After our holiday we all looked forward to our next holiday on an island in the Barrier Reef. My brother read books about the coral and fish that we would see and then told me all about them. I know my mother and father were also looking forward to it.
My wiping up nausea probably start 6 months after we returned. At first, treated as a psychological problem, the family ignored it, with concessions made such as sitting down to wipe up. This lasted around three months before I collapsed in school assembly. Even then, it was considered a reaction to the heat of the day rather than an indication that I may have been sick.
Eventually, as the nausea started to happen whenever I was standing, my parents took me to our doctor. At a loss, he suggested that maybe I was allergic to dairy products and to try removing these from my diet. I was very happy with this as I hated milk. Especially the milk we were forced to drink at playtime. It was a government incentive to make sure that all Australian children had enough milk to prevent rickets and to do this they provided school milk: a bottle for each primary school aged child. The milkman dropped this off early in the morning and it sat there in the sun until ten o’clock when we had to drink it. The taste of warm, half-off milk turned my stomach, even before I had my mystery illness.
The removal of dairy products did nothing to improve my condition and the GP could offer no other suggestions as to a possible cause. I guess the adults still thought it was psychological. About two months before our anticipated holiday the vomiting started. At first only when standing but it finally became so severe that it would happen whether I was standing, sitting or lying. At this point I stopped going to school.
They tried me on antibiotics only to find it gave me an allergic reaction. They changed it to a different one which had no side-effects for me but still no improvement to my vomiting. Around this point my mother told me she was sorry for not believing me when I said I felt sick. The next thing I know I am put in hospital.
Although I was only six, for some reason they admitted me to the adult ward. I don’t know why when they had a children’s ward. The occupant of the two-bed room they put me in was a delightful old lady, Mrs Little, who took me under her wing and looked after me. She had the softest skin and I think she was very sick. She always comforted me when my parents left after visiting hours and made me feel safe.
One afternoon my parents and my brother arrived and they took me out of hospital to take me to a specialist in Lismore, a larger country town. We loved going to Lismore as they had soft serve ice cream which they served in cones. The specialist was in an upstairs room overlooking the river. He sat behind a huge desk that had a leather section in the centre. My dad’s desk had a removable one that was a red, worn leather base with leather corners on the upper side that held sheets of blotting paper but this specialist had his writing pad built into the desk. He sat on his side of the desk and the four of us sat in a straight line on the other side.
He asked lots of questions then I had to get up on the examination couch, also leather, for him to prod and poke me. On completion of the examination, I was told to wee into this little container. With that he then put a potty on the floor and told me to go to the toilet. I refused. There was no way that I was going to go to the toilet in front of a perfect stranger, my parents and my brother. I fought with my mother as she tried to pull my pants down. She won that battle but she couldn’t force me to wee. I sat on that potty for a long time whilst they tried every trick under the sun. The turned on taps and had the water running, they promised me an ice cream if I filled the little pot and they tried threatening me. There was nothing they could do to make me go in front of them. Eventually they gave up.
We had got no more than ten minutes away from there when I started ” Mummy I want to go to the toilet.” My parents were not impressed and my mother expressed her anger verbally. With me in tears, I returned to the hospital where I spent another two weeks. During this time my parents decided to cancel our booking for the Queensland island in the Great Barrier Reef as it was unknown whether I would be well enough to travel. For awhile my brother was very angry with me for spoiling his holiday. My Mum and Dad must have been disappointed also but they hid it well and did not blame me for it.
According to my mother no-one ever fully diagnosed what was wrong with me. The vomiting eventually went by itself (unless the antibiotics eventually helped) but the nausea when I stand still remains today. I’m okay if I’m moving or sitting but to stand still is just impossible. To watch me wiping up, instead of the stool, I now jiggle or walk around.