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Homestead happenings: oral disasters

March 30, 2011

Greetings from the 6512 infirmary where you will be spared only by diligent hand washing and extremely good karma. Also chocolate seems to helps a little. And beer. Yesterday, after many consecutive hours—days worth of hours—inside, Dan sang: it’s time, it’s time for beer, before I go crazy in here. And then he left the sickhouse to buy beer and more herbal medicine and I hissed, “come back quick” as he waltzed out the door gripping his ticket to the vacation resort: liquor store.

It started last Wednesday, Rose was playing with her friend Tara, bossing baby dolls around when Rose announced tearfully that Tara bit her tongue (which was untrue).

That night a red bullseye bloomed on the tip of Rose’s tongue. Two days later I counted eleven ulcers in the small pink shell of her open mouth. Now the lesions have spread to Col’s mouth.

My friend Claire, who just graduated dental hygiene school (which these days is an insanely rigorous medical program and Claire is a single mom with 2 kids and I just have to sing her praises because I am so proud of her!) brought her oral pathology books—filled with stomach-churning photos—over and diagnosed the kids with primary herpetic gingivostomatitis. This is a fancy term for herpes, and I’ve typed and deleted that word ten times now, because it’s just sounds so horrible and I picture us showing up at playgroup next week and everyone waving “hi” tentatively while backing up into the bathroom to scour their hands clean.

The phrase “oral distaster” keeps flitting through my mind, which is dramatic I know, but spending time in our house right now is a little like being on the set of ER while filming Episode oral soft tissue disease, take 53: Rose, rolling around my bed like she’s trying to extinguish the flames of her own body, howling “I just want an apple but I caaaaaaan’t eat an apple;” Col sobbing and hiding from me because he’s terrified that the berry-scented medicine I want to smear on his lips will make him throw up.

Claire, who turns out to be a good therapist too, points out that all her books list “extreme irritability” as a symptom of a primary herpes outbreak (the good news is that there’s a 70% chance they’ll never have another outbreak and if so, only at a fraction of this intensity). “Our mouths are so sensitive,” Claire says soothingly. “Think about how annoying it is to have a stray hair in your mouth, and imagine your mouth filled with painful sores.”

My babies! Seeing my kids in pain is like fire pinballing through my nervous system and suddenly I could lift a car off my child’s pinned body but there’s no car to lift, and really nothing to do but dab a little more berry-scented lysine balm onto their sores, gather everybody up and read another chapter of Farmer Boy. It’s so sinister, this virus, the way it slinks around the wilderness of their tender mouths, tagging new territory as they sleep.

Yesterday morning everyone piled in our bed and Rose whispered “there’s four persons in here,” as if we didn’t start everyday with a quartet of elbows jangling about while Dan and I inhale their childhood-scented scalps. Then Dan got up to make breakfast and Col asked me, “are you still ticklish when you have cold sores?”

I extended a wiggling hand out to each kid on either side of me, reaching for hips and necks and sides, and the kids—who need laughter and merriment like a flower needs sun—howled with giggles before I even touched them.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 7:14 am

    oh. my. goodness!!!!!!!
    I am so sorry.
    I wish I could bring you & Dan a growler of Joe’s new black IPA. Or maybe two. We drank a warm pint the other night after transferring it from carboy to keg (delicious!). It should be carbonated & cold this evening. We’ll toast our first glasses to wellness at your place.
    Hang in there!

  2. March 30, 2011 7:14 am

    Oh poor babies! I had that as a kid, and I will never forget it. Thank goodness they have you and Farmer Boy, and tickles. And thank goodness there is beer in the world! I’d be skeedaddlin’ with a growler for sure!

  3. March 30, 2011 8:11 am

    When my daughter had this she didn’t eat for …I don’t know, a week maybe? Then, a glass of milk. She still remembers that glass of milk. “This is the best milk I’ve ever tasted in my life!” It’s really interesting to me how she remembers that time now. It’s indelibly etched into her memory bank, but not necessarily bad, just firm.

    It’s as if that hunger time, that pain-filled time, carved out this sense of wonder inside her. It has given me a dose of motherhood bravery as she has wandered again into the pain-filled forest.

    I bear my own pain fine. Like you I’ve had to learn all over again about enduring the sores on my children’s tongues. And, it’s been a journey. Thank God for Farmer Boy. And tickles. And glasses of milk that do return to something tasty.

