Monday, November 14, 2011

Wooden Spoon

He’s an intelligent man because he’s not only a doctor running a busy clinic but easily switches from speaking French to German to English depending on what patient he is talking to.

Consider though, that English is the most common first or second language here in Switzerland and you may understand how the hot flush of anger and shame slapped me on Friday when he spoke to me in a packed waiting room. “Now you do realise that if we don’t find anything in Sapphire’s stool sample then it’s all in her mind, don’t you?”

My legs wobbled and my eyes stung, rendering me witless and mute. He continued, slightly louder this time, assuming that I was a bit stupid.

“You need to TALK to her. Is she happy at school? Does she have friends? REALLY TALK TO HER.”

I nodded and got out of there as fast as I could, almost forgetting to hand over the bag of freshly-made excrement for the nurse to send off to the lab for testing.

He means well, the pompous git. He’s obviously seen more of life and the extremes of human nature – let alone anatomy – than I have, but the words stung. For two weeks Sapphire has endured vomiting, nausea, blinding headaches, dizziness, lack of appetite and crippling stomach pains. She’s missed school for most of that time due to being unable to stand up for very long or concentrate.

Her blood test results showed that her body was fighting a major infection and she was given four different kinds of medication to take. All the packets and instructions were in French, German and Italian. The pharmacist saw my confusion, took pity on me and printed the dosage instructions in English. I felt like pulling his head over the counter towards me and planting a big wet one.

The vomiting and diarrhoea stopped by the end of week one, but not the pain, disorientation, weakness and exhaustion. The second blood test showed that she’d gotten over the infection.

She was sent to have her face x-rayed, as her sinuses were swollen. The scans showed no polyps or problems but a prescribed nasal spray has made the passages clearer. Her eyes were checked and the optician advised that her glasses – made in 2009 – were too strong for her. New lenses are ready for collection tomorrow.

Walking to radiation clinic across from the train station, we stopped every five metres or so to let Sapphire take a breath and fold herself over to somehow squash away her stomach pain. Inside, the clinic was festooned with prints, paintings and sculptures of nudes. "How is a three foot sketch of a man's willy supposed to make me relax, Mum?" Cheeky monkey.

“You ‘ave made pee pee already,” Scan Man huffed.

“Er yes. We weren’t aware that she needed to have a full----“

“Come back in ‘alf an ‘our. Drink much, so that you have much pee pee but don’t go pee pee.”

Sapphire’s lip drooped in self pity ten minutes later when a bucket-sized mug of gingerbread-spiced latte was placed in front of her. “Come on love, you’ll enjoy this. Coffee’s a diuretic, so you’ll be back with---“ my fingers formed the international quotation sign “-----loads of pee pee for Scan Man.”

She giggled. “Shoosh mum, do we need all of Starbucks to know?” I stood up, put my hands on my hips and played the ham. “Why yes, we do, actually. Everyone should know that---““SIDDOWN MUM,” she laughed. “Oh damn, I’ve spilled it down my front....”

Back home, the phone call came. No discernible stomach issues and the appendix is fine.

I do know Sapphire. I do.

I know that she’s very ill and that her headaches and stomach pains are real, not faked or psychologically manifested. I do. It worries and scares me a little to see how listless and unwell she is. I believe her. I trust her. I know her.

.... don’t I?

Do I have to go back inside, sit alongside her snoozing figure in our bed and ask, “Is there anything that you’re worried about? Is there anything you’re not telling us? Is there anything making you unhappy?”

She sat up, reaching for my hand to comfort me instead of the other way around. “I’d rather be at school than here with you. No offence.”

None taken. I kiss her soft forehead and leave her to snooze.

Love Chunks gets back home from his two week odyssey in Canada and Mexico and finds a 43 year old, a twelve year old and a furry seven year old waiting for him at the door, all smiles.Sapphire’s still in her dressing gown but happy to see him. Milly is pensive – will the return of Alpha Male mean that Alpha Female won’t devote as much attention to her? Besides, she’d just endured having her teeth cleaned, with now-crusty bits of white toothpaste clinging to the hairs on her chin. I just want to breathe in his warmth, scent and strength.

The weekend sees Sapphire improve slowly but still always doubled over in agony immediately after eating anything.

I send her to school today. She’s eager to go despite having a throbbing headache and wondering if she’ll cope with the smell, noise and food on offer at the school cafeteria at lunchtime.

