Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Birthday Scare

Today is Colin's ninth birthday. Things were going smoothly. In hindsight maybe a little too smoothly. Colin had requested ricotta gnocchi in light tomato sauce, fresh bread, and of course Birthday Cake. By two I had finished the cake. WHEW! I also made fresh ricotta cheese for the gnocchi and was ready to make the sauce. Yes I said I made cheese. I can't find ricotta anywhere around here so I made it. I will post the instructions later, probably Thursday.

David took off early today so he could pick Colin up from school when it let out at 1:30 for a special outing. They went to Old Town Mall to get some gelato and pick out his birthday present. No party this year. We alternate family only celebrations with big all out parties. Next year it's party time. This year Dave and Colin enjoyed themselves a lot even though the gelato place turned out to be closed.

We had visited Old Town Mall over the weekend and picked out a book about identifying Malawi spiders because Colin keeps finding things like this in the yard.

He always wants to know what kind of spider it is. Ummm....I dunno...Horrifyingly huge? The kind I don't want to touch me? The kind I don't want to find in the house, EVER? I know it isn't a jumping spider or a black widow and that is pretty much the end of my spider identification skills. So we thought it would be a good choice. Colin surprised us by passing by the spider book and picking out a book about attraction wildlife to your southern African Garden and little carved wooden turtle. He spent most of the rest of the afternoon planning what we need to do to attract more wildlife. I tend to think we have enough critters running around the yard but if Colin gets his way the gardeners are going to be pretty busy for a while. When he finished outlining his plans for the yard he decided to collect some flowers for his flower press.

Just as I was pulling the gnocchi out of the oven Dakota told me David needed me in the living room, NOW. I Sighed, left the gnocchi in the oven for a few more minutes and went to the living room where I found this.

Mom take a deep breath I am blogging instead of sobbing on the phone with you so everything is fine. If you don't see the problem look at the eyes. Yes I know the picture is a little blurry, sorry about that. One of his pupils was complete dilated and unresponsive. Unless you have been to the eye doctor quite recently a blown pupil is usually very bad news. It is a symptom of stroke, serious brain injury, or hemorrhaging in brain. Malawi is NOT the place you want to be if you are having a serious medical problem. Trust me on this. Thank goodness we are with the embassy and the embassy has it's own medical unit. We called the med unit and told the person on call what was happening. Within in minutes we were on our way to med to meet the PA praying the whole way.

No he didn't get bit by the spider or a black mamba. He didn't even get stung by a bee on a pretty flower. Keep reading.

Colin was examined, eyes looked at, vision checked, reflexes tested, he was even assessed for signs of bilateral weakness and questioned about head injuries. Nothing. Other than the dilated pupil he seemed fine. We could not figure out why this was happening. Finally I remembered when he was picking flowers earlier he had picked a bloom from the angels trumpet in the backyard. I made him put it down and wash his hands. There are two species commonly called angels trumpet. Both are gorgeous and both are also very very poisonous. I asked the PA if he thought that could be it. He hit the computer looking for information.

God bless Wikipedia: Contact with the eyes can cause pupil diliation (mydriasis) or unequal pupil size (anisocoria). BINGO!

The PA called poison control in the states to verify the information. Colin couldn't remember touching his eyes or getting anything into his eyes but apparently he did, and his pupil was dilated as a result. Finally the mystery was solved. The only medical treatment was a full to the elbow scrub down to remove any remaining traces of toxin. Colin didn't get bit by a snake or hit his head. He just picked a pretty flower that happened to be very bad news. The pretty flower with the bees in the picture above. How is he going to brag about that on the playground? "Oh Yeah? That's not dangerous! I picked a flower!"

I could breathe again. The weight on my chest was lifted. Eventually we were on our way home to his special dinner and birthday cake. Even after the wait, the excitiment, the unexpected trip to Med, Colin seemed pretty happy about his cake. All's well that ends well.

Public Service Announcement!

Datura and Brugmansia also known as Angel's Trumpet are gorgeous flowers. Big and showy they are real show stoppers. They even smell good. The are also dangerous as all get out. We are lucky that gardening is one of my hobbies and I knew Colin had handled a poisonous plant or we would probably still be at med monitoring Colin for signs of a brain bleed just becuase he got a tiny drop of plant sap in his eye. We are also lucky he didn't ingest any since he is a habitual nail chewer. If you have one of these plants in your garden, especially if you have pets or children you may want to consider having it removed or at least be aware of the danger. Wear gloves! Don't touch your eyes! If you see these plants in a public space do stop and admire them but don't touch and don't let your children touch.




