I use my blog as a place to share mostly lighthearted things, but today I feel compelled to talk about something serious that is very important to me: if you have the flu, please, please stay home.
The flu is running rampant, and like every year during flu season, I am sitting around feeling scared and helpless.
You know those at-risk kids they talk about? The ones who are more susceptible to flu? The ones who end up in the hospital when they catch it? I have one of those.
I didn’t really know what it really meant to be at-risk until Wyatt got the flu a few years ago. For him — a kid with asthmatic tendencies and a compromised immune system — it meant that even though he got Tamiflu within hours of his first symptoms, he was still in the hospital less than 36 hours later with strep and pneumonia on top of the flu he started out with.
His sister got sick first. One of her classmates was sick, and in no time so was she. She felt like she’d been run over by a truck. She ran a temperature that went up to 103. She coughed and had congestion, and was pretty doggone miserable. And in a few days, she got over it. That’s what happens when normal people get the flu.
But when at-risk kids get it, it’s a whole different animal. Wyatt’s temperature was stuck at 104.8. I could rarely get it under 103, and when I did it was only because he was sitting in a cool bath shaking and crying. Then, the temperature just went away because his body stopped fighting.
He threw up his medicine. He wouldn’t eat or drink.
At the hospital, he was dehydrated and they had trouble getting an IV. They almost gave up, but I asked them to keep trying, even though he was scared and we were both crying, because they had already told me he had pneumonia, and he needed some strong antibiotics quickly.
They finally got the IV in and got his medicine going (Thank God for Randy Rasnake who came in and got it, so gently, on the first try after a half dozen failed attempts by two other nurses. I don’t think I ever got to thank him).
For three days, Wyatt lay in the hospital and scarcely moved. He slept most of the time. He was too weak to have a productive cough. When I talked to him, he would look at me, but he wouldn’t answer.
I don’t remember sleeping at all that first night at the hospital. I watched him. Put my hand on his chest so I could feel him breathing. I woke him up to see if he was okay. I cried. I prayed. I have never been so afraid in my life.
On the second day, the doctor said he should be showing more signs of improvement. He was on two intravenous antibiotics, and fluids. He was taking two breathing treatments every four hours, but none of it seemed to be helping much. He needed steroids for his lungs, but since they would also work to suppress his already battered immune system, the doctor said no. He could barely stay awake. He still wasn’t eating or drinking, and she didn’t like it that he was listless.
On the third day, he was much the same but they sent him home anyway because the insurance wouldn’t continue to pay for his stay.
He took more antibiotics. He took more breathing treatments. He laid around for days. He wouldn’t play. He slept. I made him everything he loved most to eat, but he would push it away.
It took nearly three weeks for the flu to work its course, and longer for him to get back to his old self. He had lost weight. He had dark circles under his eyes. He was weak, but eventually he got better. We were so, so fortunate. Thank the Lord.
It’s been a few years since that happened, but each year when flu season rolls around I relive the whole illness, the hospital stay, the blank stare he gave me when I talked to him, my fear. I still can’t shake the fear. And then I think about that kid in Alyssa’s class who was sent to school sick, and it just makes me mad.
His immune system seems to be stronger now, and I hope we wouldn’t have another bout like that, but the truth is, I don’t know. To say it scares me would be a gross understatement.
Please. If you are sick, stay home. If you have a sick child, don’t send them to school. If you’re not sure if it’s safe to go back to school or work, err on the side of caution. The flu is nasty for everyone, but for some it is life threatening.
As parents, we can only do so much to keep our kids away from germs. Wyatt and all the other kids out there like him — their health and well being is very much determined by the judgement calls of other people. For their sake, don’t spread your germs around. Please.