Well… It Finally Happened…
I used to think I had a strong immune system. I’m talking… Osmosis Jones was running my internal city and kicking down bad bacteria and fighting off viruses. THAT kind of strong. Mark, on the other hand, does NOT have the strongest immune system. Not to get political, but I think it’s safe to compare his immune system to the French in times of war, or perhaps my mental health. It isn’t the strongest and needs A LOT of support.
When I started to get the sniffles, I knew it was a matter of time before Mark started presenting symptoms. He was already a little warm and had the occasional cough. “Soon,” I thought to myself. As it turns out, I don’t actually have the immune system where Osmosis Jones is our leading man. I was just used to not having a 2-year-old sneeze my eyes and cough in my mouth.
Mark got sick. When I say he got sick, he was really sick.
On Thursday, he had a slight cough. Nothing more than the classroom sniffles. He wasn’t running a fever and was very much his silly, fun-loving, playful self. So I took him to school. The nurse even checked him out and she agreed- he was fine to be in school. That evening, things took a turn for the worse. Mark began coughing much more than he was earlier that morning. He would turn red and purple in the face and gasp for air. Every deep breath was met with the contents of his nose going back into his body. He wasn’t able to blow his nose at all which only made matters worse.
While he was running a 103 fever and had an uncontrollable cough, he was also fighting the amount of snot coming from his nose. It would easily rival Niagra Falls. I decided to keep him home from school on Friday. Instead, I made an appointment to a walk-in clinic nearby that did Covid-19 tests.
Mark has scarred lungs from being on an oscillator and ventilator for so long. He has a lung condition called Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia or BPD for short. Any lung illness like RSV, Pneumonia, or Covid-19 (especially Covid-19) requires immediate hospitalization. With Covid-19, immediate hospitalization, sedation, and intubation once again.
Fortunately, both of our tests came back negative. I wiped the sweat off my brow and the doctor and I began to walk through the symptoms. Fever, Cough, Snot. Fever. Cough. Snot. The common cold? Maybe an ear infection? Something is wrong for certain. The doctor (not his pediatrician) prescribed him amoxicillin and a cough suppressant and a nasal decongestant.
Hopefully, Mark and I would finally get some cough-free sleep tonight!
Around 6:00 pm, a bump appeared on his face. It was red and splotchy. It made a home nestled on his top lip where it would stay for the next 7 days. It wasn’t alone though. Multiple little red bumps made their way around Mark’s lips. I wondered if this was an allergic reaction to the new cough medication. It had to be… he’s had amoxicillin with no adverse effects before. It was this cough medicine. It had to be.
I was wrong.
The bumps began to appear on his hands and feet. The pieces were coming together- one by one. The confirmation was when I saw a mom (whose son is in Mark’s class) post on social media that her son had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. Lovely.
On Monday, I made an appointment with Mark’s pediatrician and he confirmed it was Hand Foot, and Mouth Disease. It is an extremely contagious disease that is often found in school-age children, usually younger and in preschool or daycare. There is no magical cure. It is a respiratory virus in the same family as chickenpox. Like chickenpox, the child must endure it to build up immunity to it. Mark’s immune system was being put to the test.
His little body was fighting like hell and it was winning. By Thursday the following week, Mark returned to school. He was well enough to participate in class. He had no bumps, no fever, no cough, or sniffles. He was back to his usual regular and playful self. We later found out that Mark’s bout recent Hand Foot and Mouth Disease was rather mild. He lost his appetite, he had the fever and the cough and sniffles, sure. The bumps on his face were apparent. They varied in sizes and depth of the color red. The ones on his hands and feet were barely noticeable but they were sore to the touch.
I write this not to be gruesome or cruel but to remind myself (and anyone else who may read this) that children are resilient. They are stronger than we give them credit for. For the last (almost) 3 years of Mark’s life, we were told he would be immunocompromised. We were informed that respiratory viruses were practically death sentences for him. We were even discouraged from sending him to school for fear that he may become extremely ill. But here he is, coming back to school after a week out from being sick. He is eager to learn and play with his friends. He even said, “I want to hug the teacher.”
I do acknowledge that there are families out there who are faced with this decision as well whether it involves Covid-19 or if they are immunocompromised themselves. As I said at the very beginning of this blog page, I will not judge you for the decisions you’ve had to make. It isn’t my place. I am not in your shoes, and we may have different views. I can only ask for the same kindness in return.