When Milly and I get back from our walk, the phone rings. It’s the doctor’s nurse. “We have found some bacteria in Sapphire’s sample. The doctor wants to see her today after school and he will have some medicine ready for you.”

Her English is halting, so my questions about what is it, will it get better, what sort of medicine and how long will have to wait until this afternoon. I put on my favourite playlist and run like the wind on my treadmill, singing out loud to every song. I don’t wish any misfortune for my daughter, but I am relieved that they found something. I do know her.

Roger emails me. He’s flying back to Australia for a conference tomorrow. Is there anything I’d like him to bring back from home?

The smell of burnt rubber fills the room as I think hard. For months I’ve moaned about things I miss but this morning all I can think of is a wooden spoon. No shop in Geneva sells them, so it’s little wonder they don’t make cake here.

“I’ll bring you three,” he says, noting how the traditional last prize item in Oz is my number one choice here. “Perhaps you can give one to Sapphire’s doctor.”


ropcorn said...

That is odd that wooden spoons are so impossible to find in Geneva. We use them all the time here in Sweden, wooden butter knives too. Oh well, good thing that you will get special delivery of them soon then. :-) And I wish Sapphire a speedy recovery.

Have Myelin? said...

I really enjoyed this post. I like using wooden spoons too. =) That is, when I do the kitchen thing which is never.

Maybe one day.

Glad Sapphire is improving.

nuttynoton said...

Doubt, it just nags away at you and then you find out you were right all along. It just re-assures that your instincts and understanding are right. Great description, keep on smiling on lifes interesting!! journey

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Doctors - I don't like them. never have. They are so unsympathetic generally (with one or two exceptions of course).



Elisabeth said...

Wow, Kath, what a story. No wonder you're distressed.

Why is it that the idea that something is in the mind negates it?

I'm all for the inextricable nature of the mind/body link. Mind and body are not separate.

A bacteria can cause you to feel terribly ill not just in body but in mind, and a state of mind can make you much more prone to viruses and unknown bugs of all sorts. Clearly there's something wrong with Sapphire and it needs to be understood and recognised to be treated and not simply dismissed as all in her mind, if no medical/concrete results turn up to make it all in her body.

When my youngest daughter suffered glandular fever some years ago I almost wanted it to be psychological so called rather than the dreaded glandular because of all the horror stories I'd heard about things like Chronic fatigue that can follow such a virus.

It's taken my daughter time to get beyond the glandular fever and she still suffers occasional stomach pains of unknown origin.

I think we want to know the 'facts' because we want to find a solution but I suspect there may be many things that happen that are a combination of all sorts, including bacteria and states of mind.

I hope Sapphire gets properly better soon. It must be so much harder so far from home and the familiar.

TamvdK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TamvdK said...

Could you whisper in Milly's ear to give Sapph a BIG hug from us Flemingtonians?!
I hope she's feeling better poor chickadee. Ange has the same sort of inexplicable stomach pains as well sometimes, it's hard feeling so unable to help.
You would think with Switzerland's close proximity to Germany they would have lots of thigh-slapping wooden spoons...
Not to rub it in or anything but the collection we inherited from you are happy in their pot - there's about 5 of them now!
Lots of love and tail wags from number 45...

Cat J B said...

Odd about the wooden spoons, what do they use instead?

I hope they're managing to get to the root of Sapphire's trouble, we're going through vagaries here at the moment with my 6 yr old....anxiety, ocd, both? Oi oi oi, it is STRESSFUL, I feel for you Kath.

Andrew said...

I should know better than to have a mouthful of anything when I read your last lines. In this case it was yoghurt that nearly ended up on the screen.

Glad you have found out what is wrong. She has been ill for some time now.

The Elephant's Child said...

I need to vent some rage on your behalf. Some doctors have egos big enough to think that they could get knotted. I am wishing painful hemorrhoids on that man. That no-one can see, but which cause him INTENSE pain. Of course you know your daughter better than he can.

I hope the new medication does the trick and Saphire is back to herself quickly.
Glad that LC is home again too.

Pandora Behr said...

I have a huge grudge against doctors who treat you like that - however, I'm glad that the bottom of it has been found (no pun intended)and may Saph be on the mend.

