Tuesday, November 20, 2007

About a Sick Little Boy

It’s been a tough three weeks health-wise over here in Chez Ayaan. There’ve been two distinct health issues, one chronic and one acute.

It all started just before we left for Delhi. Actually it started sometime in August, with a cough and a cold that refused to completely go away, especially acting up during the night. Sure, there were times when they subsided somewhat but I cannot remember a cough-free day since August. We tried all of the following:

  • One bout of antibiotics when the cough got really bad. The cough got better but never went away entirely
  • Three rounds of a cough syrup when the cough got bad enough to take him to the doctor
  • Daily doses of a home remedy recommended by the paediatrician in Jaipur – three parts honey and one part ginger juice sprinkled with powdered clove. While this didn’t banish the damned thing either, it was great at soothing the cough and generally helping the little fellow to feel better.
  • Vicks Vaporub on the chest and back before sleeping

Actually, it was not as much a consolidated attack on the infection as this probably sounds. I have to admit that I realised that this had become a chronic issue only just before I took him to the doctor – time just seemed to pass by and there were periods of minimal coughing in between so it really seemed more like 5-6 bouts of cough/ cold that had to be treated in one of the ways mentioned above. But then before we left for Delhi, the cough got bad again and since Ayaan was going to be away for over two weeks, I thought to consult our regular doctor before leaving and that’s when the tubelight in my brain lit up to the fact that this had been going on for an inordinately long time.

When I told the doctor the whole deal, he immediately suggested that I get him x-rayed for adenoids and sure enough the report came back positive for enlarged adenoids. The doctor told me that this was nothing to worry about and that we should follow the following sequence of events:

  • A 4-week course of antibiotics to treat the infection that was causing the adenoids to swell up
  • This was to be followed by a 6-week course of medicated nasal drops
  • If at the end of the ten weeks, the adenoids were still enlarged, he said that we would have to surgically remove them. I almost fell off my chair at this drastic recommendation but he assured me that it was a simple surgery and was only needed in 20% of the cases as the rest of the kids responded well to the earlier two steps of the program.

Now, I did balk at the 4-week course of antibiotics but decided to trust the doctor (who has never shown any previous tendency to over-medicate Ayaan) and in any case, I felt the pressure to DO SOMETHING since we were travelling the next day.

Two weeks later found us in Jaipur for Diwali. The cough had improved but still showed no signs of going away. We would probably have kept going had the acute (unrelated) problem I mentioned earlier not reared its ugly head, forcing us to pay a visit to the Jaipur paediatrician (of the home remedy fame). Obviously, we had to first tell him about the ongoing treatment and he was really surprised at what had been prescribed. His view was:

  • Enlarged adenoids are very common in young children and tend to shrink on their own as they approach 5-6 years of age. And one should wait and watch before going for something as drastic as surgery, especially since adenoids also act as a defense against infections.
  • When kids have enlarged adenoids, this prevents the nasal secretions from draining out and hence causing the perennially stuffy nose. This was compounded by the fact that he had an allergic cough – an explanation for the persistent cough inspite of clear lungs. And the reason why the cough sounded chesty was because of the post-nasal drip thanks to the adenoids.
  • The extended course of antibiotics was not only unnecessary but most likely useless since two weeks of the treatment had still not vanquished the cough. And sincce there was no lung or ear infection present, he recommended we stop the antibiotics right away since they would not in themselves shrink the adenoids. The acute problem (will explain in a bit) made it necessary to stop anyway and so we did
  • He also said the nasal drops were bad idea as well as they were likely to disturb the nose lining and cause it to get inflamed, which along with the adenoids would only compound the problem.

He has suggested we do the following:

  1. Give him an anti-allergic syrup, along with a another one to dilate his airways for a few days every time the cough and cold get bad
  2. Steam inhalation every night before bed (managed this suprisingly successfully today with some much-needed help from the TV fairy)
  3. Allergic precautions (though I’m damned if I know how one is supposed to avoid smoke and dust in this crazy city)
  4. Immediate response to a fever or an ear ache, implying an ear infection, which could be potentially dangerous.

The research on the net kind of supports what he said too. Surgery is recommended only in cases where some of the following symptoms exist:

  • Excessive snoring, which might indicate a blocked airway
  • Trouble breathing through the nose/ noisy breathing
  • Episodes of not breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Chronic ear infections that persist despite antibiotics

Ayaan is clear of all these symptoms, though he does have a tendency to breathe through the mouth, especially when he has a cold (who can blame him?).

So we are sticking to the Jaipur doctor’s plan for the time being. But this also raises another problem – I need to change my doctor in Mumbai. Other than the fact that I am unhappy with his prescription, I would also find it tough to go back to him having disregarded his advice. And I don’t know where to find another paediatrician who I cam trust. Most of the parents I know in my part of town either go to the current doctor or to another high profile doctor whose appointment book is super-blocked and usually you get to meet one of his junior assistants. I am paralysed into inaction because I don’t know where to start and it’s stressing me out because I don’t want to wait till he gets sick again to begin a desperate doctor hunt.

