of it all until later). Amazing sunsets. Truly fantastic.

Eventually, we made it to Puerto Vallarta and the little surfing town of Sayulita. We had it in our heads that some day we'd like to live there. We had a little money saved up (we were probably saving for a house - or should have been) and we decided we would try to buy a little piece of paradise that, someday, we could put a little palapa on and grow bananas. (We used to be so groovy.) After a week or so of looking, we finally found that little piece of paradise and for 3200 U.S. dollars, it was ours. That was 11 years ago (almost exactly) and that little piece of paradise is now worth significantly more. And it needs some attention. Hence the reason for this trip. Wow. I think that was the long version of that story. Ahem.

I started this post as a tribute to our darling oldest on his birthday. And I guess in a round about sorta way, it was. We love you, Cole. You are our hero and we are so proud of the awesome young man you are becoming. Thanks for cruisin' Mexico with us, Kiddo...then and now.

Dave and Cole - 14 months

Cole on the beach in Sayulita - 1998.


Angie said...

Loved your Mexico story. Are you guys driving this time too? Your story reminds me of the medical establishments in Guatemala.

dave.heather said...

No, we're not driving, thank heavens. We're not that groovy anymore. And these days we can afford to fly. Hallelujah!

And, yes, many similarities to Guatemala.


lawtrix said...

Have a wonderful trip! I expect lots of envy-inducing photos.

Tina said...

Wonderful story and very well written, let me add! Happy B-day, Cole!!!

I will be reading this post to Ron. He will laugh. He's been to Mexico, too :-).

karen said...

Unbelievable. The e-coli thing. how very frightening. Is that popcorn on his cake? love. Love that boy's coloring. Dashing boy.

dave.heather said...

Yes, it's popcorn, Karen! Thanks for noticing. He was having a few friends over to go to the movies. Get it? It was a movie theme...I know, I know. It's a stretch, but, hey. How many more years will I be able to eek out a "theme"? I mean, he's twelve already! Ugh!

Jackie Scott said...

Ok...bawling...But that doesn't surprise you, does it??? : ) Can't believe I've never heard that story before!!

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