Having a short gut baby means regular loose bowel movements are normal, sometimes restricting, often requiring extra considerations and planning. But for us gastroenteritis is a whole new level.

Through diet and loperamide we’d managed to get Clara’s stools somewhat under control. There was still something I felt was a challenge though, we weren’t where I wanted them to be yet but I don’t know what it was. This is why we tried the Oatly Barista drink.

Clara’s bout of gastroenteritis landed her in hospital in March but thankfully only for a day. She was sick first thing in the morning in bed, which was manageable and meant I’d be staying at home to look after her. But the vomits after that weren’t manageable at home- they were green.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her vomit green since the fateful night when she was a couple weeks old. I didn’t blog about it at the time as what started off as fearing the absolute worst, turned into a very difficult week of gastroenteritis for all three of us at home, which followed on from something else horrendous I’ll share another time. I switched my Instagram account to private and didn’t write on the blog. It wasn’t a great time for us.

An urgent call to 111 who advised A&E immediately, an urgent call to Dean to come home from work as I was in no state to drive and certainly couldn’t run the risk of Clara vomiting where I couldn’t see her. Whilst connecting to 111 I was frantically bag packing for a couple nights admission – I just knew what they’d say, but I needed to hear it from them. As I’ve always said: Green needs to be seen (fast!)

Dark green vomit (bile) is always presumed to be a bowel obstruction until proven otherwise

Thankfully, Clara’s green vomits stopped at midday. We were in A&E for nearly 9 hours in a private room, and Clara was relatively content in herself and willing to snack on her vegetable crisps. An X-ray showed a few loops in her bowel that were enlarged but that’s also common with a viral infection so we weren’t going to rush to do anything.

We tried her with a small baby jar of food and that was spectacularly vomited everywhere. She hadn’t passed much (if anything, it’s hard to remember) in terms of stools so I was beginning to worry there was an obstruction. Thankfully, fate proved otherwise and (less thankfully) nearly 10 days of diarrhea followed. It was like nothing we’ve experienced before – so exhausting my mum came over one afternoon and Dean and I just slept. A week later, we finally braved leaving the house to go for a walk, Clara wrapped in disposable absorbent blankets in the pushchair but both in desperate need of fresh air.

That was only 4 weeks ago. But it feels like months. And it’s amazing how something so simple as a vomiting bug can put life into perspective. I had no doubt that first day, with the green vomits, that we were reversing a year and we were about to re-experience 2018. I couldn’t talk myself out of what I thought would happen – green vomits, emergency surgery, possibly a stoma, likely TPN. Everything good life had teased us with would no longer be possible. When you’re in that moment it’s hard to think anything but. Green vomits aren’t common – but then neither is Clara.

So moving onto this week, today.

We came home from playgroup on Tuesday and just as I put Clara to bed for her afternoon nap I was woken by the sound of spectacular vomit. Everywhere. What?! Why?! Then the viral rash appeared all over her body and later that afternoon, the diarrhea kicked in. This time I just had a good gut feeling (excuse the pun) that she was okay to stay home, and didn’t need medical attention. This was a “normal” bug. Having said that, we did contact the on call GP to confirm Clara’s rash was viral as it was getting worse on all of her arms and legs as the day went on and although we know she gets this rash when her immune system is compromised, we hadn’t ever seen it like this). The GP asked us to describe the vomit and the first thing I said was with a big smile was, “It wasn’t green!” – he replied, “It’s amazing what a bit of perspective can do, hey.” Damn right.

This rash was on both arms, legs, hands, and had spread to her face.

Part of me is wondering if it’s a random gastro bug that is simply coincidence, or if its related to the Oatly Barista drink compromising her gut at the weekend. I don’t know – and I won’t know, for she won’t be on Oatly Barista again. Could it be a delayed reaction to Rapeseed Oil, a common allergy? I’m not sure.

I’m incredibly grateful we’re not experiencing this gastro bug in the same way we did in March. It might be because I’m not ill this time, but it feels more manageable. It might just be that we’ve dealt with it so soon that we’re familiar with it. If you’re reading this as a parent of a bowel/short gut or immuno-compromised baby, I’ll post separately about how we manage gastroenteritis for our short gut baby – from D&V to hydration and nutrition.

What’s harder to manage is balancing work on no sleep. Our social life is on pause, of course, as we can’t take Clara anywhere like this and wouldn’t want to risk passing the virus on. But we’ve made sure to get out for a brief walk around the village each day, but only after she’s had a diarrhea dirty nappy so we know we’re safe for an hour or so. Thankfully I’ve got the flexibility of working from home and so has Dean, but ensuring we’re still meeting our commitments at work isn’t easy when it goes on for a number of days, especially given I’m part time and he’s self-employed.

I have started to understand why other short gut families protect their children from viral illnesses as much as they can. If work wasn’t flexible for us, how would we cope? We still pay for the childminder when Clara’s unwell and if that’s almost 3 weeks out of 8 as it has been in our case and if you’re someone who has to take unpaid leave, that can start to get unmanageable. I would never do what a lot of families do – some families don’t allow their children to go to childcare, to parks or public play places, some refuse to allow their child a birthday party for the fear or germs being spread. I kind of get it, I do. When a common cold or bug can land your child in hospital for a week and you out of work, well then it becomes more than a challenge. But, that’s never going to prepare Clara for the realities of life and all the adventure I intend it to bring her.

Regardless, Clara is happy in herself. Not only is that the biggest indicator that deep down she’s okay, but it’s a reminder that if she can be happy in tough times, we should be too.

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