A tentative hand on my forearm woke me. I opened one eye. The nightlight illuminated the wary expression my oldest son wore. Since I tend to wake on the grouchy side, I knew whatever prompted him to brave rousing me was probably not good.
“He threw up.”
So not good. My open eye shifted to the projected time on the ceiling: 2:40 a.m. Because, of course. Stomach flu never happens at 2:40 in the afternoon. It has a pact with the smoke alarm batteries.
I rose from my cocoon of high thread count luxury and prepared myself. It isn’t my first rodeo with overnight illness. Luckily, I have a 7-step program for battling the stomach flu.
Step One: Don’t swear.
Middle-of-the-night-vomit scenes rate alongside impromptu children’s wall murals with poop as a medium. This one didn't disappoint; it was as nasty as you can imagine. I resisted the impulse to swear, out loud, anyway. The inside of my head, on the other hand, was an uncensored Yosemite Sam rant.
Step Two: Breathe through your mouth.
My youngest suffers bewilderment when he throws up (he gets that from me). The first time he puked, he cried, "I made applesauce in my mouth!" To be fair, it is a surprisingly accurate description. While the calming of the patient is instinctive, breathing through your mouth is not. My advice: do it right from the start, or you’ll make some applesauce of your own.
Step Three: Bag and Gag.
Survey Ground Zero and make a recovery plan. This incident involved every bit of the bedding and carpet next to my older son’s bed. Remove the chunks using a disposable grocery bag as a glove, or what I call the “Bag and Gag” maneuver.
Step Four: Restore order.
Once you recover from step three, reset the scene. Remove the soiled items. Put on clean bedding and pajamas, and rinse the patient’s mouth with water. If you time it right, you might be able to skip the next three steps and head back to bed. Just don’t rush it. If you do, you’ll need to proceed to step five.
I rushed it.
Step Five: Contain the spatter zone.
The ideal contamination zone should be limited to the bathroom. Regrettably, during round two, I limited it to the front of my pajamas (Remember step one.) I made my way to the bathroom employing a bent-leg-squat-trudge in an attempt to transport the contaminants without leaving a trail. By the time I got there, he was all done. Because, again, of course.
Step Six: Don’t be a hero.
Don’t be afraid to call in for backup, if it’s available. Up to this point, my spouse remained blissfully unaware of the carnage transpiring outside. So, I bent-leg-squat-trudged back down the hall and threw open our bedroom door with a huffy-hands-on-hips “Hey!” Mission accomplished. He was up.
Step Seven: Split duty.
Now that you have backup use it wisely. My husband took the patient; I took the cleanup. Around 4 a.m., our son was passed out on the full inventory of my linen closet spread in a radius usually reserved for DIY paint projects.
I recognize the 7-step plan isn’t perfect. Various factors have a significant influence on the outcome of your stomach flu event, not the least of which are a spouse’s travel schedule or a genetic propensity for sympathetic vomiting. However, when followed, the seven steps can get you through it with minimal retching and emotional scarring.
When we had climbed back into our bed, battle weary and disinfected, we were too tired for retching or scarring. There is a silver lining, however. In what can only be described as an oddly romantic moment of understanding, my husband patted my freshly scrubbed hand and said, “Well, at least you get a post out of this.”