Two Sick Kids and a Toyota Camry

The drive from Wagga Wagga to Melbourne is simple enough. Five hours of straight roads, cows out the window, and the crackling sound of broken AM radio in the background. Two sick kids, no sleep, a fractured shoulder, and some projectile vomiting, turned this trip into anything but a simple affair.

There were danger signs early. The Dodson tribe, consisting of myself, wife Sophie, and young scallywags Jack (three years) and Harry (eight months) had set off from Melbourne to Wagga early on Friday. Jack was recovering from a case of Bronchiolitis. In the back of my mind I suspected Harry would probably catch the virus from Jack in time, however, we took a calculated risk to travel. I should have remembered my dismal high school mathematics exams before weighing in on any calculations.

The trip to Wagga went well and we spent the afternoon relaxing at my parents’ house. Jack went head-first into everything, lost some skin, shed some tears, and all was fixed by a Freddo Frog. I enjoyed watching his interaction with my parents. It gave me a nostalgic look into what my life would have been at that age.

I left Sophie with the unenviable task of getting the kids to bed at our Hotel, while I caught up with some high school friends to watch the football. I hadn’t been much help to Sophie recently. I did something stupid a week earlier. At 37 years of age, not having played football since 1997, I found myself standing in the centre-square of a suburban Melbourne football ground, about to ruck against some bloke half my age. Did I hear you say midlife crisis? The end result was a few handballs and a fractured shoulder. I can’t lift a packet of twisties at the moment, let alone a growing toddler.

As I enjoy a few ‘quiet ones’ with the lads my phone starts buzzing: “When will you be home tonight?”, Sophie messages. Sophie is not one to impose curfews, so I suspect something is up? I probe. Harry has a temp and Sophie is thinking about heading to the Hospital. We had a lot of battles with Bronchiolitis when Jack was little, including a stay in intensive care at the Royal Children’s Hospital. We don’t mess around when we see the warning signs. I grab a lift and head back to the Hotel.

Sophie has Harry bundled up as I walk in the door. The poor little bugger is burning up. All I can do is offer a pat on the head and a quick game of peekaboo. This does little to manage the symptoms, however, does bring a smile. Off to the Wagga Base Hospital they go. I spent months there when I was born, as a 12 week premmie baby, apparently fighting for life. I will be putting my faith in the Hospital again.

A quite night in the emergency department as Sophie is greeted by a vacant waiting room at midnight. The alcohol related injuries tend to come in after 2am apparently. The Doc confirms a case of the dreaded Bronchiolitis. After some observations, there is no need to stay for the night. We are advised rest, fluids and to keep an eye on the breathing. The weary travelers get back to the Hotel in the wee small hours. I have not slept. Jack, on the other hand, is snoring like an obese 45 year old.

A decision is made to abort our long weekend and hit the road in the morning. Best to be close to our comfort zone. We grab an hour or two of kip as we wait for the sun.

We pack the kids into the Camry. Harry is still running a temp, and is tired and cranky. Jack is unusually off his food. My shoulder is aching, Sophie’s coffee has had no effect. It is going to be a long trip.

The simultaneous crying starts before we even get to Uranquinty (15kms from Wagga). Jack is crying because he wants to be back playing with the Grandparents, Harry is crying because Jack is crying. It is a vicious cycle. We pull over and set up the portable DVD. Let’s hope Little Charlie Bear can save the day.

Everything is a trigger for the waterworks. The sun is in Harry’s eyes. Cue crying. We pull over and put the towel in the window. Jack doesn’t like this particular episode of his favourite bear related show. Cue crying. I want to cry, but suspect Sophie may inflict violence on me if I try.

I keep checking the dashboard clock. My head thinks it must be 45 minutes since I last checked, the reality is it has only been 5. Time is going slower than standing in a cue at Centrelink. You can smell the frustration. We all need to get out. The Golden Arches appear like an oasis, at a rest stop near Wangaratta. The Big Mac special sauce will be my salvation.

