My mother probably will mind me saying this, but she is something of a hypochondriac. Not so much where her own health is concerned, but when it comes to her children being sick she most definitely overreacts.
As a child we spent so much time at the doctor’s surgery the waiting room felt like a second home. I can still picture the play area now… Before and after the refurbishment.
Long beforeGoogle self diagnosis was even a possibility, my mother regularly visited the local WH Smith to thumb through their medical dictionary. So much so they eventually wrapped it in cellophane, perhaps in an attempt to get her to fork out and actually buy her favourite book.
I can vividly remember if I ever even so much as hinted to my mother I might be feeling unwell, the first thing she would do was make me look up at the light, the initial check for meningitis at the time to ascertain if your neck was stiff. And any hint of a rash would always be submitted to close scrutiny under a glass.
When we were slightly older and saw an episode of Casualty in which a disturbed mother was making her child ill, we learned the term Munchausen by Proxy and used it to taunt her.
So I always resolved I would be a relaxed parent when it came to illness.
I was not going to be one of those mad mothers who dial 111 every time their child gets a sniffle and takes them to the GP just to check their nappy rash isn’t something more serious.
And so far I have remained calm.
My daughter has had her share of colds and I just let her snuffle her way through them since she didn’t seem to be suffering.
I didn’t buy any medical kit until the nurse told me I’d have to give her Calpol after her first set of jabs.
And I only bought a thermometer last week, when she was almost seven months old, because a mother at playgroup expressed surprise when I said I hadn’t got one.
Maybe that was where it all started to unravel.
The other mother’s baby had been ill with a fever and kept her up all night at the weekend. And while he now seemed fine, he indulged in some face pawing with my daughter, spreading invisible germs I can only see in hindsight.
Anyway, she’d had a runny nose for about a week already, when she awoke at 2am and would not settle back to sleep.
Though she seemed okay, not floppy or bawling her head off, she felt unusually hot.
But testing out my new forehead strip thermometer at 4am it said her temperature was normal.
Then she started coughing and I resolved to take her to the doctor in the morning.
She woke up smiling and perky, but still hot and coughing, so we trundled down first thing to get in the queue for the unscheduled appointments.
When we got in to see the GP she began grinning and flirting with him, and I babbled excuses about why I was wasting his time.
“I know she looks fine, but she’s had a cold for a week, and now her cough sounds nasty and her temperature seems high.”
“It is high”, he told me sternly, showing me the reading of 38.7 and ordering me to buy a proper digital thermometer.
After examining her further he diagnosed an ear infection, as well as the cough, prescribed antibiotics, and instructed me to give her Calpol for the temperature.
“If her temperature is not down within four hours you need to take her to A&E”, he told me. Twice.
I hurried home via the chemist feeling guilty and a little dazed.
We holed up in bed with biscuits, toys and Netflix and a range of plastic syringes for dispensing sticky sweet liquids into her mouth and she had a feed and dozed off.
But four hours later her temperature was still high. And fifteen minutes after giving her more Calpol it had gone up.
I called her father and told her we were off to the hospital.
“You’re mad!”, he scoffed. “There are more germs there. You’re turning into your mother.”
But a medical professional had told me to go, and you don’t take chances with your child’s life, I retorted indignantly.
We checked into A&E and took a seat in a waiting area full of broken toys and several slumped children holding cardboard sick bowls or bandaged arms, while CBeebies blasted out of a huge TV screen.
It wasn’t long before we were called in to see the nurse and I explained the GP had told us to come.
“I’m not one of those mad mothers,” I said.
“That is so naughty”, tutted the nurse. “He should not have told you to come. She looks fine, you are the best judge of baby’s health. And now you’re going to be stuck here for hours.”
Four hours later I arrived home with a leaflet on how to treat a high fever.
My mother seemed pretty blasé about our little trip.
She’d Googled it and concurred with the paediatrician that I needed to combine Calpol and Neurofen to treat the temperature.
“At least you’ll be able to gauge the seriousness of her condition in future”, she said sagely.
Diagnosis: Hypo-hypochondriac, hereditary.