It has taken me a little while to write this post, not because of time restrictions, but because it was a traumatic experience that has shaken me up. I’m sharing this story as a warning to other parents out there. I never thought I would be writing something like this… but here I am.
It all started as a nice day, it was the last day of our family holiday on a houseboat. We were taking it easy. We slept in, had a late breakfast, did some painting and colouring. It was nearly 5;30pm before we thought about showering and being decent human beings!
My mum watched Scarlett while I showered. Once I was finished, I told her that I was fine to take over with Scarlett now and she could shower.
Scarlett had a minor tantrum about wanting to shower with nana. The boat was equipped with 6 bedrooms that all had ensuites. Since we had the luxury of a lock on the door, my mum offered to let Scarlett come in the room with her while she showered. Other parents will understand the (non)reasoning powers of a nearly 2 year old, and to avoid a full blown hissy fit, we just decided to let her stay in nanas room while she showered.
I set Scarlett up with colouring and toys before my mum locked me out so she could shower.
About 10 minutes after, and only 3-4 minutes into my mum actually showering, I hear my mum scream my name. It’s a blood curdling ‘get here now’ type of scream.
I race to her room, of course it is locked. I’m knocking and shouting ‘WHAT? IM HERE! WHAT IS WRONG?’.
My mum just keeps shouting my name and eventually I figure out that I can unlock the door from the outside using a coin or something similar. So I race to get a coin and quickly get inside the room.
What I see makes me stop in my tracks immediately.
Scarlett. On my mums bed. My mums travel medication containers, open, on her lap. And Scarlett’s mouth chewing on something.
I don’t even think before I’m racing to her and forcing her mouth open. I stick my fingers in and pull out several pieces of a half chewed tablet.
What has she eaten? What tablet is this? What tablets are missing?
She looks at me, smiles, and says ‘Lolly?’.
My mum packed all her tablets into one of those travel containers, so we don’t have the bottles for anything. Which means I don’t know which medication is which. I don’t know the dosage of them. I don’t know how many my mum takes per day. I don’t know what’s missing.
My nursing training goes out the door and I’m at a loss as to what to do.
It’s the last day on the boat, which means my mum only packed the tablets she needed to get her through since the next day we would be back home, so I can’t even compare which tablets are missing.
I tell my mum to quickly examine her containers and the remaining tablets and tell me what she thinks each tablet is.
My mum is in just as much of a panic as I am.
It hits me. We are on a boat. In the middle of the Murray river. We are three hours away from the main dock, which means we are three hours away from our car. The nearest hospital is 15 minutes away from the main dock. Which means I am a minimum of 3 hours and 15 minutes away from somewhere that can help my baby.
My phone, I think. I can call 000 or poisons hotline and they may be able to help.
No reception means no internet, no internet means I can’t look up what this half eaten tablet is. Which means I have no idea if Scarlett is minutes or hours or days away from slipping into a coma and dying.
By this stage it’s about 6:45pm. It’s dark, and under our houseboat rental agreement, we aren’t allowed to drive the boat after 5:30pm. We MUST be docked by 5:30pm otherwise we lose our bond, we void our insurance and we have to pay a hefty fine.
But fuck it. I know I had reception about an hour back, I’d prefer to be completely broke with a child who is alive.
Luckily for us, reception came back to my phone within half an hour.
My mum has established by this stage that the only tablet missing is the one that is half eaten. A slightly orange coloured tablet but she can’t remember what it’s for.
Do you know what happens when you google orange heart medication tablet? About 10,000,000 different tablets pop up. All for different things. Some super dangerous, some not.
My nursing training finally (somewhat) kicks in and I consider making Scarlett vomit, but then I also remember that sometimes it can make it worse once the tablet has come back up- fast absorbing tablets and whatnot, or tablets that have a coating to protect the digestive tract.
My grandma swears that I need to give her milk. That milk will absorb the toxins.
At this point I don’t care if it’s bullshit, Scarlett gets a big serving of strawberry flavoured milk.
Since I’ve already spent about 5 minutes looking up tablets without any success, I call 000.
Just as I’m on the phone to them my mum tells me that she thinks the tablet was a potassium tablet. She says she only thinks that it’s potassium because every other tablet she has two of but she knows potassium is only a single tablet, and there isn’t a tablet that looks similar.
I ask the operator if there is a common potassium tablet that is slightly orange in colour and just smaller than a 5 cent coin.
She tells me Slow-K is a fairly common one that matches that description.
I tell my mum the name and she says ‘YES! YES THATS IT!’
So the operator begins her inquisition.
How much of the tablet was swallowed? How much does Scarlett weigh? How old is Scarlett? How many tablets were there? Are any others missing? Is Scarlett drowsy? Do Scarlett’s pupils react to light? Is Scarlett still wanting to eat and drink? Has Scarlett vomited? Does Scarlett have any diarrhoea? How long ago was the tablet consumed? What is Scarlett’s pulse? Respiratory rate? Is she having any troubles breathing?
In the end the operator told me that if it was potassium, Scarlett has only consumed a minor dose of it and it’s nothing to worry about.
She recommended that we go to the ER anyway to be checked out.
Imagine the houseboats owner when we pulled into the main dock, at 10pm at night. There was yelling, until we explained what happened. I was expecting a huge fine and to be ushered off the houseboat immediately, and instead they offered to drive us to the hospital and told us not to worry about it at all.
A few hours later, after the doctor inspected the remains of the tablet and after some blood tests, Scarlett was given a clean bill of health and we were sent on our way.
Turns out it was potassium, but it was a low dose anyway, and since she only ate half of the tablet she was still well within normal limits.
We were lucky though, because mum had tablets in that bag that could have killed Scarlett within minutes of her swallowing them.
My mum felt terrible. She apologised profusely and just kept telling me how sorry she was. She did have the tablets in a cupboard, but she thought they were out of reach. She never anticipated that Scarlett would stand on the bed and fish them out of the cupboard.
Apparently mum had gotten into the shower and checked her a few times and she was drawing. Mum washed her hair then realised that she hadn’t heard a noise from her in a while. She peeked out and saw her on he bed with the tablets open infront of her. That’s when she screamed for me.
Luckily mum looked when she did because Scarlett very possibly could have kept eating tablet after tablet… and I don’t even want to think about the consequences of that.
We were very lucky and I can tell you, even the medications and vitamins at home have been stowed away in a high cupboard with a lock on it, so even if miss smarty pants pulls a chair over, she can’t get into them.
Please keep your medications in a safe spot. Even if you think it’s safe because it’s hidden away or in a cupboard where your child doesn’t typically go, one day they may venture outside the norm. Scarlett thought these tablets were lollies, and clearly it didn’t taste too bad to her because she ate half and would have eaten the whole thing if I hadn’t have reefed it out of her mouth.
I’m lucky that I still have my child here today, some people aren’t that lucky.