Friday, February 27, 2015

The Plague

It starts with a sore throat, and then becomes the sorest throat you’ve ever had.  Your ears hurt, your head is pounding.  You are running a fever.  It knocks you off your feet.  This is the sickest you’ve felt in years.  You know you need to hydrate, but you can’t drink anything because you cannot swallow.  The sinus pressure builds until you reach a point where you consider looking for a sharp object to stab your face with, because you will do anything for relief.  Thankfully for your face, the fever still has you supine and motionless, and you cannot summon the wherewithal to get up and find a suitable object.  Then, the drainage begins.  You cough with every jagged breath for days on end, gagging on phlegm and wondering if the pain in your chest could possibly be due to a broken rib.

I don’t know what this sickness is, but it’s everywhere.  All of my students have had it, and so have the kids at Will’s school.  Always with the exact same trajectory of symptoms.  In our household, Rob was the one to get stricken first.   A week passed and I remained symptom free, then just when I started to smugly gloat about my superior immune system, *bam*.  It got me.  For the first time in at least 5 years, I was sick.

It’s been two weeks now, and I still have the cough (and phlegm), but it is finally starting to subside.  I was really only acutely ill for about 2 days; Rob was in misery for at least a week, I think.  I credit my more rapid improvement to drinking massive quantities of vitamin fortified Nuun hydration (the extra fluids probably helping more than the vitamins per se), and consuming an entire head of raw garlic (on toast, with avocado. Quite good, if you can survive the burning sensation).

Then on Thursday morning when Will woke up, he looked sad and scared, and managed to whisper, “My throat hurts."

Ohhh no.

He didn’t seem feverish, and he wanted to eat.  After he’d eaten and drank, he said he felt fine, and he was zipping around the house as per usual.  So I sent him off to school, wondering if the sore throat was just a passing thing, or it would turn into The Plague and I would soon get the call to come and collect him.

Everything was fine until about 2:20 in the afternoon.  I was scheduled to volunteer in Will’s classroom, and as I checked in at the main office, I saw Will following the school nurse into the health center.  He had that same sad, scared look on his face as he had in the morning.  He hadn’t seen me standing there.

I asked the secretary if I could go into the health center and see what was wrong, and she said of course and led me in.  The scene that met my eyes was like some kind of wartime infirmary.  Children were sprawled on cots, some motionless, some writhing.  Every bed was taken.  Those that didn’t have their own cot (Will included) were seated in chairs.  Will’s friend S saw me first as I entered the room.  He was curled into a fetal position on a cot, and he reached his hand out to me.  I told him I was sure his mommy would be there soon.

Will’s face was grim and set in stone, and he still didn’t see me until I knelt beside him and said, “Hey, buddy, mama’s here.”  His lower lip quaked and his red-rimmed eyes filled with tears, but he held the floodgates in check and uttered, with an air of uncharacteristic stoicism, “Mama, I’m sick."

I held his hot little hand as the nurse took his temperature with this kind of stick-like thing she traced along his forehead and then showed me the reading.  101 point something.  I don’t remember what.  Will has never run a fever that high.  Ever.  He has only been sick 2 or 3 times in his life, seriously, and neither time was it anything more severe than a cold.  We don’t even own a thermometer anymore.  He used to run a little fever sometimes when he was teething, but the last time I actually took his temperature was probably 3 or 4 years ago.  I’ve always felt incredibly thankful for his robust immune system.  Back when he was in daycare in St. Louis, he was the only person (adult or child) in the entire building to survive the norovirus epidemic completely unscathed.  Maybe it really does help that he eats an (organic) apple and raw broccoli almost every day.

The school nurse was very nice, and William stayed in the make-shift infirmary while I went to gather his things and tell his teacher I wouldn’t be able to volunteer.  She had already surmised as much.  She sent him down the nurse’s office because when it was time to go music class and all the other children lined up at the doorway, William got up from his table, shuffled to the carpet where they typically read stories, and lay down.

I brought him home (it was 12 degrees and there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground) and decided to give him some Tylenol—I’d tried to let the fever run its course when I had The Plague, and that had not worked well.  Tylenol was definitely preferable.  As soon as he got some of the Tylenol in his mouth he promptly threw up.  Twice.  Then he drank a whole bunch of water, lay down in his bed, and slept for two hours.

After a good, long nap and a fresh dose of Tylenol, his fever was gone, and he perked up.  He even had a vigorous appetite for dinner.  No more throwing up.  

He couldn’t go back to school today, though, because of the 24-hour fever-free rule, but I wouldn’t have sent him anyway.  He needed to take it easy and rest.  This was a bit of a challenge because I was teaching on campus today, and I couldn’t really cancel class.  Rob took care of him while I was away, and I guess he was pretty good.  He was sleeping when I got home.

As of now, he’s much more subdued than normal, but he’s eating and drinking and resting well.  I am so thankful that the worst of it seems to be over and that he improved so fast.  I know we have been very fortunate that Will is typically so healthy.  Whenever anything small like this happens, I think about parents who have really sick children, and my heart goes out to them.  I don’t know how they do it.  It is terrifying when someone who is so little and you love so much is suffering and there really isn’t much you can do to help them.  

Hoping that healthier days are ahead for everyone.  Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

sorry for sweet william's sicks!!! hope he recovers as quickly as it came on!! a sick little one is no fun and worries the --- outta you! makes a grama very worried too!!! ! You do know that the REASON you got,up and going quick is NOT because you got over it, IT iS BECAUSE you are a MOM and MOM's can't get sick!!!! hugs to all. wish we were close! 😥luv mama

Unknown said...

So very sorry that Will got sick. But glad to hear he's already improving!! Hopefully the germs will all be gone from school by the time Monday is here ... and everybody will be all better!!! And that March will bring sunshine and warmer weather!! Love, auntie