so the evening rush at the clinic generally brings in mothers or fathers with sick children in tow. 8pm seems to be the magic time of evening after everyone is fed and ready for bed and as the dust from the day settles, that someone notices little johnny or katie is running a fever. so, they come to see me, or whomever is working the late shift.
tonites 8:40 train wreck broke my heart and then followed me all the way home.
a clearly tired and overwhelmed mom wheeled her 2 month old infant and 16 month old toddler into the clinic with big sister (all of 3 years old) bringing up the rear.
baby boy had been congested and coughing which, according to mom was making him gag, although he had not vomited- that is until he powered down several ounces of formula while sitting in the exam room.
mom got the brunt of the mess, the floor and walls taking a close second. this boy had some power behind the burst.
he was smiley and made good eye contact with me when i examined him, it seemed as though his belly felt better after his explosion. he was afebrile and had clear breath sounds, by all accounts he looked to have a cold, nothing more.
gentle questioning found mom had been putting rice cereal in baby boys formula upon the advice of a relative-although she didnt say why. he was also consuming 6 or so ounces at a time.
so at this late hour with the children howling i proceeded to teach mom;
stop the rice cereal, your baby is too little to digest this right now. feed him small amounts frequently, no more than an ounce or two at a time. make sure he sits upright for 15-20 minutes after feedings to ensure he doesnt vomit. burp him often. use the bulb syringe frequently to clear his nose.
what i wasnt prepared for was this: i asked mom, who do you have at home to help you? giant tears, red face, big muffled sobbing, "nobody. my husband is in iraq."
at the beginning of this american occupation, i lived in the blissful democratic bubble of fort collins. i had not had personal experience or contact with anyone even remotely serving the united states armed forces. my friends and colleagues were largely in disagreement with how our nation premeptively attacked a nation and now has destroyed a country, killing thousands of our people and many more innocent iraqui men women and children.
now, i work in a clinic which is a preferred provider for the military. and as far as i can see they are so short staffed, there is no one left on base to provide care. we see dozens of patients daily referred over.
i now have conversations with men and women who have spouses serving in iraq or who have recently returned. i am not shy and i ask questions. i have confirmed what i have read. soldiers who return are angry and are often described as having "a short fuse," or "having a quick temper". most, i am told, refuse counciling and there are many wives are attending instead.
sadly, i want to be uninformed, i want to go back to not knowing anyone who is terrified they will be left a widow. but, this is simplistic and unrealistic.
so i am left with this memory of this young mother, packing her children up and getting them home to put them to bed alone. i wonder how she will take them all to the grocery store and manage to hold it together as she picks out produce. i wonder if her husband will come home or if he has ever met his baby boy.