Friday, October 16, 2009

A Novel Virus Takes Hold

The glassy look in his eyes and flaccid body caused his mother's heart to beat wildly; the whispers around town of child after child falling ill with fever and an illness no one could identify echoed in her mind.

The air was filled with a wicked chill during this time of scarcity. One doctor manned the town. Precisely, one doctor manned several towns. As darkness descended her son's fever began to rise...

What little broth she had left she heated over the stove as she laid a cool cloth on his forehead. He could barely speak or take in the sips of nourishment she offered him on a tiny spoon. "You're going to be OK" she managed to say as the other children stood in the firelight, all four in a row, watching.

Desperately she looked to the aid of neighbors and even passers-by, who might have been able to give a message to the weary Traveling Healer, that her once robust and lively 6-year-old son was rapidly fading; snow covered dirt roads and impossible distances created a chasm that she alone could not cross. "What will the night bring?" she pleaded to the silence around her. He could become the second child she has lost, and that pain was too heavy to bear...

What would it have been like to live in the early 1900's? Your child falls severely ill, and other children are dying in the town. There is one exhausted doctor not within miles, who you can't leave a message for in triage, or send an email or text to. There is no Tylenol to grab, no Pedialite to give, no one to talk to who has went through what you're going through, and no way to know if that one doctor will make it to your town in time, to make that critically needed house call, and aid your child with what very little tools and medicines he had? And, what if he comes? The roads are still to treacherous for traveling in order to get to any other facility around that might aid in his recovery.

Flash forward to 2009. A child dies within a week of seeming to have a "cold" from the swine flu. "He was perfectly healthy." Says his mom and doctors. We have SO much information and access to care and vaccinations and medicines, and seemingly several clinics or facilities to get to if you need to, in a country so fat and rich and able. So why is this happening?

Both my kids are sick this week with what I am told is the H1N1 virus. H1N1 is everywhere. It's not only in our schools and doctor's offices, but in the rhetoric, propaganda, opinions and horror stories that are decorating every news page around us. I hear about another child, "perfectly healthy" in the ICU, here in my town, because his lungs began to fail. Suddenly I am just as petrified as that woman in my little vignette!

What are you supposed to do? I waited three hours to get a diagnosis, a mask on my baby's face the whole time. No swab for H1N1 is done because they simply aren't doing them. Some doctors will, some won't. Some say the tests are not reliable, some say symptoms at this time point directly to H1N1. I am satisfied though with the physical she had and the negative on a strep test performed. So with a 103 temp, a scary rattle of a cough that chokes her, and aches and pains, she comes home with Tamiflu, something I liken to the unknown, snow-covered, winding dirt roads of long ago, who some risked to travel to receive respite and healing. Back then there would have been no question of whether or not the medicine was worth it. They took whatever they had to minimize the very real threat of death. Isn't it heartbreaking to really internalize that this is happening everyday in our world still?

And suddenly, I am relieved we all received the regular flu shot a few weeks before, that is available every year without fail. A shot I have refused to get for many years because I had such a struggle wading through the muddle of information blasted at me through the media and well intended people on opposite sides of the debate, both professionals and laymen. This year I had to stand back and weigh the risks on my own, especially since we are dealing with unknowns, inconsistencies, and a very real illness that despite seeming to be "fairly mild" in general is still killing "healthy adults and children", with alarming symptoms, not mention pregnant women.

But what does "healthy" mean? The "healthy" adult that is a workaholic, a social smoker, the one who barely gets by on 6 hours of sleep a night, the one who drinks 10 diet sodas a day while trading fruits and veggies for fast food, and/or the ones who work until they are literally crippled by the fever and aches that plagued them all week? Or is this illness overcoming those who take care of their bodies and rest when they know they need to?

What is a "healthy" child? I don't believe any of these parents were negligent, but, I just wonder, were they super vigilant? At what point did it become too late, what signs did they miss, or dismiss? Do you panic? Do you wait? How do you handle it when your doctor won't test for the H1N1? What do you say if they order you home, to wait to see what happens? How do you react when you know children who are being hospitalized? If you escape any complications, do you then, with your new knowledge and experiences take the H1N1 vaccination? Without question? Will this H1N1 fizzle out, or combine and mutate with the viruses that will be headed our way in a month or so. What happens then? What do we do? Who and what do you believe??

I am still day by day making my decisions. I am trying to be super vigilant and honestly just pray for God's direction and protection through all of this. And with that we must trust our parental instincts and do what we feel is the absolute best for our situation, and rally and support others around us who are trying to do the same, even if those decisions are different than our own.

These are just my personal thoughts and questions. I am not trying alarm anyone, and I am trying not to panic, but I will try my best to be pro-active and on top of this situation for my family. If you or your family is sick, I want to pray for you. Please be vigilant and well informed this season. Take care ya'all...


w said...

you told me to stay away. and i semi listened. i scanned quickly. and found words like.



Kearsie said...

Scary. It's hard not to worry. Also, I might be that person you mentioned drinking 10 diet sodas a day. Alas.

I am Harriet said...

Nothing like cruddy weather to make the H1N1 spread.....
Hope all are feeling better soon.

Audrey said...

Hope you are all feeling better! I get the flu shot every year without fail. You would be surprised how many germs are floating around a school bus!

Stephanie said...

This is such a scary time in the world with all the unknown. I will be praying for you and your family. God knows what to do. Keep turning to him for guidance. On a side note was the book you are thinking of called "Mean Girls facing your beauty turned beast"? I am doing this book with the girls on Sunday mornings at church.

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