Monday, October 19, 2009
I remember back when we first heard about the Swine Flu. It was months ago, wasn't it? I remember being awake at 3am, watching World News Now while I breastfed my itty bitty baby in my lap, and looking over at Christopher, who was only barely awake for my support, and whispering in his direction "I don't want my babies to get Swine Flu". Even though I had said that, I knew they wouldn't. Of course they wouldn't. Because my family is untouchable. My family, is safe.
It started out with a little bit of pink in the cheeks, a slight hint of warmth on the forehead, a barely there cough that we thought would be gone by morning. And then it got worse. It just kept getting worse.
Sometime in the afternoon on the 3rd day of the illness, when the air conditioning was broken and our bodies were as hot as blue fire, when the dizziness was hanging over my head the way rain sinks into a plastic camping tarp, I realized that this wasn't just a virus. My 9 month old baby hadn't laughed in days. He hadn't smiled. He hadn't done anything other than grab a hold of my clothing, my hair, my skin- clinging to me in any way possible, silently begging me to make him feel better. All of the neutral temperature baths in the world weren't bringing down his fever. Motrin didn't touch it. Hugs and kisses only made it a little less painful.
The next day, the 4th day, we had to get Charlie to a doctor. His fever had held strong at 102 for far too long, against all of my desperate attempts to knock it out. I hadn't even lowered it? I had been trying so hard, doing everything that I could think of, to make him more comfortable. After 100 rounds of peek a boo, I could see that it just wasn't going to work.
Christopher took time off of work, came home and got the baby, and together they went to see a doctor. At the time, I felt like I should have been the one taking him. I should have been the one comforting his sobs in the waiting room. I told Christopher to send me a text every 5 minutes, giving me a play by play of everything that would, could, or should, occur. As badly as I wanted to be there with my baby, I was sick too. While I stayed at home, watching Disney Channel cartoons and movies with Eleanore, who had somehow recovered from this very same illness in only a day or two, Christopher was proving his strength as a loving father down at the south side walk in clinic.
(I had to edit all of the color out of these photographs, because the deep purple hue that masked my sons eyelids was absolutely unbearable to look at).
"Hes too young for the treatment", they told us. Too young? So now what?! "If he has trouble breathing, take him to the ER". So just as you would, I spent the next several hours, watching my sick baby breathe. I didn't put him down. I couldn't. Every time a cough would wake him up from his nap, I held my breath and muted the tv so that I could hear him settle back into a regular breathing pattern. At this point, I literally thought my baby was going to die. Maybe it was my fever on the raise (101-ish), or maybe it was somehow hormonal (I don't know, I blame everything on hormones if I can), but all I could think about were the news headlines that I had seen, where the child dies. I had seen one just a few days ago. When I had first heard about the swine flu, I was sure that my family was safe, remember? Well, it was clear now that we weren't safe, and since that had turned against me, anything could happen.
The next morning when Charlie woke up for his morning milk, he started choking. He had been whining in his bed until I went and picked him up, and as soon as I layed him down to eat, he started choking. I panicked. I sat him up, quickly tried to focus my eyes on anything that might clue me in on what the hell was happening, and started pounding on his back. Not a cute little "aw there there" pat, but pounding. "GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT!!", I frantically thought. My eyes, which hadn't yet woken up and couldn't quite dilate in the dark room, filled with tears. Charlie was choking. His face was blue. Choking on what?! Get what out?! *POUND POUND POUND*- And then came the heaves. The awful body tormenting heaves. He threw up on me over and over again. It was nothing more than mucus and stomach acid, nothing solid at all, and it just kept coming. When it was over, I had to catch my breath in the exact same way that he had to catch his. I wiped the tears from his face with my hand, I pulled his tiny body up against my vomit soaked shirt, and I thanked god that that was over (even though it wasn't). Did this mean that things were getting better, or getting worse?
As the day went on, he showed signs of improvement. Even though he couldn't hold a single bit of food down, he started smiling. He started playing with his toys again. And by the end of the night, his fever had broken. Its tricky, this virus. One second he'd appear to be on the mend, doing things that a sick baby wouldn't do, and then within seconds, he'd be pushed two steps back, having over exerted himself and fallen back into a fit of tears and agony.
Poor Eleanore had been locked up for days, unable to go outside and play with her friends, banned from breathing fresh air, but more importantly, because we didn't want to spread it. I couldn't imagine passing this along to somebody else. Her best friend next door had made her a very sweet "Get Well Soon!" poster and put it in our mailbox. The only time Eleanore had been allowed to step foot outside was to go with me to the mailbox to get it, and then straight back inside (resulting in tears and the mother of all tantrums). Finally, after Charlie's fever had broken, we promised Elie a half an hour of playtime outside. We put on our jackets, bundled up in blankets, and out we went. Even Charlie came out with us. Even though he didn't smile hardly any of the time, I know the cool air must have felt so good on his warm skin.
Even though we're all left with a lingering cough, and this morning Charlie couldn't seem to hold down his ear infection fighting antibiotics (hes taking a trip back to the doctor today, for his heavy cough), 7 days after our symptoms started, we survived the Swine Flu.