One night, when the kidlet was three years old, we heard her cry out. She had been in bed for an hour or so and we thought it was simply one of her usual I’m-not-tired-so-I-will-try-every-trick-in-the-book-to-not-have-to-go-to-sleep tactics. She is extraordinarily good at these!
We went into her room to find her crying – whimpering, really.
Parents: ‘What’s wrong, darling?’
Kidlet: ‘I stuck a pebble up my nose.’ (It actually sounded like ‘I stuck a pebble up my dose’ because her nose was, of course, blocked. She helpfully illustrated her story by pointing to her left nostril.)
Kidlet: ‘I stuck a pebble up my dose.’
Parents: ‘Darling, what? Why did you do that?’
Kidlet: ‘To keep it safe.’
I had a look and sure enough, a pebble was firmly wedged up her tiny left nostril. I knew that the worst thing would be to try to get it out with a pair of tweezers – I would only push it further up, making it even harder to remove.
‘I guess we’re going to the hospital.’ I said to Aaron. Now, we’re like pretty much any other parents. We would avoid a trip to A & E at all costs. But we knew that there was no escaping this one!
So, we bundled the kidlet into the car and headed to the hospital, fortunately less than a ten minute drive from home.
As we walked up to the triage desk, I could see that it was definitely a REALLY busy night. There were parents and kids everywhere; kids that looked really, really sick. We walked in with our skipping, bright, happy three year old. Who had a pebble stuck up her nose.
‘Hi,’ I said to the triage nurse. ‘Our three year old stuck a pebble up her nose. It’s stuck there now.’
The triage nurse didn’t even look up. Clearly this was not a rare occurrence.
We gave all our details and were told to head to the waiting room.
‘How long’s the wait?’ I asked, knowing full well that this is the question that triage nurse’s despise because the answer they want to give is ‘How long is a piece of string’ but they have to be polite.
‘A while. About four hours. Maybe a little more.’ She said. Again, she barely looked up. I guess that it must be soul destroying to repeatedly see that look on the faces of parents who have just been told that they will not be sleeping, possibly ever again.
By this stage, the kidlet had turned into the happiest and most social kid in the world. Sure she had a pebble stuck up her nose, but it was night-time and dark and she was out and there were people around. ‘I have a pebble stuck up my dose,’ she told anyone who would listen, pointing to her nostril.
We asked her to sit with us. ‘Sweetie,’ I said. ‘Everyone else in here has come to the hospital because they are really, really sick. That is usually why kids have to get out of bed and come to the hospital. They have things that it would be better if you don’t catch. So please sit here with us. And absolutely do not speak to anyone holding a bucket. We do not want you to get gastro. Daddy and I do not want to get gastro. Got it? Don’t. Talk. To. Anyone. With. A. Bucket.’
We settled in for what we were expecting to be a long wait, so were very surprised when after about 10 minutes, a nurse called out to us.
‘Now,’ she said to the kidlet. ‘What do we have here?’
‘I have a pebble stuck up my dose/nose.’
‘Hmmm, let me see.’
She had a look and then turned to us. ‘Okay. That’s really stuck in there! I think she’s going to need to see the doctor, so I’m afraid you are in for a long wait. But let’s just try something; it may work. It may not.’
We were prepared to try anything to avoid a four hour wait with all the bucket children back in the waiting room!
She turned to the kidlet. ‘I want you to lie down on the bed, and open your mouth, okay?’
And then she turned to me. ‘And I want you to block her right nostril – the one without the pebble. Then, I want you to blow into her mouth, really hard. It may dislodge the pebble making it possible for me to remove it.’
‘Really?’ I said.
‘It may work, it may not,’ said the nurse. ‘Let’s try it.’
She explained what we were about to do to the kidlet who immediately asked, ‘Is it going to hurt?’
‘Not at all,’ promised the nurse.
I pressed the kidlet’s right nostril, blocking it tightly and leant down over her. ‘A really deep breath – hard!’ the nurse instructed.
I did as I was told and blew into the kidlet’s mouth.
And sure enough, the pebble not only became dislodged, but shot out of her nose. And across the room.
Apparently, the look of shock and surprise on both my and the kidlet’s face was hysterical because the nurse and Aaron burst out laughing.
I recovered from my surprise, stood up and threw my arms around the nurse. And then the kidlet. We couldn’t get out of the hospital fast enough!
I was reminded of this story the other day when I was speaking to a parent who had spent the evening before in A & E with her daughter, who has type 1 diabetes. Thanks to a tummy bug, her daughter was seriously dehydrated and dealing with very high BGLs.
The conversation shifted to the amount of time she has spent in doctors’ offices, hospitals and at the GP in the 12 months since her daughter’s diagnosis. It amounted to hours and hours and hours and hours. Her daughter had missed days of school because it had taken so long for a correct diagnosis (their GP kept telling them it was just a virus and her daughter needed rest). After a couple of weeks of this, she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, drifting in and out of consciousness, before they were told she had type 1 diabetes.
‘I’m so sorry,‘ she said to me after we’d been speaking for about an hour. ‘I sound like I’m whinging.’
‘You absolutely don’t!’ I said. ‘And even if you did, I think you have something to whinge about.’
The truth is that she really wasn’t whinging. She was being very matter of fact about her daughter’s diabetes journey so far. She didn’t complain about any of the HCPs she had seen – although it would have been completely warranted if directed towards the bloody GP and his misdiagnosis.
She asked me about our kid and if she had ever been taken to A & E. ‘Only once,‘ I told her. (Actually, there was a second time when she was about 4 and had a really high fever, but we ended up at the GP clinic at the Children’s instead of having to deal with the three hour wait of the emergency department.)
‘Really? Wow! Lucky you!‘ she said. ‘Was it for something serious.’
‘Um, no. Not so much.’ I said and I told her the pebble up the nose story. She loved it – she thought it was hilarious.
But that was it; one visit to the hospital with a perfectly healthy kid who wanted to keep a pebble safe so she hid it. Up her nose. And we were out in less than an hour thanks to a superhero nurse called Nicole!
Kids with diabetes learn early on that they will be spending more than their fair share of time visiting HCPs. Their visits to A & E are often for much nastier things than a stuck pebble. Their visits last much longer than an hour.
I thought about this after I had said goodbye to the mum I’d been chatting with. In fact I thought about if for a long time. One A & E visit, appointments for her immunisations and maybe one, two at the most GP visits per year. That’s our kid’s encounters with doctors.
The mum called me the next day and asked if it would be okay to tell people the ‘pebble up the nose’ story.
‘Absolutely!’ I said. I asked her if I could write a little about our chat.
‘That’s fine,’ she said. ‘We all learn from each other. I really learnt a lot from you yesterday. Talking to adults with diabetes is really helpful for me.’ Then she paused. ‘Although, really, that trick about how to dislodge a stuck pebble from a kid’s nose is probably the most useful thing I’ve ever heard.’