Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

A "non-blanching" rash, a fever and a scared mummy

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 01 May 2012

Kitty has been ill again. This time it was quite scary. There was a temperature of 104 and a rash that didn’t disappear when you pressed it – the technical term for this kind of rash is a “non-blanching” rash and it’s a symptom of meningitis.

But Kitty didn’t have meningitis – of course not. She wasn’t ill enough for that. But she was ill, no mistake. Day after day of fever cascaded in on us, accompanied by the horrible rash and glued-up eyes. Sitting on the sofa rocking and soothing a boiling hot and miserable toddler went from being a novelty to being my entire reality.

When your child is sick, it is impossible to gauge how to react. On one hand, you are acutely aware that you are a new mother and that every new and different illness is going to be frightening. On the other hand, that vision looms in your head – you know the one I mean, the one where you are in hospital at the bedside of your child, who is comatose possibly on a drip, while a serious man in a white coat turns on you and barks “Why the hell didn’t you bring her in sooner?”

Kitty saw three doctors in the end. The first two dismissed her fever as a virus and the rash as a non-serious thing associated with the virus. The third doctor I saw immediately prescribed a course of antibiotics (“the most obvious case of strep throat I’ve seen for a while”) and calmly informed me that Kitty’s rash was unconnected with the strep and was eczema , which by this point had been left to run untreated for a week. It was like an episode of House.

She’s now on the mend, after 10 horrible days and three consecutive howling, sleepless nights as the eczema really kicked in and her throat swelled up. And do you know what? I felt like such an idiot for seeing that third doctor – like a really mad, over-anxious mother, snapping at people who said that Kitty looked “ok” and fuming about “stupid” doctors who don’t know anything.

But I was right, damn it! And that doesn’t make me feel good. In fact, nothing about the past week makes me feel anything but awful. It makes me feel scared about how much sicker Kitty might have got if I hadn’t sought out a second and third opinion. It also makes me feel scared for certain other mothers I know – and thousands I don’t – who would take the first diagnosis as fact and then sit and suffer in silence.

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