We’ve been sick since October. I thought maybe I would throw that out as hyperbole, but then I reviewed my last couple posts and, my God, it has, in fact, been virus on top of virus. I suppose the same can be said for most of you. I’ve seen the headlines, ‘We’re living in virus hell‘ or ‘CDC updates the status of the ‘tripledemic.” No need to click through and read the articles, we are all sick, right?
I knew when Selah put herself down for a nap that things were declining. By the time she woke-up her fever was 103F and she was lethargic in the way that high fevers bring. She didn’t want me to leave her side, didn’t want to watch a show or read a book. She could only manage to lay in bed, her hot body alongside mine, and stare into the middle distance and whimper any time I adjusted my position.
Though we had the virus in October, and have had many colds and even a couple stomach bugs, we haven’t had the high fever dynamic in a while. I settled in for the night and offered her liquids while I took the opportunity to catch-up on some podcasts.
The next morning when her fever continued to ride above 102F, it started to sink-in. Fever without other symptoms can only mean one thing. I willed her to produce snot, to let out some sort of cough. But nothing. She laid in bed, lethargic and febrile, and I walked through what it would mean to get another diagnosis.
It’s been 4 years since I texted Joshua and told him that perhaps we should give Beau some kind of fever-reducer. He was on day 4 of 104+ fever, how long exactly does a parent hold out and befriend the fever? 4 years since we took him to his pediatrician and she told us that he had “a bad virus! There is so much going around right now!” 4 years since he stayed sick, since he got sicker, since we finally got his blood work done and got a call on the results that included, “drop everything and go immediately to the hospital.”
4 years since our entire life imploded, all because of a relentless fever that was surely just a bad virus.
I laid next to Selah and looked through my text thread with Joshua from December 2018 to prove to myself that this was different. Trouble was, by way of the texts in that thread, it was almost the same. High fever, other siblings with mild snot. The texts went from casual to concerned to panicked, texts I have never re-read until now. Texts of me at the pediatrician, then texts from him getting lab results, then us trying to find each other at the hospital, then a sudden shift, “Have you called your parents? Let’s tell them together.”
I recalled all the phones calls we had to make telling people that Beau’s fevers weren’t a bad virus, that he wasn’t getting better, that it was much, much worse.
Joshua and I traded off laying in bed with Selah, each transition feeling like a shift change.
“She’s drank about half that water bottle of Ultima. Last I checked she was still at 102.4F. She has peed multiple times, so she’s hydrated. She doesn’t want to watch a show, says it hurts her eyes. Yeah,” I knew what he was thinking by the way his eyes shifted from me to her when I mentioned her eyes hurting, “she has a headache.”
When you share trauma with someone, very few words are actually needed.
I knew she didn’t have Leukemia. I did. But my body didn’t much care about what I knew. It all felt the same, looked the same, read the same. So I danced the “surely not?” dance for hours on end. I texted a friend about it and she replied, “There is so much going around.” and I screamed back, “THAT’S NOT HELPFUL!!!!” but it came out “I know, right.”
That’s the crazy thing about PTSD. It doesn’t matter what your logical brain knows, it’s about what your traumatized brain fears. It did feel better that Joshua was worried too. Better being relative. Better in the “Oh, I am not the only one on this crazy train,” kind of way.
We didn’t say anything about it for the first couple days, as though not saying it would prevent it from being true. Was history repeating itself, surely not? Finally, by day 3 of high fevers with no other major symptoms, it bubbled over.
“At what point should we take her in?”
“So they can tell us she has a bad virus, and that there is so much going around right now?”
“Maybe we give it a couple more days.”
“Last time we gave it a couple more days and he almost died.”
“He was sick for so long…should we just take her in, check her labs?”
“Why, so they can tell us she has a bad virus, and that there is so much going around right now?”
“Yeah, maybe we give it a couple more days. I saw some green snot in her nose this morning.”
“There is so much going around right now.”
“What would her labs show anyway? Decreased platelets from the fever, high WBC from the virus. I mean, what are we going to do, look at her marrow?”
“We should have looked at his marrow sooner.”
“He had never even had a shot, looking at his marrow wasn’t exactly the logical next step.”
“We almost missed it.”
“Maybe we should take her in.”
“Maybe we give it a couple more days.”
“There is so much going around right now. It’s probably just a bad virus.”
This was different, this had to be different.
On the third morning of relentless fevers Selah started coughing. Hot tears pooled in my eyes as I watched her struggle to produce a solid cough, lungs thick with mucus. Thank God. Thank God, you can barely breath. Thank God, there is so.much.mucus!
Thank God, this gets to be different.
Selah had a high fever (>102F) for 72-hours then started producing copious amounts of green mucus. She continued to fever for 5 days, hovering around 101F. Each time I held out a tissue and willed her to properly blow her nose (preschoolers are terrible nose-blowers, are they not?) I stared at her and reminded myself that this was in fact different, that there is a path where high fevers don’t ruin lives.
It’s been 8 days since she got sick and she finally woke-up at a beautiful 98.6 F.
It was a bad virus, there is so much going around right now.
There is so much I haven’t processed from the time when Beau was diagnosed, I am coming to realize. Sometimes I feel like all I have to write about is sad shit from the cancer past. I told a friend the other day, “When am I going to write about something else!” and she encouraged me, “When you sit down the write, and something else comes out.”
So for now, it’s this. PTSD is exhausting and consuming and rears it’s ugly head when you least expect it. Sometimes common childhood illness makes you cry with gratitude that we could be so lucky and sometimes common childhood illness leaves you panicked that you are going to miss something fatal. Deep seeded memories triggered in seeing 104 F on a thermometer and feeling your child’s body hot and clammy against your skin. Slowly, but surely showing yourself that there is another way out of this. A way where kids get sick, and then get better. Sometimes I think I need to just be gentle with myself, sometimes I think I need some psychotropics and a weekend in the woods.
Selah is feeling better today, thank goodness. And the boys lingering coughs and sniffles seem to be fading. Perhaps we can have a week with everyone at school? Perhaps.