You could call it mother’s intuition, but about 15 minutes into my son’s fever I knew we were not dealing with a regular bug. And we weren’t. Within 48 hours we would learn that our house had been hit with H1N1.
It’s difficult to get across the rapidity which this flu took hold. Our family had plans for dinner on Saturday. At 3:00 my son was fine- bouncing around the yard, hunting for toads and having the kinds of epic imaginary battles only a four-year-old boy can conjure. At 4:45, as we were getting ready to leave, he told me his head hurt and within ten minutes his fever had shot up to 103 degrees. It would drop no lower than 101 for the next two days, despite repeated tepid baths and ibuprofen.
That Saturday night was one of the longest in recent memory. I slept downstairs in the guest room with my son while my husband was upstairs, resting for the “day” shift the following morning. Owen’s persistent fever meant neither one of us slept that night. And poor Owen-he alternated between chills and sweats and he just couldn’t understand why his whole body hurt.
Saturday night faded into Sunday morning and my husband and I, strong coffee in hand, sat down at the table and started juggling schedules. Like many other families my husband and I both work and we don’t have a lot of family around who can just jump in during a pinch. Bleary from a lack of sleep, exhausted with worry, we split our hours at home and at work for the week. It was going to be a challenge, but better to be prepared now, we thought.
By Sunday evening it was clear that Owen wasn’t the only one battling this bug-so was I. At this point we didn’t have a diagnosis, and I wasn’t seriously considering H1N1, mostly because it felt like I was fighting off whatever it was that had walloped my kid. My throat was a little itchy, as were my eyes, but it’s fall now in Minnesota so itchy throat and eyes are par for the course until the first freeze. I planned on taking Monday off to take Owen to the doctor and get him on the mend- by Wednesday, I thought, I’d get caught up on the work I’d push back while my little guy was sick.
But, like all well-laid plans, those quickly exploded. Monday morning hit and so did the flu. I hurt. Even my teeth ached. I was chilled to the bone, even outside in the sunny mid-70s. Owen and I went to our doctor and they confirmed what at that point I was resigning to–we had H1N1. We lost the next week-and-a-half to recovering from the virus. Owen, true to form, was bouncing around the house by Wednesday. By Friday, even the lingering cough, one of the telltale symptoms of H1N1, was all but gone.
For me the virus was a whole different experience. It may not have hit as fast but it was not letting me go as easy. I spent most of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday alternating between the bed and the couch in utter sick misery. My poor husband had to juggle a recovering preschooler and a suffering type A wife. Thankfully he was able to take two days off of work to tend to Owen and me. Quite honestly I don’t know how I would have managed on Tuesday and Wednesday without it. The fever had me near delirious and I was sliding in and out of sleep as a result. Even Friday, when I was almost a week into the virus and well-past the contagious stage I nearly passed out trying to make lunch for Owen and myself.
Perhaps some context is in order. I do not get sick, and when I do, I “muscle” through it. I’m not saying this is a balanced approach to illness, but it is how I cope. Despite the fact that we have insurance illness is a situation that can tip my family into financial ruin. For instance, the visit to get diagnosed with H1N1 will cost my family close to $300, and again, that is with health insurance. So our strategy has been like the strategy of so many other families- don’t get sick- eat well, exercise, sleep, try to manage stress and strive for simplicity. So to be knocked back for over a week is unheard of for me.
But you won’t hear me complain because, all in all, my family’s experience with H1N1 was mild compared to what could have been. Thankfully my son was able to battle the virus, and while at one time we were moments from an emergency room visit, in the end he was just fine. And the illness struck me at a time when my schedule was lighter- I only had to cancel class once and most of my writing commitments were covered. My husband could take time off work without losing income. Most importantly though, it is just the flu. A mean, nasty variation, but just the flu. A flu to be taken seriously, but, in the end, simply the flu.
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