X Is For: Xenobiotic

Xenobiotic: At its most simplistic, xenobiotic relates to something that is foreign to the body. Now I apologise in advance to any scientists reading this who know that, in reality, the explanation may be a little more complicated than that but, for the purposes of artistic license, I hope you can forgive me!

On the night of our xenobiotic adventure, I was at my mum’s with my then 22-month old, Evan. He was in his high chair, happily feeding himself his veritable feast of lasagne and peas for dinner while my mum and I chatted and bustled around him. The chatter had been interrupted a couple of times by some loud sneezes from Evan but my reaction to those was simply, “Oh please don’t be getting ill just before we go on holiday!” As he was getting to the end of his dinner, Evan sneezed a couple more times and then kept putting his finger up his nose, which was a little unusual for him. This also prompted my mum to remind me I should stop picking my own nose as I was clearly teaching Evan bad habits (thanks mum).

After another bout of sneezing though, the sight of a few peas left on his plate got my brain whirring and I laughed as I pondered out loud, “You don’t think he has a pea up his nose, do you?” Cue a quick look and an immediate diagnosis: “he has a pea up his nose.” The pea was clearly visible but tantalisingly out of reach. My mum and I refused to be beaten by it though. Feathers were tickled under Evan’s nose to induce a huge sneeze: no luck. We got a straw and inserted up his nose to see if we could suck it out: no luck. And then when all else failed, we reached for the hand-held Dyson to see if that could shift it. Disappointingly, however great Dysons are, they can’t budge a pea from a toddler’s nose.

All out of ideas, I called 111. I explained to the operator what happened and she then proceeded to ask me a series of questions –

OPERATOR: “Did he stop breathing?”

ME: “No, he just has a pea up his nose.”

OPERATOR: “Did he lose consciousness?”

ME: “No, he just has a pea up his nose.”

OPERATOR: “Has he been unresponsive?”

ME: “No, he just has a pea up his nose.”

OPERATOR: “Does he have a temperature?”

ME: “No, he just has a pea up his nose.”

The conversation continued along similar lines until she said we had to go to our nearest A&E or walk-in centre. I couldn’t believe we were about to star in our own episode of 24hours in A&E for a bloody pea!! We dutifully loaded Evan in the car though, and he seemed most pleased that his mum and grandma had stopped waving a hoover in his face and that we were going on an unexpected adventure before bed.

We walked into the local children’s A&E and I checked Evan in with the receptionist who gave me a wry smile and told us to take a seat. There was a great little play area in the corner so Evan got stuck in there while I phoned my husband and cancelled my plans for the evening with friends. Meanwhile, mum started chatting to a fellow grandparent who was there with her grandchild (without a pea up their nose). We’d only been there about 25 minutes before a nurse called us through to be triaged. And it was in this room that I perhaps learned the most impressive life skill I’ve gained in all my 36 years on this earth.

Firstly, she very kindly assured me that this is not the first pea she’d seen up a small person’s nose (phew). She then looked up Evan’s nose and announced, “Right, this is what you are going to do mum….” .

We tipped Evan back, she held his pea-free nostril down and I blew once, hard, into his mouth…and the pea shot out like a rocket! It really was a feat to behold! After sharing such a life changing event, my new-found love for the nurse was slightly tarnished when she said, “Well that’s the good news, the bad news is that you’ll still have to see a doctor and there’s a two and a half hour wait at this point.” At the last minute though, my love was restored when she offered me the option to self-discharge. I signed the paperwork, thanked her for being brilliant and fled with Evan and my mum – and of course the xenobiotic pea, wrapped in a tissue, for nostalgic reasons.

This post is part of our A-Z of Parenting series where we take a look at the whole alphabet of things that can go right – or wrong – with parenting. A new letter is added every couple of days. Check out what’s happened so far here.
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Karen is a stay at home mum to one, with another one on the way. She's also responsible for a husband and a cat. An editor by trade, she hates cleaning (a problem given her domestic role), loves chocolate, and is weirdly good at pub quizzes. Her specialist Mastermind subject would be Neighbours.

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