Two weeks ago, the first cough rang out into the night. Maybe that’s overly dramatic, so I’ll distill what has been going on at our house:
Archie has whooping cough and confirmed influenza, most of the rest of us had the flu, and all eleven of us are on antibiotics to protect Oliver from getting whooping cough.
It’s dangerous for newborns. I’ve been afraid of it hitting our home, but here it is. I’m thankful we caught it early so we can do everything possible to keep Oliver healthy. It’s infuriating that in the year 2012 we are still battling a disease which could be near eradication, if only…well, you know. There used to be an extremely effective vaccine, but it was abandoned in favor of a vaccine that’s not as effective. I’m not in the mood for a debate.
I’m in the mood to not be sick and to not watch my newborn baby have to fight off a deadly disease for Christmas.
I get that some people have serious reactions to vaccines. In fact, Archie had an adverse reaction to the pertussis component given to him at 4 months. He never had another pertussis vaccine, which is why he is currently trapped in a bedroom, away from the bustling activity of our family, for five solid days. He can’t be near Oliver. Do you know what it’s like for a nearly-four-year-old to spend five days virtually alone?
It’s hard. We moved a TV and hooked up our old Wii so he’d have something to do. He can watch Netflix, too. We pop in on him, but try not to touch anything. We wash our hands like surgeons when we leave him. The timing is merciful, though. He will be free on Christmas morning. That’s the best gift of all.
He will continue to cough for months but will no longer be contagious. Whooping cough will be history, but the effects can last for a lifetime with weakened, scarred lungs. In case you don’t know what pertussis sounds like, here’s a recording I made of one of Archie’s coughing fits. I share it for two reasons:
1. So people know what it sounds like to aid in getting care and a diagnosis.
2. To convince people it’s not just some mere “childhood disease” that will go away with kisses and chicken noodle soup.
Be warned. It sounds awful.
Because of Archie’s whooping cough, the school had us pick up the older kids on Thursday. They missed their holiday parties, didn’t get to give their teachers gifts, didn’t get to say goodbye for the year. I haven’t been able to bake for friends or family because who would want baked goodies from the Kitchen in the House of Feverish Hacking? Nobody.
Of course we are wildly blessed that we are here. We have medical care. We have a warm house and wrapped Christmas gifts hidden from curious kiddos. There are parents in Connecticut with empty stockings hanging on mantles. They’d take two weeks of illness, eleven prescriptions for Zithromax, and mere motherly anxiety over the brutal pain of unimaginable loss.
The night of the Sandy Hook shooting, Aidan had a choir concert at her high school. The choir director lead the audience in a moment of silence. Then the concert choir (not Aidan’s) sang a song adapted from the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” by Rachel Field. They practice for months, so there was no way to anticipate how it could be interpreted that night. They do two performances. I was unable to go to the first performance because of all the sickness. I managed to go to the second, on that horrible night. It struck me in my core:
Something Told the Wild Geese
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, “frost.”
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
All those little ones green and stirring, with summer on their wings…