And I can't wait for you to be able to say in French "Look you supercilious wanker, can you please treat me like a human being." Amazing what you can get out of doctors when you use words like this...

Vanessa said...

I hope the results brings an end to Sapphire's illness.
Of course you know her x

Red Nomad OZ said...

Tell him not to forget that little packet of baking powder either!

Making pee-pee sounds like a good name for a song! Oh wait, there's a close enough one ...

River said...

I'm glad they actually found something that could be causing all of Sapphire's distress. I was about to suggest allergy testing for the different foods/ingredients you're all eating now.
I love wooden spoons! How odd that Geneva doesn't have any! I thought they were a universal utensil.

Marie said...

Oh dear - I see they are as blunt in Switzerland as they are in Sweden. Bloody infuriating, isn't it? I've had to grow an extra thick layer of skin when dealing with the health system and the idea of letting the entire waiting room hear the results of my tests. Or have a pap smar inb a room with the blinds open to the street level passing pedestrian traffic! But I do hope dear Sapphire feels better now she has meds. Poor love.

Wooden spoons! LOL - for me it's tongs. You just can't get them here at all. You should see the idiotic rubbish they use to serve salads or turn the steaks on the bbq. Swedish design, my arse :-)

Don said...

Is the pain "center mass" or more in the right upper side of the abdominal area? Have they done an ultra sound of the gall bladder? Many of the symptoms point in that direction... (Not to diagnose over the Net, but something to look at.)


Pearl said...

Strange. The poor thing - why is she so sick?

You write very well. I enjoyed this.


Kath Lockett said...

Thank you everyone for your lovely comments. Food elimination was going to be the next step until the stool results showed the weirdo bacterial thingy that is apparently resistant to most antibiotics except a couple (and those are too powerful for Sapph to take in full doses).

She's perked up a lot and when I hear her skyping with her friends and then getting into her homework with gusto, I feel like calling up the doctor and yelling, CAN YOU SEE THIS?

And wooden spoons. Yes, a mystery and the lack of has been discussed by a few other puzzled Aussie, Kiwi and British expats.

Lidian said...

Have just read post and all comments so was SO glad to see yours at the end saying S is better...It really makes one into a tiger (tigress?) when your child is ill and no one seems to GET it. When my youngest (now 15) was about 2 she had an abcess on a tooth and was in agony and the pediatric dentist said he didn't see anything there and to come back in a month. A month! When she couldn't sleep and was in agony. So I phoned and phoned and badgered away until I found a lovely pediatric dentist who took her the next day and was brilliant...I still tear up thinking of it.

Thinking of you, too xxx from Canada :)

Deep Kick Girl said...

Poor Sapph... and poor you. What an ordeal. I hope the doctor ate his words when you went back. Is the new medication helping?

Our relationship with doctors is quite a complex thing... I can feel a blog post coming on...

Take care. I'm really enjoying your posts from exotic Genenva.

Kath Lockett said...

Yep, the doctor was *very* respectful when the results came in. I swallowed every urge to lord it over him in return and hope that it will result in top-quality medical service from now on....

Sapphire's still crook though. Ironic that the side effects of the medication gives her stomach pain, cramps and diarrhoea which it's also meant to cure!

Kymmie said...

Oh poor Sapphire (and mum)! It's the pits when nobody can tell you what's wrong. And when a doctor tells you it's in her head, did you want to do something to HIS head?

Poor guys. It's times like this that you long for the familiarity of medicare and a good long waiting queue at a public Australian hospital...

Hugs to you both and I hope that Sapphire is on the up and up. xx

Jackie K said...

I am a bit of a believer with doctors, that you shouldn't necessarily follow your first impression. The fact he's been very respectful since shows he knows he was wrong and is making amends - so not one of the most arrogant ones perhaps. This was such a great post - love the way you write Kath!
Glad your daughter is on the mend - poor thing.

Anji said...

Can you change your doctor? I was so relieved they found something in the end.

When he was 16 my eldest son had something similar, then he went into a depression and it turned out he didn't like school. He had a very high IQ and just couldn't stand the boredom any more.

I really hope that Sapphire gets on the mend soon, I don't know how you cope with everything at the moment


River said...

Have just read Marie's comment about not being able to find tongs in Sweden. This surprises me a lot, because in IKEA, a SWEDISH store, tongs and wooden spoons are readily avilable!