This morning, I took Harvey to the YMCA for the preschool class he attends on Wednesday and Thursday. (Ohsweetbabyjesus, I was happy today was a school day! Harvey spent the first hour of the morning dumping out toy baskets, slamming doors, stealing things from the baby, throwing Legos, and run-by-hitting anyone sitting still. Okay, peace out, little dude…and good luck, Miss Amanda and Mr. Peter!)
After drop-off, I grabbed a coffee and headed to the library to renew our library cards, but apparently it doesn’t open until 10AM during the summer months. I wasn’t the only person who didn’t realize this judging by the dozen people sitting on the sidewalk in front of the building with books and iPads and forlorn expressions.
Rather than waiting around, Hugo and I crossed the street into Julia Davis Park. It was a beautiful, cool morning… the kind that reminds you that fall is quickly approaching (oh, blessed, blessed fall). I even embraced a pair of jeans this morning. Like, actually embraced them, and then put them on. How I love my uniform of jeans, long-sleeved tee, and flip-flops in the spring or fall. Digress.
We walked past the Boise Art Museum and into the rose garden. The gardener was mowing and my toes were quickly stained green as we strolled though the rows. I happened upon a rose called “Pumpkin Patch” which might be my new fav… a deep, golden orange with petals that fade to mauve as they age. The city has decided the fountains look best in lovely shade of completely-antithetical-to-nature “toilet water turquoise.” Odd…but Hugo still thought it was pretty mesmerizing.
Then we came home (library STILL not open) and I picked an actual handful – finally! – of little tomatoes for my breakfast. My fault for not planting my veggies until the end of June, but it’s nice to see some production. No one likes tomatoes at my house except me, so usually I eat them for a few a weeks and then they all fall on the ground because I can’t keep up and I’m too lazy to freeze them or something. Meaning the following year we have tomato plants growing out of the cracks in our patio – bonus! Also, while I was picking them, some guy walked by on the Greenbelt singing “Piano Man” at the top of his lungs – bonus bonus! SING US A SONG, YOU’RE THE PIANO MAAAAAANNNN…
For his part, Hugo is working on self-feeding some Cheerios and tiny blueberries this morning. He does great chewing them, but also bites his own finger and cries at least once every 5 minutes. 🙁 While he practices, I plan on killing the approximately 127 flies in my house before Hayden gets home this afternoon and has a panic attack.
It’s called olfactory memory – that ability to recall a forgotten time or place through a familiar scent. One whiff of pancake syrup/lemon dish soap/pine forest…and suddenly you’re back at summer camp, proudly wearing three new friendship bracelets. In fact, there is new research using scent recognition that suggests Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could be diagnosed early based on an individual’s inability to identify certain odors. Fascinating.
So, when the acrid smoke of multiple wildfires rolled into the valley this week, I was immediately transported back to last summer…the hottest, smokiest summer on record in Boise. I was pregnant with Hugo, my own internal space heater. Oh sweetbabyjesus, I was HOT. I lived indoors, coming out only to water my garden in the early morning hours or put my feet in the wading pool once the sun went down, clutching a sweating glass of diet tonic and lime.
It had been a difficult pregnancy. We found out on July 3rd, at 20 weeks, that we lost Hugo’s twin due to unknown causes. Fortunately, the babies were di/di (fraternal) – each with their own amniotic sac and placenta – and the loss of one did not automatically mean the loss of the other. Still, in addition to the grief we felt, the remainder of my pregnancy was riddled with anxiety about the health of our surviving baby.
By mid-August I was feeling better and stronger. Hayden took the Bigs on a weekend camping trip in the Sawtooth mountains and Harvey and I planned to drive up and spend one night with them. Smoke was choking the valley, and I hoped the increase in elevation would put us up above it. No such luck. The smoke actually increased for the first hour of our drive; it permeated the car and visibility dropped to less than 100 yards. At this point, I just wanted to collect my family and go home. Hayden had no cell service so my only option was to meet them at the campsite. However, by the time we arrived, the smoke had cleared significantly and it was actually an enjoyable afternoon.
It was still hot as the pits of hell. I remember feeling like my skin was burning the second I stepped into the sunlight. I spent the afternoon sitting in a camp chair in the shade with my feet in the river. It was quite peaceful and the kids had a great time fishing and building rock dams with their Dorito-dust fingers.
And then the wind changed. Within minutes, the sky turned from blue to yellowy-gray and a low haze settled in the treetops around us. We made the decision to pack up and head out. Although we loaded quickly, it felt like an eternity to me. While everyone else seemed fine, every muscle in my body was aching and my eyes were burning. We caravaned down the dim highway with our headlights on and I was entranced by the surrounding light – everything appeared to have been painted over with watercolors of pink and orange although sunset was still many hours away. I kept one eye out for a giant fire monster, ready to crest the hill and eat the road.
