Stomach Bug


“Don’t worry, sweetie,” I tell my 7 year old son, caressing his back as he hinges over the toilet bowl, “it’s just a stomach bug. It will all be over by tomorrow night.”
He takes the tissue I hand him, wipes his mouth and says, “How did the bug get into my stomach, mama?”
Oh … poor little fellow. Despite his dreadful situation, he still manages to be cute.
I gently smile and say,
“It’s not a real bug. People just call it that. In fact it’s germs that have worked their way through your defense system.” We walk over to the sofa, where my pale son nestles his slender, warm body against mine.
“What is my defense system, mama?”
“Well, there are kind of little soldiers in your body. They are always ready to fight germs that want to infect you. Most of the time, your soldiers win but sometimes, when they are tired, the germs win.”
“What kind of weapons do my soldiers use?” Thibaut wants to know. I smile again.
“They don’t really use weapons. In fact, they’re not real soldiers. What we call them scientifically is white blood cells.”
“Oh, I know about the red blood pumping out of my heart and the blue blood going back in. But I never heard of white blood.”
“Well, mixed in with the red and blue blood, there are tiny white blood cells. They protect you. Somewhere in your body, right now, there is an alarm going off. ‘Code Red!’ it yells, ‘Thibaut is under attack! We must fight to make him better!’. That makes the white blood cells get to work.”
Thibaut puts his hand on his chest. “That’s why my heart is beating so hard,” he says, “I think my heart is the alarm system. It’s making a lot of noise in my body and pumping all those white cells around.” I nod.

Suddenly he jumps up and runs to the bathroom again. I hold his small shoulders as his body spasms over the bowl. Then I wipe the tears from his eyes.
“I felt the bug fluttering,” he says, catching his breath, “I hope it got out now.”

I hope so too …

Hélène Toye is the author of Go West, available on :