September 27, 2008

Ailing Aidric
Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Laura's Peace Corps apartment in Deva was certainly nothing to be desired (from either a CouchSurfing guest or full-time inhabitant's perspective), and likely resulted in our infant son's first string of illnesses while traveling abroad.

The bare ceiling lightbulb in the old communist bloc apartment's kitchen, the only source of illumination for the room, didn't work. The bulb was good—I checked it myself—but either an antiquated fuse had blown somewhere or the wiring had gone awry. I couldn't even check the wall switch for a loose wire because the faceplate had been embedded in concrete wall, with no access to the internals. After dark, cooking had to be done with a flashlight shoved in your mouth.

The water in the moldy bathroom had to be manually shut off at the pipe because the faucet kept running, no matter what degree the handles were turned to. This resulted in an entertaining dance of levers every time you wanted to use the toilet so that the reservoir could be filled or refilled.

The landlord lived in another village, and only returned once a week or so evaluate (but not resolve) the problems—now stretching on for weeks and weeks.

It was also quite cold in the apartment with only one electric heater, which was shared between the living room and bedroom, wedging the unit halfway into each room between the semi-closed door.

There was a schizo cat present in the home who deposited hair (and a few fleas) all over the apartment. Once it took a big dump on Laura's couch/bed, apparently unimpressed with the lack of attention it was receiving because of our presence. I suppose it would've been good to have a vacuum to take care of the hair, but this Peace Corps volunteer was using glass jars (the type for preservatives) as her drinking glasses, and clearly wasn't ready to invest in anything more than an infrequently used broom.

It was on the day of our departure, yesterday, that we awoke to find Aidric with an eye infection in one of his eyes. Luckily the eye ointment needed to resolve the issue was only $2 at the local pharmacy (and was working quite well by evening's end), but we were rather embarrassed to be showing up at our next host's home with a baby sporting such a thing (especially since they were the parents of a cute two-year-old girl themselves).

Tatiana immediately blamed the dirty condition of the Laura's apartment on the eye—a sentiment only fueled when Aidric became ill with a burning fever late last night.

Only a handful of hours after arriving in Cluj, Aidric awoke in the middle of the night (probably around two or three in the morning) crying terribly. Certainly out of the ordinary, after touching the child it was immediately clear he was running a pretty strong fever.

I administered the liquid children's ibuprofen that we keep in our medical bag, and Tatiana eventually soothed him back to sleep. Both the kid and Tatiana had a rough night last night, with Aidric repeatedly waking up from discomfort and weeping every so often.

Coupled with his fever were a bout of severe diarrhea, and the vomiting of breakfast (which Tatiana describes as something on par with a horror movie). She says that he's got a stomach virus or infection, though we were quite unsure of the severity.

Tatiana says that for every day that Aidric's sick it takes a year off her life—she gets very stressed out/worried.

I tend to react to such situations with less emotion and more procedure—such and such steps need to be done at certain intervals; monitor for change; adapt if necessary. It does no good to get worked up over these things—kids are going to get sick, fall, or hurt themselves any number of times throughout the course of their young lives. Knowing the thresholds and points of escalation are invaluable.

Aidric's fever was within tolerances (we carry a little thermometer as well), so there was no need to hit the panic button. The most important thing was to get him to sleep as much as he could, keep him hydrated, and to continue monitoring the fever (while soothing with ibuprofen and paracetamol).

After much debate it was decided that we wouldn't cancel our single opportunity to go to Turda Fest, knowing full well that Aidric would get more rest asleep while he was walked around in the baby carrier than he would at home.

This ultimately turned out to be the right choice (as he slept almost the entire day in the carrier), though was certainly a bit frazzling to walk around with Aidric outdoors when he wasn't feeling well and running a fever.

Now, about twenty hours after last night's unpleasant awakening, Aidric seems to be doing much better. His eye infection is all but cleared up, and the fever has gone (although the diarrhea still remains).

Aidric is at an age where everything goes into straight his mouth—and we both know full well that traveling will expose him to all that many more germs and bacteria. Tatiana's always washing his hands, but he's an inquisitive (and instinctively disobedient) boy who's going to get the worst from his curiosity every now and again. I'm just happy that his first illness whilst we were traveling about resolved itself so quickly. I know he'll be all the stronger for it in the long run.

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