Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How Swallowing Down A Dollar Coin Taught Him To Speak Up.

Last Friday night, Rocco couldn't wait for the the pizza to be delivered and ate a dollar coin. He ran to me, crying.

"I was just playing with it in my mouth mum! It accidentally swallowed down I can feel it going down!"

I panicked a bit - he's only six years old and not a particularly big guy (yet) and a dollar coin is pretty big. Took the situation straight to my facebook because I KNEW he wouldn't be the first kid to have done this. So many responses - most of them quite hilarious. People told me to call the 24hr medical helpline and I did. (It's 1800 022 222 you're welcome.) A lovely registered nurse took down all the information, opened up a confidential file for Rocco, told me that because he's drinking and eating ok then his oesophagus is fine but I need to take him to see a doctor within the next 24 hours.

So the next morning I took both kids to the bookshop first to buy a book for the long wait ahead at our local hospital but they didn't get a chance to look at the first page, there was NOBODY else in the waiting room and we saw a doctor straight away!

The doctor was hilarious, very straight-forward.

"Rocco. Why would you eat a coin? Open your mouth is it still in there? What do you want to be when you grow up?"

The doctor was prodding and pushing, gently. Rocco gave Max's answer, like he always does.

"A scientist."

The doctor LOVED this answer.

"Oooh, there's a lot of different scientists, which one would you like to be?"

And every time he turned Rocco around, he told him a different type of scientist.

"Biologist. Radiologist. Geneticist. Rocco your fingernails are very dirty! You can become an astronomer. Physicist. Engineer. Mum I think the coin should be working its way down, we don't really need to do an x-ray. Unless you want to do an x-ray?"

Who was I to ask for an x-ray if it wasn't needed? So we thanked him, took our new books, and left.

On Sunday morning Rocco woke up dry-retching, with bad tummy pains. Dave said he was probably fine, the dollar coin was just working its way through. I went to a meeting, wondering if Rocco would suddenly get the coin lodged somewhere and just die. That could happen. People just die, every day.

"He's fine hon! Look at him!" Rocco was jumping on the trampoline, yelling at Opie, not a care in the world.

Then yesterday he had tummy pains again, looked tired and withdrawn but went to school anyway. Even after I told him he could stay home with me. I told the teacher about the dollar coin in my sons body. I told the school office about the dollar coin inside my sons body.

There was a dollar coin inside my sons body.

When I picked him up from school, I took him back to the hospital. I knew it would probably come out in his next poo ... but I needed the x-ray for me. I can't handle any extra angst and worry in life right now. What if it was stuck? The nurses remembered him.

"Hello Rocco! Still in there huh? Do you jingle when you walk?"

We waited a little bit longer than we did on Saturday, but not much. How lucky we are to live in a country where you just waltz into a building and get medical help whenever we need. This time we saw a different doctor. He wasn't a nice doctor. Impatient, annoyed, and when Rocco was lying on the examination table the doctor reefed his tracksuit pants down to his thighs and barked.

"Just checking your groin."

I was pissed off. Rocco was - confused. As we were walking to x-ray, he just looked up at me with his little blue eyes.

"Mum, WHY did that doctor do that to my grine? What even IS a grine?"

I knelt down. I've knelt down a lot over the years, to get down onto my children's level. I have a real issue when my kids get treated with disrespect, disdain, or inequality. The power that adults have over little children is HUGE. And some of us know more than others how incredibly damaging that can be.

"Sweetheart, it's called your groin. The doctor had to check it because ... well I think he needed to try feel if you were swollen, from eating the coin. But he should have asked you properly first and I'm sorry he didn't. Would you like me to say something to him?"

Rocco said yes. "I didn't like how he did that."

I agreed. Two weeks ago I got a pap smear and before the lady even came near me with anything, she told me exactly where she was going to touch me, what she was going to do, what it would feel like, and how long it would take. It was extraordinary. It was my first pap smear in SEVEN years, and I suddenly blurted out to her that the last one I had had left me feeling ... creeped out. Hence the seven-year wait.

So still on my haunches in the empty corridor, I explained to Rocco exactly what was going to happen.

"Rocco, this is exactly what's going to happen. We're going to walk into the x-ray room and you're going to get an x-ray, which is pretty cool! Then we'll go back to the waiting room and we're going to see that doctor again. After he tells us where the coin is, and after I take a photo for you, I'm going to tell him how you felt, ok?"

"Ok mum - do I need to wear special goggles to get an x-ray?"

I laughed, no my sweetheart you don't.

He got his x-ray.

I had to wait at the door! He is so little. He is just so little, in the world.

The x-ray technician was so wonderful, and very solemnly told Rocco that the dollar coin he ate? It might have already been eaten by another kid, may have already come out of another kids bum.  It's pretty safe to say that Rocco will never eat another coin again.

We walked back into the waiting room and hardly waited at all - again, so lucky. The cranky groin doctor ushered us in, told us that yes there WAS a coin inside Rocco, currently sitting inside his bowel and would most likely come out in his next poo. I asked to see the x-ray - I needed to see it, for my own state of mind.

So there it is. We gazed at it in a kind of awe.

I expected a circle but it was a flat disc, slowly making its way through my youngest childs digestive tract. I got the photo. We had everything we needed and I was incredibly grateful and relieved. But I am a woman of my word, especially when it comes to my children.

I spoke matter-of-factly, looking right into his eyes, with other doctors and nurses in our immediate vicinity.

"Ok so, thank you so much. But I just want to say - you know when you checked Roccos groin? You just reefed his daks down without explanation or warning. And he didn't like it. Maybe next time you can warn the patient, before you do that."

Speaking up for ourselves is important. Speaking up for people who can't speak up for themselves is even more important. (If I had a time machine I'd travel back in time to when I was a little girl, painfully shy, with no voice. And I would shout back.)

The doctor was shocked, blustered something I don't know what. I just thanked him one last time, took my sons hand and we walked out of the hospital. I told him that when people make him feel funny or weird or sad, he has to speak up.

So. The coin is STILL in there!! But do you know what today is? Tuesday. Otherwise known around these parts as show and tell day. Usually Rocco grabs something last minute off the shelf but today I told him to wait by the printer.


I am so, so not the best mum in the world. The best mum in the world wouldn't send their kid off to school in a Guns and Roses hoodie because she's behind in the washing. The best mum in the world would have read all the "talking to your children about grief" literature by now. The best mum in the world didn't vacuum the breadboard that time when she was SO DAMN SICK OF OTHER PEOPLES CRUMBS. The best mum in the world doesn't let her children listen to Eminem, doesn't yell at her kids so hard in the car the reverberating echo hurts her OWN ears, doesn't need to psyche herself up just to walk inside the school to collect her children.

There is no "best mum in the world." That beast does not exist. But I can be the most ridiculous, the realest, the illest, the most-fucked-up-but-keep-going-anyway mum in the world. I can take the advice I give to my kids, drink my own goddamn medicine down and try to believe it.

"Just do your best. That's all I'm asking for. Just try."

(Siri, what is "groin?")

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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