It’s not fair to anyone for me to be working in this condition

I wake up at 4am feeling nauseous.

I’m not that surprised. My girls have been vomiting all weekend. Not just vomiting, epic vomits. Like the kind where they vomit a lot and you think, “Wow.” Then they vomit again. And then a third time. And now it’s on the couch, the carpet, the TV, basically everywhere in a 50 foot radius. And then just when you think this may never end, they burst into tears, because vomiting makes kids cry.

And they want a hug. But they’re freaking covered in vomit. I mean, you have to hug them, of course, but you have to at least attempt to strip off some of those vomit-soaked clothes first.

I get this horrible sense of foreboding, but I somehow manage to fall back into a restless sleep and wake up later with my alarm. I still feel really nauseous and my stomach kind of hurts. But I get up and force myself to take a shower.

The living room still sort of smells like vomit. I swear, we cleaned it. I went to the drug store and asked the clerk what would get out baby vomit from the carpet and I got a bottle of Woolite. But I don’t know, maybe there’s a patch of vomit somewhere that we missed. Probably there is. There was just so much of it.

If anything could have made me feel less like eating breakfast, it’s walking into a living room that smells like vomit. Thank God both kids are already awake. I feel like if I have to argue with anyone or do anything unexpected today, I will break down.

The daycare serves breakfast till 8am, and I think I’m going to make it. We arrive and as I bring my littlest into the toddler room, I see a bunch of one-year-olds sitting around the table with little bowls of food. But I don’t see the food cart. “Can she still get breakfast?” I ask.

“Sorry, you’re too late,” they tell me. It’s 8:01am.

“Is it possible for her to get any food at all?” I beg. “She didn’t want to eat before we left.” And keep in mind, if you tell me “no,” I may vomit on you.

They seat her at the table and say they’re going to try to scrounge up some food. If they’re deceiving me, I don’t even care anymore.

I drive to work. I’m really nauseous now. I wonder if I could throw up. I don’t feel like vomiting is imminent. Like I don’t think I’m going to have to pull over and yak all over the road. If I’m not actively vomiting, I’m well enough to work. Period.

In the hospital, I make a beeline for the bathroom. My stomach is cramping and I feel like I’m in labor with a vomit-baby. I lean over the toilet but nothing comes right away. It’s generally easier to birth a vomit-baby than an actual baby, but it’s just not coming. Someone knocks on the door, which totally disturbs my concentration. I can’t vomit with someone standing right outside the door.

I go upstairs and pick up my patient list. It isn’t too long. Maybe I can get through it fast. Hopefully nobody will talk to me.

I go to the bathroom. Vomit success! But it’s not that much. Maybe my symptoms are all psychosomatic, because I watched both my kids throwing up.

No, I should probably just call in sick. The world won’t come to an end. It’s not fair to anyone for me to be working in this condition.

I leave the bathroom and just stand there, debating what I should do. My boss walks by and I call his name. “Hey,” I say.

“Hey,” he says. “What’s up?”

“Um,” I say. “My girls have been throwing up all weekend and I just threw up. So … I guess I should probably go home.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” he says. “Feel better.”

“Here’s my patient list,” I say, trying to hand it to him.

“I’m not touching that,” he says, recoiling in horror. “I’ll get a fresh copy.”

Fair enough.

I drive home. Maybe I’m not that sick. Maybe I should have just stayed and worked. But then I could have given this awful bug to everyone I work with. I mean, it benefits the hospital if they don’t have half the staff out with a stomach flu. I’m sure they’d rather lose me for a day than have that happen.

At home, I try to vomit in the toilet. I can’t. Maybe I should have had a bigger dinner last night. How can I be home if I’m not actively vomiting? Now everyone is going to think I’m an unreliable mom. My husband comes into the bathroom while I’m sitting on the floor by the toilet. “Maybe I should have worked today,” I say.

“I can’t tell if you’re teasing me or if you’re really insane,” he says.

Little of both, probably.

“Fizzy” is a physician who blogs at A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor and Mothers in Medicine.

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  • sdietrich17

    Always difficult decisions for Doctors when we are sick. And we always feel guilty if we go home. BTW, there is no such thing as a “stomach flu”–it is a respiratory virus….LOL

  • LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

    Fizzy, you must be suffering metabolic derangement too because you forgot to PICK UP YOUR GIRLS on the way home. I don’t believe you left them in day care? Phenergan suppositories and slow, oral rehydration would have benefitted all three of you BUT I suspect you purposely left that out of the story………Three Cheerios with a chaser of 3ccs of bubblegum pediatyle every 20 minutes is MAGIC!