Emily said...

That would be so scary. I am glad you were able to figure it out. I would have never guessed something like that.

Happy Birthday, Colin!

Jill said...

Do yourself a favor ... go to Chennai next.

Because as cr*ppy as a post as it was (at least for my family), you'll be hard pressed to find spiders as big as those (holy heck I'd have cr*pped in my pants if I had to see that every week ...) OR any kind of plant that is poisonous ... Actually you'll even have trouble FINDING plants - not a lot of greenery in the slums.

Happy birthday Colin - you be sure to tell your mom that you definitely deserve a big party next year.

Jill said...

I'm actually just kidding about Chennai .. really, I am.

Becky said...

Oh wow. So glad he is okay. That is scary. Thank goodness you knew about the plant and that he is okay. Love your blog by the way.

Donna said...

What, are you deliberately setting out to make my blog look boring? I find a cockroach, you find a gigantic spider. I go to the ER for something stuck in nose, you go for possible brain injury. I give up: you win.

That must've been so terrifying. I wouldn't have had a clue what was going on. One thing is for sure: between the snakes and the flowers, I am definitely NOT bidding on Malawi.

catsynth said...

Glad everything turned out OK. That sounds scary!

I used to have an Angel's trumpet in my yard at my previous home, and we did know that it was poisonous (athough very pretty). But it's good to let everyone know.

It certainly adds some story to your WW photo of the cake. BTW, the dinner sounds really yummy, too. Hope he enjoyed it, even after his misadventure.

Connie said...

Oh... I get it. You and Donna are competing... whew!... I thought it was my fault for, perhaps, not being completely clear about the suggestion in my recent post, about being familiar with the hospital at your new post. I suggested TOURING the local ER, not making use of it. Maybe I better go double check my blog, just in case...

I am so very relieved that your birthday boy is fine. That must have been terribly frightening. I'm pretty sure I sprouted a few sympathy grey hairs for you. Thank goodness you remembered the flowers.

A Daring Adventure said...

Oh WOW, Shannon. WOW.

I saw that picture and my stomach just fell to the floor. I would have gone insane/out of my mind... craziness, Shannon.

So glad he's okay, but, truly, I've had to hit the ER with my boys so many times they can't all be counted. I'm SO glad you have a med unit there... but... still. Little boys are disaster magnets. May this be the first and last time such a thing occurs for you guys...

Bfiles said...

So glad he is alright.
Call me crazy, but shouldn't the med unit brief you on dangerous local animals/plants upon arrival?

Shannon said...

@ Donna I don't think this is a competition I want to win. Can all the yucky stuff just stop happening to both of us? That would be fine with me then we could call it a draw.

@ Connie I was thinking about your post on the way to med and the fact there really isn't an ER here. So very thankful for the med staff.

@ Bfiles Yes they did mostly stuff about snakes which served to make me even more paranoid than I already am. Unfortunately they had never heard of this plant and had no idea it was that dangerous. Med is supposed to be putting a notice out in the newsletter about it. It's a common plant even back in the states. In fact the white angel's trumpet Datura is also called Jimson weed and is native to most of the US. The other angel's trumpet Brugmansia is available at pretty much every plant nursery I have ever been in and there is never a warning. I only knew about it because of some plant workshop I went to years ago at the botanical gardens in SA. (San Antonio people NOT South Africa!)

Monica said...

OMG - we have detura ALL OVER because ed will not kill it. wait till i show him that picture. i am sure my kids have touched it before??? does it only happen in some cases??? i am sure ed's touched it repeatedly??? holy cow that was scary. i noticed the eye immediately cuz it's just plain WEIRD!!! you just couldn't have a normal kid birthday, could you??? xoxoxo

Sara said...

Phew! I am completely impressed that you could recall your son touching that plant in such a moment of stress at the med unit. Very scary! As a side note: I love the spider cake. What nine year old wouldn't love that awesome creation!

Missy said...

I didn't realize sacred Datura grew in Africa; it grows here in Tucson, Arizona also. It has been used as a drug -- if it doesn't kill you, the tea apparently gives you some wild, wild hallucinations. Oleander is another super-dangerous plant, ingested leaves can cause heart failure. I had not heard about the blown pupil thing, though -- scary! Do you call him Marilyn Manson now? (Sorry, bad joke!)