I head off with Jack, while Sophie attempts to feed Harry, who has some teeth coming through, just to add to the mix. I can’t tempt Jack with a hamburger. We stroll to the service station and the little Dictators eyes are attracted by a pink doughnut, which I suspect has been sitting there for four days. I haven’t got the energy to worry about the Health Foundation Tick today, so a pink doughnut for lunch it is. Sophie and I round up our lunch via the drive-thru. Part two of the pleasure cruise awaits.

The sugar keeps the exhaustion at bay for a while. Harry nods off and Jack munches away for the next 20 minutes. Silence. Could it be the tables are turning? I allow my mind to switch off from combat mode.

Another half an hour down the road and Jack mentions that his tummy feels funny. I look back and see he is as white as a ghost. It looks like a delightful combination of stale doughnut and motion sickness is about to play out. We pull over. Sophie asks Jack if he wants to be sick?, he says he is ok. We observe for five minutes. Nothing. Back into the Camry.

10 minutes later and it is a vomit explosion! I think everything Jack has eaten in the last 18 months has come out. I do well not to get hit in the front seat. The poor bugger is covered in it. The smell, oh the smell! Sophie is dry reaching, Harry is overwhelmed, Jack is in shock.

We pull over to a lonely strip of grass, in the middle of nowhere, as cars zipp past at 100km, oblivious to our struggles. I grab a bottle of water and we strip Jacks’ clothes and give him a wash down. He sits naked, confused and angry as we grab a spare change of clothes from the boot.

We do our best to clean the car. The smell refuses to vacate. Too cold for windows down. Welcome to Hell. Only an hour or so to go I tell myself. There is no talk. Just four helpless souls trying to hang on. Sophie and I make a resolution to ban future car trips until the boys are 21.

Somehow we make it home. I have never been happier in my life. No time to rest. There is work to be done. A car to hose out, dinner and a much needed bath for Jack. In a quiet moment Sophie and I manage to crack a smile later that evening as we collapse into bed. We have survived. Our poor Toyota Camry may need counselling though.

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Cat from the Country says

    I feel your pain and I did not have a busted shoulder!
    Fortunately it has only happened three times in 43 years of being a mother and grandmother. One for each child and one grandchild.
    It will get better and you won’t have to wait till they are 21 !

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Copious sympathy, that sounds like an awful experience. It sounds like the Gods are punishing you for your hubris and trying to relive your youth on the footy field.

    Your account reminded me of two experiences. I travelled home from Europe with our son two and a bit years at the time, as my wife was staying on with her parents. Because he would be seeing his Melbourne rellos for the first time in over a year, he was outfitted in his flashest clothes. Between London and Amsterdam he vomited over them. The saintly Qantas hostesses (not sexist as they weren’t stewards in the 1970s) washed and dried the clothes for me, so after Singapore I had him back in them. He evidently didn’t like them as he threw up again.

    My other recollection prompted by your post was driving through Wagga Wagga in the dark, with the floodwaters at hubcap level. This was 1974. The Hume Highway bridge at Tarcutta had been washed away by floodwaters, so we were using the Olympic Way alternative route . We were living temporarily in Canberra and were making our way to Melbourne for the weekend. Junior was then about the same age as your Harry. Fortunately he was a marvellous traveller and took the then 10 hour trip (including stops) in his stride. However, the floods made my first visit to Wagga a particularly nervous one.

    Mercifully, our three boys (now 30 plus and 40 plus) have had remarkably few health issues. Your tale confirms for me how fortunate we have been.

  3. craig dodson says

    Cat – pretty good strike rate of 3 in 43 years..

    Peter – don’t think I would ever tempt an internation flight, you did well. The floods were pretty common back in the day in Wagga apparently. My Dad used to live in North Wagga and the house went under a few times

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Craig I don’t think any 1 reading would not have complete sympathy for you and Sophie in particular it sounds like a horrendous trip !

  5. Craig- you capture the random, but all too frequent powerlessness of being a parent . You poor bugger! There’ll be other weekends in Wagga, but it’s tough at the time!

    “Two Sick Kids and a Toyota Camry” sounds like a Dave Graney song from 1995!

    Hope things are better in your home now.

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