When smelly children need surgery

Everyone has heard about those kids who stick something up their nose.

I’ve often thought what sort of idiot, albeit a pint sized one, does that? Images of a manky, sniveling little boy, with a crusted up, snot smeared face and unruly hair spring to mind. The sort of child who pulls wings of butterflies and feasts on worms and bugs. You know the type, they usually feature in the local paper, with a picture of the child proudly clutching the spanner set he somehow misplaced up his nasal cavity and his proud parents beaming away behind, quoted as saying “We wondered why all the magnets in the house kept sticking to his face.”

I also wondered what happened when this unfortunate event occurred. How did the child in question breath, when their nostrils were stuffed full of unidentifiable stuff? How did the parents not notice that little Jimmy had snorted his peas off his plate instead of eating them? And how on earth do they ever get the ‘foreign object’ back out again?

Last week I found out that I have one of ‘those’ children – oh what a proud parental moment that was. So off the back of that, I can now confirm the following. Yes, breathing is indeed restricted with something lodged up your nostril. It is easy to miss something different about your child, if it’s not visible to the eye. And believe it or not, it can take surgery.

The first clue that something was where it shouldn’t be was that my son smelt horrible, with a nasty whiff about his person that would come and go. The type of odour that simply refused to budge, even with much vigorous washing and twice daily teeth brushing. It’s hard to say exactly what the smell was even, somewhere between sour milk and a rotting vegetable perhaps. Fairly unpleasant in other words.

The pong went on for quite a while, until it escalated to such a point that my maternal alarm bells started clanging loudly in my ears. By this time I could no longer hug him on my lap without having to turn my head away to gasp for breath. Regardless of how much you love your child, no mother wants to sit and bury their nose into a compost heap every day.

Granted I do have a particularly sensitive nose, and could even detect a smoker walking 5 floors down and 500m away when pregnant, but this time it was more than me being fussy. So why wait till I was gagging you may ask? Well, apart from the whiff he was perfectly healthy. We checked him all over decaying flesh or rupturing boils, and like I said, he was washed and brushed regularly. Perhaps it was the fear of having a child diagnosed with halitosis that simply riddled me with fear.

So anyway, off to the doctor we went, where I told him that my son smelled horrible.

The doctor, as I expected, looked at me like I was something of a heartless cow when it came to my mothering care and concern. Then he looked into my sons mouth, and lo and behold spotted tonsils the size of walnuts. Or Brazil nuts. Or was it almonds. Anyway, regardless of the nut, apparently they were enormous and stopping all the air flowing down his throat. So the enlarged tonsils were blamed for the smell and I was referred to an ENT specialist to discuss having them removed.

A few weeks later we sat in front off the consultant. “He smells” I said, bracing myself for another raised eyebrow and resisting the urge to let out a “Mooo”, like the nasty Friesian that I am. The consultant looked at my son, turned him both ways and then informed me that he probably had something stuck up his nose. OK. Didn’t see that one coming. His nose certainly didn’t look any bigger than normal, and as far as I could remember, I hadn’t noticed him foraging around in the tool box and sniffing up a spanner. Perhaps it was a piece of Lego, or one of those wretched little Polly Pocket shoes I’m always telling my daughter to clear up.

Next stop for the doctor, the mouth, and his enormous tonsils were confirmed. They were then linked to his excessive sweating, loud snoring and irregular breathing at night, the long periods of time he spends awake and chatting in the early hours of the morning and his inability to shift a cold or cough. Well that cleared up all of those annoying habit’s then. I was told they needed to be whipped out ASAP, and as luck would have it, he had a slot to do it in a weeks time.

Marvelous, that would be the same day my husband was flying to Sydney for a week. Multitasking is one thing, but multitasking with a sick child alone is a whole other ballgame. By this stage, heartless cow was now looking more dazed and confused cow.

The night before surgery arrived, and with the bags all packed and ready for hospital, I promptly threw up. And then again. By 9am the next morning my husband had turned a rather sludgy shade of green. By 9.30 my daughter had been sent home from school. Or rather brought home, there was no way I was trotting into the school office to collect her dressed in my pyjamas.

I think it would be fair to say that so far ‘Operation Tonsil’ was not going to plan. With all of us (except the patient-to-be) now rolling around clutching buckets, the surgery was postponed for a further week. My son carried on watching Thomas, completely oblivious to the lucky escape he had just had.

A week later and into hospital we all went, lugging three enormous bags of essential items with us, only one of which was half unpacked. The other two sat in the corner completely untouched. My little boy was taken away by scalpel welding men in blue coats, and two nail biting parents sat in his dismal little room and watched the minutes tick by. Time does indeed go by much slower when you’re waiting for your precious offspring to survive.

On the way to be with him in the recovery ward I heard him long before I could see him. Weighing in at only 14kg, and just minutes out of a general anesthetic, I rounded the corner to find two nurses unsuccessfully trying to pin my little boy down onto the bed. Like a child possessed, he screamed blue murder and understandably thrashed around as he tried to figure out where he was and why he felt so odd. I have to say his show of strength was pretty impressive for his size, however it meant that he somehow managed to pull the tube out of his hand, and as I laid down with him to try and calm him down, he nearly catapulted me off the bed.

That night in hospital went as well as could be expected, considering the small and depressing room, the one colour suits all food and the rails of the bed that fitted in just perfectly between each of the vertebra down my spine.

For some unknown reason, all of the nurses also saw fit to raise their voices by several decibels as they barged into the room to check his stats, every 15 minutes throughout the night. To make continuous sleep even harder, each time they left they failed to close the door properly behind them. This left me with little choice but to climb over the rails of a ridiculously high bed, close the door myself and then climb back up and over and in again – in the dark. And all without waking the small restless child sprawled across the majority of a very small bed.

Did I mention this was a private hospital? No, I wouldn’t have guessed it either, if I hadn’t spotted the price list on the way in.

So now we’re home and I’m sitting with my little ticking time bomb of pain. Apparently he’s going to get a whole lot worse before he gets better, and he runs the risk of bleeding if he doesn’t eat toast everyday. Toast? I can’t even bribe him to open his mouth for ice cream right now. As far as he knows, his throat has just been attacked with a cheese grater.

This week is all about keeping him medicated up to the eye balls and preventing the dog from bouncing all over him on the sofa. It would be so much easier if he could understand why a day out ended in all this pain, but bless him, he doesn’t have a clue. Instead his sad little face looks up at me and I can just tell he’s thinking “What the hell did you let them do to me, you cruel and heartless cow?”

Oh, I almost forgot. The smell. That, I’m pleased to say, is gone. The ‘foreign object’ is still just that, as we have no idea as to what it might be. Let’s just say that if you blew your nose and that shot out onto the tissue you’d be somewhat alarmed, and probably feeling more than a little bit sick.

It’s sitting on the dresser right now, entombed in a plastic tub. I’m not exaclty sure why I’m keeping it, maybe so when he’s older I can whip it out and say “You may not have eaten worms and bugs as a child, but you did stick this up your nose. Happy 21st!”

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