The morning after we arrived in Dulacca, I was changing my son's clothes when I found some mysterious bites on his feet. There seemed to be a little swelling, a little redness - alot like a mosquito bite that has been freshly made. There were at least three or four on his feet. I didn't like the way they seemed swollen though, so I gave him some children's antihistamine, and decided to keep an eye on them.
As the day went on, the swelling slowly got worse. He spent alot of time just laying around on his bed. Most of the morning in fact. He didn't want to come out and play or eat at all. I would coax him out to play, and as soon as I'd finish a game, he'd just go back to his bed. After some time, I carried him out and sat him on the couch in the lounge room. He was happy to be in company, but - unusually for him - he remained seated on the couch. The swelling was much worse by now, but hadn't moved past his ankles. Being in the middle of nowhere, I was not convinced it was worth a trip to a hospital or doctor at this point. He had no problems breathing, and there were no other issues besides the swelling.
But then I saw him visibly uncomfortable when trying to stand on his feet... when I saw him very consciously and carefully climb back onto the couch to sit...something clicked inside.
He was in pain.
It's so hard to tell when he is hurting, not only because he simply can't tell me, but also because he just has a high threshold to pain anyway. So seeing him react this way to the swelling immediately triggered a panic inside me. He must be in agony to show this much reaction.
We decided to ring the hospital in Miles, the next town, for advice. They basically said to come in so they can observe him. It seemed like so far away, but in reality, it was less than an hour to drive. I guess it seemed far to me because where we live, we have clinics all over the place and a hospital barely 25 minutes away. (Having said that, we'd usually have to wait about 1 hour to see a doctor anyway).
When we got to the hospital, they immediately took him in to be checked. No waiting. It was wonderful. The doctor on duty didn't really know what to make of the bites. We were pretty sure they were not spider bites - I am still certain they were just mosquito bites. From little black mosquitoes. Different to the ones around home. But he seemed to be reacting to them badly. As we were inspecting, I noticed another huge lump on the side of one knee, one on his right wrist, and more lumps around his feet. The only thing that concerned the doctor was the formation of blisters at the site of the bites. Little Man's feet had swollen so much, that pockets of fluid had built up at the bite sites. This didn't seem to fit what she understood about allergic reactions, so she referred it to the regional paediatrician, in another town.
Honestly, the pictures here don't show just how bad the swelling was.
But it gives you some idea of what was going on at least.
So photos were taken and emailed off, and we waited for a response.
They didn't know what to make of them.
Another doctor was brought in to check his feet, someone more senior in position than the first doctor.
She didn't know what to make of them either.
By this time, Hubby and I were sort of looking at each other askance, wondering if these people knew what they were doing. Fortunately, our son was managing ok... especially given that it was way past his bedtime by now, and he was extremely tired, and in an unfamiliar environment. He cried and wouldn't stop moving long enough to get good photos. He fell asleep, then had to be woken for various checks every 20 minutes. Needless to say, he was not impressed. But given what we all know about kids on the spectrum and their tendencies for meltdowns, he was doing very well.
Some of the blisters had popped or wept and crusted over by now. And much of the swelling was reduced.
Basically, the conclusion was that although the source of the bites was unknown, it was an allergic reaction of some sort (ya think??). He was prescribed phenergan and prednisolone to manage the symptoms, and admitted overnight for observation.
And so my son and I spent a freezing night in a country hospital, (it turned out to be 3C that night, and the air conditioner was stuck at 'on' all night - freezing!!), with the loveliest hospitality but questionable abilities. I didn't panic anymore once we had been checked, but I was concerned about getting my son to sleep in a hospital bed. As it turned out, I didn't have to worry... the phenergan took care of that.
Waiting to be collected the next day was very stressful. He was well enough to walk around, and was no longer satisfied sitting in a hospital bed. He kept trying to abscond. We had tantrums and tears. I was starving, cold, feral and in desperate need of a shower.
Our ride finally arrived and we were discharged with instructions to keep his feet covered when outdoors to protect them, and continue with the medication, presumably until the swelling is gone - but they didn't actually specify how long to continue it.
I remember thinking with a strange kind of sick humour that I should be awarded a ribbon of some sort for my first night spent in hospital with a child, by someone who was far more experienced than I - my little sister. The experience wasn't entirely unpleasant, but it was very annoying and most inconvenient. I am very consciously grateful that it wasn't for anything more serious. And I am glad my son's feet are ok, and that he recovered from the swelling alot quicker than expected.