I am annoyed. I know, that is so rare around here. This, however, is an extra-special case of Annoyed, because here’s what happened.
As you may recall, our au pair got really, really sick. It all began with a sudden bad cough and a runny nose, but it blossomed into a pretty clear case of the flu. Fever, exhaustion, the works. We quarantined her after her doctor diagnosed her with the flu and gave her Tamiflu.
Nonetheless, the next day, Lilah got a runny nose and a sudden bad cough. I called the doctor. “She’s got exactly the symptoms Jeanette had initially,” I said. “And Tamiflu worked on Jeanette.”
“That’s very helpful to know,” the doctor replied, before calling in a prescription for Tamiflu.
The next morning, Lilah sounded a hell of a lot less like a four-pack-a-day smoker. She had what was more or less a bad cold, but no fever. “Does Tamiflu really work that quickly?” I asked the doctor when we went in.
“People who take it say it does,” she replied. “It is most efficacious when we catch flu early.” So, in other words, because we had seen Jeanette’s symptoms, we knew that Lilah had probably caught the flu, and gave her Tamiflu early on, reducing what might have been an ugly illness into a much less frightening scenario.
Because I am fascinated by such things, I asked the doctor how Tamiflu works. Apparently, it is an antiviral drug that attacks a particular virus. While an antibiotic will kill all sorts of bacteria, an antiviral drug targets a specific virus. In this case, Influenza A.
Since Lilah is a little young to have a placebo effect, it is quite likely that the Tamiflu is responsible for her quick turnaround. It is also possible that she simply fought off a cold, but I saw how bad she looked Wednesday night and then I saw her Thursday morning, and either that baby has a hell of an immune system or the Tamiflu accomplished something.
And, since it is targeted at Influenza A only, the only way it could have done a damned thing would be if Lilah had the flu. Got it?
Also, according to my doctor, who was at this point probably tiring of teaching me Pre-Med 101, there isn’t really any seasonal flu at this point in the year. Anyone who has the flu probably has H1N1.
Now, since I am a responsible citizen, I called the preschool immediately. I told them to get the boys out of class and I’d be there to pick them up in ten minutes. We could have wasted a half-hour culturing Lilah, but it would have been inconclusive because she had taken two doses of anti-viral medication. I just booked it to the preschool and got the boys, who were packed up and waiting in the lobby, none-to-happy to be removed from school because their sister had a cough.
When Benjamin got a sudden bad cough Thursday night, I called the doctor again. He started on Tamiflu. Again, we didn’t culture first because we wanted to get on the drug as soon as possible. Because it is an anti-viral drug that stops the spread of the virus through the body and works best if started as soon as there are any symptoms.
I also called the parents in his class to tell them the symptoms and what the doctor had said. If catching it early really is the key to treating it, I figured those parents would want to know.
When Zachary and I started with the noses on Friday morning, we zoomed into the doctor’s office. It was time for a damned culture, because I was having a hard time believing we actually all had H1N1. There was no fever, nothing but a cough and runny nose. While I know that could very well be due to the drug, it is hard to believe something is the flu without a fever. And I wanted to know if we all needed to get the vaccine, not to mention that I figured the other parents at the preschool might like some answers. We got cultured and left with prescriptions for Tamiflu, with instructions to start it should the symptoms pick up.
Late that evening, Zachary’s nose and cough got worse, and I was suddenly completely exhausted and achy. Of course, that might be due to the aupairbeingsickbabybeingallergictogarlickidsbeinghomefromschoolovendoorfallingoff combination. We started the drug and were better by the next morning.
There are two possible ways to interpret these results. Either we all had a cold and it went away after affecting each of us to different levels. Or we all had H1N1 and treating with Tamiflu prevented us from getting any bad symptoms. I lean toward Option A. Our doctor leans toward Option B. Only one of us has an M.D.
Either way it doesn’t matter, as Tamiflu would have rendered us all non-contagious by Monday morning if it were H1N1. If it wasn’t, we were non-contagious because we weren’t sick anymore by mid-day Saturday. The doctor had told me we could take the boys to school Monday if they showed no symptoms or if they had been on Tamiflu 24-48 hours.
Try convincing the school of that. I was informed Saturday evening that we needed a doctor’s note to return to school – verbal permission was insufficient. That would have been helpful information to have while the doctor’s office was still open. Say on Friday. When we were at the office.
I did manage to get a note, but let’s just say I think my kids’ doctor has informed the answering service to forward any more calls from me to Zimbabwe. And I’m bringing muffins into the office today. Chocolate ones.
So, we marched into the school with a note permitting our re-entry on Monday. I stuck around for the parent-group meeting, but I was pulled out.
“We need you to get your doctor to call in and tell us that you all didn’t have H1N1,” the administrator told me.
“But, she does think we had H1N1,” I replied.
“Swine flu does not cure itself in a few days,” she went on.
“No, we all took Tamiflu.”
“Tamiflu just shortens the duration of the flu. Our nurse told us,” she said.
“Well, my doctor seems to think that Tamiflu stops the spread of the virus through the body.” She may think this because that’s what the drug insert says. Or because she has an M.D. I’ll see your nurse and raise you a doctor, dammit.
“Parents are hysterical. We need to reassure them that your kids didn’t have H1N1.”
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. I am not going to lie to people.”
She looked at me accusingly. “When a parent make a phone call like that, people get hysterical.” To me, the only people who seemed hysterical were the administrators who appeared to believe they were physicians.
Now, here’s the thing. There is a kid in Benjamin’s class whose baby sister has such bad asthma that she had gotten breathing treatments every week for the past month, twice being admitted to the hospital. There’s another kid whose mother is about to have a baby. If there is a chance that my kid has a treatable illness that he could have passed on to their kids, I am damned sure going to give them that information. So that they can, you know, treat it if their kids get it.
“Look,” I said to the administrator. “All I have that I can count on is my integrity. I am not going to lie to people.” And, may I add, that while your neighbor’s dogcatcher’s fiance’s hairdresser may claim that Tamiflu masks symptoms or turns your hair blue or whatever, our doctor seems quite confident that it stops the damned virus. I am going with what she said. “I spent hours yesterday getting you a doctor’s note because you didn’t ask for one until the office was closed over the weekend. I bothered my doctor on a Sunday. There’s not much else I can do until the culture comes back.”
So, we’ll find out in a couple of days whether our whole family had H1N1 or whether it was just a cold. Until that time, I am not about to bother my doctor for anything except to drop off muffins. And I’m bringing my perfectly healthy children to school.
The kicker? I got a note sent home with my kids yesterday admonishing me for incorrectly signing the boys out on Thursday. The day that the administrators pulled them out of their classes and had them waiting for me at the door, far from the sign out sheets in their classrooms. Because I had voluntarily informed the school of the possible illness and pulled my asymptomatic kids from their classes.
Because I am all considerate like that.