Fortunately, my nearly 6-year-old twins’ birthday party had concluded by the time my son started vomiting. And luckily, when Griffin began spewing up a crimson tide, I recalled a relevant anecdote from my older sister’s past—the time one of her college roommates was retching what they thought was blood, unaware that the girl had spent the better part of her evening imbibing laced, red punch. Even if operating under a grave misapprehension, they were probably still wise to rush her to the emergency room.
So when Griffin started hurling scarlet chunks—unfortunately all over my bed—I knew not to panic. He had scarfed down at least one, red-frosted cupcake earlier at his birthday bash. But I must admit that while I was concerned for his well being, I was even more concerned about my bedding and mattress, now awash in a rosy sea of puke. And as I trudged Griffin into the bathroom, his regurgitation recommenced, this time dousing his dinosaur pajamas, the tile floor and a bath mat.
I felt awful for my son. But I also felt really sorry for myself. After all, I was exhausted from hosting, with my husband, two dozen kindergartners at a gym party all afternoon, and now I had to take care of a sick child and do laundry, instead of settling in with a beer to watch the seventh episode of the second season of the original Swedish version of the crime series, “Wallander,” on Roku.
Furthermore, after I had spent an hour rinsing the red slime out sheets, towels, pillows and our comforter, and sending food particles down the disposal (gagging all the while), I passed another 40 minutes rubbing down the mattress and disinfecting the bathroom. Then Griffin cried out. Round two had begun. This time, my son managed only to tag the side of his pillow and sheet and part of his dust ruffle as he leaned out of his bed and toward the garbage can I had strategically placed below him. When I thought he was finished and was helping Griffin shuffle back into the bathroom for another swab down, I’ll be damned if he didn’t spray my hallway floor.
I was relieved when Griffin finally managed to doze off into a sodden haze around 11 p.m. And after giving my exhausted husband a dressing down when he walked in few minutes later from coaching a basketball game—harassing him for no other reason than that he had not been there—I drifted into a fitful sleep in a nest I’d made for myself on Griffin’s floor. I did this partly so I could be close by if my son started vomiting again. But I also had little other choice since Jeff was dozing on the only dry section of our king-size and now vomit-scented mattress.
I was pleased when I awoke at 4:30 a.m., not to the sound of gagging but to the pitter-patter of our 2-year-old’s feet in the hallway. After ushering Jane back into her room, I retreated to my floor bed. And when I next opened my eyes around 6:30 a.m., Griffin was placidly sleeping.
But as I groggily poured coffee for myself and cereal for my daughters, I jolted awake with the realization that I had completely forgotten that a couple of days earlier, Griffin had cracked heads with a classmate. He came home with a mark on his forehead and complained of a headache. (The other kid received a laceration, and Griffin’s teacher jokingly asked if he had a metal plate in his head.) But because my son seemed otherwise fine, I had done nothing in the chaotic tumble of days since the collision—until he started barfing. A quick consultation with WebMD convinced me that Griffin was experiencing the delayed symptoms of a concussion. And the fact that our pediatrician commanded, “Take him to the hospital!” when I called, didn’t allay my anxiety.
However, after a three-hour wait and a thorough examination, the ER doctor sent us on our way with a large, plastic bin and three Gatorades. I was relieved, although slightly concerned that the tag of the attending who saw Griffin read: “Dermatology.” Should I rely on the opinion of a doctor more familiar with rashes than concussions? But after all, we had gone to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the best in the country. And so I decided to trust the care my son had been given and start to relax—until I realized that since a traumatic brain injury had been ruled out, Griffin probably just had some kind of virulent stomach bug that would now circulate through my house.
As I passed that afternoon at the Laundromat, watching our comforters tumble in dryers and listening to the inane prattle of the dipsomaniacs who run the wash and fold service, I wondered which of my family members the virus would fell next. The possibilities seemed endless and grim and made me shudder. So after stowing the now fluffed and sanitized bedding in the car, I headed toward the craft beer shop. I selected a six pack of Pilsner Urquell for me and my husband—after all, we'd earned a drink or two—and decided just to roll with the crimson tide.