The fever

began last Thursday. Henry was in mid-playdate, laughing it up with his pal. Within minutes the happy chatter had subsided, and I could hear some quiet grousing. Then he left his room to tell me that his friend had to leave. "This isn't any fun," he announced. His face was flushed, his eyes glassy. Fifteen minutes before he had been fine. "Blargh?" I said, and felt his forehead, then took his temperature. 104.

His head kind of hurt, he said, but otherwise he felt okay. He had just realized that his friend was no fun and life was terrible, was all. I dosed him with Motrin. In the middle of the night I checked his temperature and it was 106. "Glorgh?!" I muttered, and gave him more Motrin, because it was due, and went on the Internet to see what I should do about a temperature like 106. Wouldn't that cause his brain to explode? But when I checked again it was back down to 102. I wasn't overly alarmed because he was so damned cheerful. Except he was awake, which was weird. All night, every time I checked on him. "Hi there!" he would call out as soon as I walked into the room. As if it was completely fine that he wasn't sleeping. Just lying around, waiting for me to visit him again.

The next day we went to the doctor, and everything checked out fine. His throat wasn't red; his ears were perfection. His eyes were still wet and bizarre, but he was his usual chatty self. The doctor concluded that he had a mystery virus, and we were sent home.

Saturday he lay around, watching television and visiting the Internet, his temperature hovering in the mid 100s, thanks to the fever-reducing medications. At 6:30 p.m., it was time to give him some more. "My eyes feel really hot," he said. It was the first complaint he had uttered all day, and I was alarmed. I felt his forehead and my hand burst into flames. I checked his temperature. It wouldn't even read on the thermometer. HI, it said. I couldn't figure this out. Was the thermometer saying hello to me? HI, it said again. HI. HI. HI. I kept rechecking. It gave me a number. 108. Then another, because that couldn't be right. 106.9. Then it was back over 108. Then it went back to telling me HI. I learned later that the thermometer will register HI if the temperature is above 111. One hundred and eleven degrees. What?

Within minutes I was putting him in a tepid bath, on order of the pediatrician, who had already called ahead to the ER. Scott was out getting the car, and Henry and I were wrestling in the bathroom. Henry was less than happy about the cool-bath idea, and he had heard me talking about the hospital, and he really felt strongly that the hospital was the last place he wanted to go. Get in some lukewarm water, then get hauled off to get poked? No, that was not in his plan at all. I told him he really had no choice in the matter. He begged to differ. This went on for a minute or two, a minute that seemed to stretch on forever while my brain screamed he's going to get himself worked up until his fever climbs even higher oh dear God. Our friend Jen was there, and can testify to the fact that as I persuaded him to get in the tub, he wailed, "The world is lost!" I would have laughed, except I wondered if it really was. Isn't this how it happens? It seems like a harmless virus--and then? I couldn't let my brain go to that place, but my brain was making plans to go there, picking up tourist brochures and hotel info for its trip to Fearville.

Somehow we got him dressed and found our way to the emergency room. Henry was already less feverish, thanks to the drugs, and chatting happily with the nurse and anyone else who would look at him. He managed to confuse the entire staff with his description of his symptoms. "My throat doesn't hurt, but it did feel heavy." "My stomach hurt up here [points to shoulder] but then it traveled down here and now it doesn't hurt but everything tastes thick." I watched the doctor on call admonishing a mom who was feeding her sick baby soda in a bottle. "If that's Coke, I don't know what I'm going to do," the doctor said. I loitered so that I could see what she was going to do. It was Coke. She gave the mom a significant look. It was disappointing. Minutes later, this same doctor said of Henry, "If this kid has a bacterial infection I will eat my hat." "I don’t believe you even own a hat, you liar," I said to her. No, I didn't. I thanked her and waited for the blood test results to come in.

I'm skipping right over the description of the nurse getting blood out of my son. You can't make me talk about that. I won't tell you how Henry cried out, "I'm begging you on my life!" when she blew a vein and had to try again on his other hand. You never heard that part.

So we waited for a long time while Henry lay there, an IV line in his hand in case he needed antibiotics, Scott reading to him from A Field Guide to Monsters, me trying not to imagine all the terrible diseases that were probably wrecking his little body. But then all the blood and urine test results came back negative. Once again, the diagnosis was a virus, and all we could do was wait the damn thing out. Sunday the fever once again went up to 106, but yesterday it only went up to 102. Today the strep test results came back negative, but we figured that because his fever was gone. Gone! And now we are done being sick for the next two years at least. We've paid our dues. I'm pretty sure that's how it works.