By Laura Claverie
Our grandson’s fever provides us a refresher course
Our son Philip’s voice sounded ominous. “Mom, can you help us? We’re in a bind.” Without hesitation, the answer was “yes!”
It was a double-whammy: Tamara, his wife, had a serious reaction to a strange bug bite, and their baby Rylan had just been bounced from daycare because of a sudden, low-grade fever. Philip was taking Tamara to her doctor at Ochsner, and Rylan needed immediate attention.
Tamara’s allergic reaction was serious enough to warrant an overnight stay with a 24-hour antibiotic IV. Rylan’s fever, only 100.1, was enough to warrant plenty of fluids, watchful eyes, some Tylenol drops and welcoming arms. Sounded just like a job for the B-Team. Enter the grandparents.
But in the back of our minds were uneasy memories that resurfaced: our son’s childhood fevers that instantly spiked from an innocuous 100 to a scary 104. Would Ry have the same tendencies? Couldn’t he skip that one and just get his father’s athletic abilities or, better yet, his keen legal mind?
As the day wore on, Ry-Guy’s fever hovered around 100. The Tylenol drill was working. A fancy digital thermometer, new to us but now commonplace, gave quick, accurate and less invasive readings than those of a generation ago, and that was reassuring. But I knew if the past were an indication for the future, Rylan’s fever would travel north as the day wore on.
100. 100.5. 101. By late afternoon things weren’t looking too good. Papa, Ry’s grandfather, came home early to serve as the relief team. The pediatrician recommended alternating Tylenol and Motrin, and kicked up the dosage. No Motrin drops around? Off to Walgreen’s I went.
In the meantime, Tamara was strapped to an IV, more concerned about Rylan than her very swollen arm and hand. Philip was holding down the fort at Ochsner with her, and the two hapless grandparents were muddling through their first infantile fever episode in a very long time.
A lot can get rusty in 25 years, the last time Papa and I dealt with a sick infant. We’d forgotten, for instance, how helpless we feel as the thermometer creeps up and up, despite our efforts.
“So, can you put chicken soup in sippy cup?” asked Papa. I was tempted to try anything legal, moral and, well, grandmotherly to help the fever slow down.
By 8 p.m. the fancy digital thermometer registered 103.1, just as we’d feared. I hoped it was a digital error. Shake, shake. Press the button and try again. Still 103.1.
I hate calling doctors at home, a remnant from my childhood as a doctor’s daughter. But this was war, and we were determined to win it. Ry obviously needed some strong stuff, so back to Walgreen’s I went.
By now Papa and I made the executive decision not to call Philip and Tamara as their plates were full. We’d follow doctor’s orders and pull out every trick we could remember. We rocked Rylan, stripped off all his clothing except his #3 Huggies. We sat him in a tepid bath and poured water down his back. We gave him lots of clear liquids (heck, we practically would have given him a Blue Moon with a slice of orange if he’d asked for it). We sang Beatles favorites, the Princeton alma mater, lullabies and a Sanskrit prayer I sing in yoga class. Yes, our skills were rusty, but slowly, instinct kicked in.
By 11 pm, Philip returned from Ochsner and Tamara was responding to the IV. We gave our son a full update, and Ry was sleeping soundly. By the next day, we learned that Tamara’s allergic reaction was thanks to a common red ant, and Ry’s fever was thanks to his first ear infection.
A day later, Tamara was home, and Ry was on the upswing. Philip called to thank us and said, “We felt totally comfortable with Rylan in your and Dad’s very capable hands.”
Oscar Wilde once said, “I can live all week on one good compliment.” I hung up the phone and felt gratitude and relief. For now, Papa and I were back in the game, albeit as the B-Team. But Rylan and Tamara were well, and we were dancing in the end zone.
Laura Claverie is a freelance writer and grandmother to two wonderful grandchildren, Rylan and Amelia. She lives in the Garden District.