Now, moving on to the oft-mentioned acute problem. Ayaan got a bad case of food poisoning when we were in Jaipur. Obviously I can’t say for certain what caused it but I’m willing to bet it was the bite of Diwali sweet he had just hours before he started throwing up. It was pretty bad – he threw up almost everything we fed him for two and a half days, got diarrhoea and notched up a fever of 102oF. We finally had to give him an antibiotic and he slowly got better. But even after he got okay, he rejected food for another couple days, even throwing up on purpose when we pushed him too hard. I got worried that he had become a fussy eater and, in my less rational moments, wondered whether it was the JMonster getting me for writing this post.

But thankfully, his good eating habits are back. In fact, he’s eating more than before. I think it helped that I got him back to his schedule and eating habits as soon as he showed signs of returning to normalcy. Even the dreaded TV was used only twice as I realised it only distracted him and made him eat stuff that his body wasn’t ready to take in, and which he threw up anyway.

So all’s well that ends well except Mama’s poor heart that breaks afresh every time she looks at the skinny little bag of bones her son has become and how his clothes fit looser than before. He was never what you would have called plump but over the last few months, I had stopped getting the ‘He’s so skinny’ comments but I guess they will be back to haunt me as soon as I run into a supposedly well-meaning relative or an ill-mannered aunty.

Belated Diwali wishes to you all - hope it was happy. Ours was somewhat less happy – as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Taste of the Life That Was

Last weekend, we went to Delhi for a family wedding and came back sans Ayaan. Since I was going to be heading to Jaipur for the Diwali week in just five days, it didn’t seem to make sense to lug him all the way back to Mumbai. Plus my mother always craves for some alone time with him without my interfering presence… so he went off to Jaipur with my mom while we headed back to Mumbai. Overall, we were quite excited about having some time to ourselves for the first time in two and a half years.

I am writing from a plane, headed towards a reunion with my son after a five day separation and I have to say it’s been an interesting and revealing five days. The most surprising thing has been how much I have missed him in these days gone by. I have been away from him longer on my travels but this time, I felt the separation much more intensely than I ever have. Because this was the first time since he was born that I have been home when he wasn’t. It just didn’t feel right – it was like there was an Ayaan-shaped hole in my house and in my life.

On all the five days, I actually stayed in office longer than I needed to. Since Jai was working late or travelling, it was positively depressing to come home to a dark, empty house. Especially since I have got used to being greeted by my little eager beaver who responds to the very sound of my key turning in the lock and comes running to greet me with his toothsome grin and a ‘bick (big) huggy’. I always knew that my homecoming was one of the high points in Ayaan’s day – now I realise that it is the high point of mine too.

It was not all bad, though – there were some upsides to this mini-break from being parents. I managed to go to my fitness class every day for some heavy-duty guilt-free exercise.

And on Tuesday, Jai and I finally went on our first dinner date in two and a half years. Since the nanny leaves when I get home, we have never been able to do this and most night outings have been limited to one of us going out with our respective friends. Our ‘dates’ have usually been lunches and movies grabbed on Saturday afternoons, so this made for a refreshing change…

Somehow when we go out for lunch, I don’t feel a need to dress up and tend to just hop along in whatever outfit I’ve chosen to wear for the day. But dinner is different – so I came home from work, bathed, put on some fancy clothes, slapped on some lipstick and sprayed myself with my best perfume. It just made it a lot more special than a Saturday lunch can ever be.

Also, our Saturday outings are pretty slotted in terms of time. I like to give Ayaan his lunch before we leave and be back before it’s time to take him to the park. On Tuesday however, we got dressed in a leisurely fashion, had a relaxed drink at the hotel bar before moving on to dinner and didn’t even look at the clock once during all this time. We had a nice, aimless conversation throughout, largely sticking to our ‘no talking about Ayaan ban’.

This brief time-out also got me thinking about how we tend to mourn over our carefree, baby-free days in a manner that is almost half-serious. But I have realised that in many ways our quality of life has actually improved after becoming parents.

  • We eat a lot healthier. I already wrote in my last post about how we eat a much greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables than before. We also order in and eat out much less often. This week, I completely reverted to my old habits - on Monday, I ate a bowl of instant noodles; on Tuesday, we went out for Chinese; on Wednesday, we ordered pizza and yesterday, I ate at a friend’s place and we ordered Indian food, in all its greasy, calorie-rich glory. I think I need to detox!
  • We actually spend more time together now than we did before. Before Ayaan, both of us were certified workaholics (Jai still is) and used to drag our weary souls into the house just in time to eat dinner, watch some TV and collapse into bed. Now, we both make an effort to be home at a more acceptable hour and though a lot of our time together also involves Ayaan, it’s no less fun and intimate thanks to the shared moments of amusement, pride and frustration that abound when we are together as a family. Actually, that’s the difference – earlier, we were a couple and now we are a family – cheesy and clich├ęd as it may be - and I like this better.
  • We watch much less TV because there is a blanket TV ban during Ayaan’s waking hours as opposed to switching it on the minute we get home. I used to be quite a couch potato in times gone by and in the last week, I slipped back into the habit with complete ease, randomly surfing channels even though I knew there was nothing worth watching.

Overall, I am happy to be heading back to meet my darling son. Armed with the absolute clarity that I did the right thing when I decided to have a baby. I knew then that I’d never regret it and I know now that I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Update: I couldn't post this yesterday due to connectivity issues. Ayaan came with my mom to pick me up at the airport and he was satifyingly thrilled to see me - he shrieked at the top of his voice, ran into my arms and gave me the tightest hug ever, followed by some seriously sloppy kisses. The welcome almost made the separation worth it - almost but not quite :)