  4. March 30, 2011 9:17 am

    Oh, my, never a dull moment at 6512, is there? Good luck with this latest plague…you poor thing (I hope Dan shared the beer…)

  5. March 30, 2011 9:25 am

    Oh, so very, very sorry. Glad to hear that everyone is still ticklish, though. Best wishes for a quick recovery.

  6. March 30, 2011 9:31 am

    dad gum.

    we had a similar bout of ‘hoof and mouth’ and it’s just no fun at all.

    custard was key.

  7. March 30, 2011 10:22 am

    So sorry to hear this!

    (…and so grateful you didn’t post a picture!)

  8. March 30, 2011 11:22 am

    Oh dear! Did you call your doc? I know you’re not a fan of pharmaceuticals, but there are drugs that can lessen the effects of the herpes virus, in all of its horrible forms. There is also mouthwash that your dentist can provide that numbs the mouth.

  9. March 30, 2011 1:08 pm

    Oh no, Rachel. My girlfriend’s youngest had this and I remember how painful she said it was…and when we thought Isaac might catch it I freaked. We got some homeopathics right away and it never manifested. Phew!

    I hope when their little mouths have returned to normal that you all have a big party full of tickles and beer (for you and Dan). My, you all deserve it. xo

  10. Molly permalink
    March 30, 2011 1:40 pm

    Oh dear god. And thank you for the heads up. Because unless we keep our kids under a cheerfully decorated rock, they’re going to get things like this, so it’s good to know about.

    How deep do the owies go in their poor little mouths? I’m just wondering if those very bad for the environment applesauce squishie packs would be ingestible without as much pain, or other things that come through straws, bypassing some nerve endings?

  11. Mikel permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:08 pm

    I am envious that you have this amazing piece of writing history to leave to your children. It has often inspired me to write in those cute little baby books sitting on my book shelf.

  12. March 30, 2011 2:43 pm

    poor kiddos…it is unquestionably the worse thing in the world to witness your children suffering. Sending some healing energy your way and imaging those bumps gradually disappearing as I write.
    love, blessings, and peace~ elizabeth

  13. March 30, 2011 8:07 pm

    healing wishes and analgesic ice pop dreams. <3

  14. March 30, 2011 8:10 pm

    Oh, that sound incredibly horrible. I’m so sorry you guys are experiencing that. And poor Col! First the tonsils, now this! The 70% chance of no further outbreaks sounds good, though. I hope everyone’s feeling better soon.

  15. Diane Petersen permalink
    March 30, 2011 10:52 pm

    colloidal silver and tickles! and more beer (for you)!

  16. March 31, 2011 1:04 am

    So sorry – like you haven’t had enough of sour in your home lately. Way to go, Mama, easing it all with giggly tickles. You know, I had that once as a kid. It was awful. Never got it again, just one on my lip a few times a year. Poor, poor babies.

  17. March 31, 2011 9:29 am

    My mouth is throbbing just thinking about those sores, not to mention my heart, aching at the idea of your sweet babies hurting so much. Thinking of all of you. =<

  18. March 31, 2011 12:04 pm

    Oh, I’m so sorry. I think my niece and nephew had that once, but I don’t know how bad it was. That sounds so sad. I know when one has a sore mouth, it is hard to ignore it like other pain. My son just got braces yesterday, so we’re in the same sore mouth camp, I guess. :( Hang in there, Mama. I hope you get some time to write or otherwise refresh yourself soon.

  19. March 31, 2011 11:46 pm

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  20. April 1, 2011 4:38 am

    “…vacation resort: liquor store.” So true.

    I love how you spin the most awful situations into beautiful, funny stories. Hang in there. Maybe you’ll get a shot at the vacation resort too.

  21. permalink
    April 1, 2011 11:15 am

    sounds awful. sheesh, i hope this summer finds you all germ free!!

    with lots of cold beer for the grown ups. xo

  22. April 3, 2011 2:55 pm

    Oh, man. At our house I can’t bring myself to say the H-word so we call it by the euphemistic Creepy Crud instead. Em got it when he was very little — not in his mouth — but on his lips. Every single blessed time he has a cold of any duration the final parting shot is to develop the outbreak. And we break out the lysine. I hope you never have to see it again over there. In the mouth sounds AWFUL and not to be repeated…

  23. April 5, 2011 9:51 am

    Rachel, this must have been so hard, being helpless, watching your babies hurt. I hope they’re better now. And that you are too.


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