At some point, I realized I was shaking. I felt cold – like want-to-turn-the-heat-on cold despite the fact it was 100 degrees outside. It dawned on me that it was more than the smoke… I must be getting sick. By the time we arrived in Boise, it was all I could do to crawl in my bed under a thick layer of blankets. Hayden took my temperature which was nearly 102. Due to the loss of our twin, I was told to monitor myself for signs of infection carefully, especially unexplained fevers. I called my provider, who recommended heading to St. Luke’s labor and delivery for an exam since it was after regular business hours. Triage was packed, and I waited several hours to have my vitals monitored and to receive a large dose of Tylenol. Sometime around midnight, my fever had dropped a degree and since no other symptoms were present, I was sent home. I felt nervous. Something was wrong.
I woke up at 3:00AM and can honestly say I have never felt so sick in my entire life. It took me 10 minutes of mental talk to summon the strength to sit up. I called the hospital and told them I was coming back. This time, they admitted me to antepartum care where I would stay for the next four days. That first night was the worst, though my memories of it aren’t entirely clear. I know my temperature upon admission was over 103, extremely high for an adult. I no longer felt hot or cold; I didn’t really feel anything. I remember being scared by that. It felt like I could just float away.
Since it was the middle of the night, the nurses were reliant on the doctors working in triage to oversee patient care. As previously mentioned, they were slammed, and no one came to see me. A nurse told me with worried eyes that I would have to wait until 7AM when a doctor from my practice made morning rounds…and would I like some ice water in the meantime? I focused with every ounce of remaining energy and told her there was absolutely no fucking way in hell I would be waiting until 7AM for care. I needed to break this fever now for my baby’s sake – I had seen enough Little House on the Prairie to know that an untreated fever in a pregnant lady always equals bad shit. I told her to call the doctor back and inform her the patient is demanding medication to reduce the fever RIGHT NOW – something much stronger than the obviously ineffective Tylenol I already had on board. She smiled at me and said, “Good for you. I agree completely.”
Thirty minutes later, I was given a dosage of Ibuprofen a doctor later called the “nuclear option”… my best chance at reducing a high fever but something they would only give me once due to potential risk to the fetus. It took four hours to work, but finally around 7:00AM my fever started dropping. I got the chills, then began sweating. I soaked through every sheet and blanket on my bed. By mid-morning, I felt great. I had an appetite. I could once again display emotions reflecting gratitude and courtesy. I ate Popsicles and mashed potatoes and sent Hayden to get me some clean clothes and shampoo. I wanted to be home by dinner.
And then the fever came back. I coasted between 99 and 102 for the next three days. My mom came over from Oregon to stay with the kids. I was seen by four OB’s and an infectious disease specialist. I was poked and prodded constantly – panels of my blood were sent to labs all over the country. Every few hours I waited anxiously for nurses to hook up the fetal monitor so I could hear Hugo’s heart chugging along. He was an absolute champion and never showed signs of distress during the entire ordeal. Unlike me. I cried and said things were bullshit. A lot. I hated my nurse. (To be fair, even in hindsight she was a total asshole.) I just wanted to go home. I wanted to hold my baby, but not yet. I was only 26 weeks along.
I tested negative for everything. West Nile Virus, autoimmune disorders, STI’s. No emergency rooms had reported seeing patients with symptoms like mine. My doctor teased me that I was Patient Zero – the zombie apocalypse was probably only one sneeze away. But it wasn’t. Because as quickly as it started, it was gone. My fever went down after my morning dose of Tylenol on Day 4, and never came back. I went home that night and slept for 36 of the next 48 hours.
And so….the smoke. The smoke brings me back to the scariest week of my life. I am so thankful to be here today, at home and healthy, with a beautiful little boy who is currently trying to eat the kitchen rug. (Ewwww – excuse me for a moment.) I doubt there will ever be a time the smoke doesn’t remind me of that stressful week. But it’s also good to be reminded of everything I have to be grateful for, especially when we revisit these bullshit levels of hot and hazy.
Hugo has decided it’s time to wake up when it’s light enough in the bedroom to see my face. Today, that was at 5:30AM. Rather than wake the entire household, we went for a long walk. It was quiet and the air was still cool, though it will be a scorcher later today. We watched the moon set and the sun rise. And then we jumped in the car and headed to the Co-Op for the Times and Guru Donuts. Happy Saturday!