Screw password protection

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.

25 responses to “Screw password protection

  1. Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry that misinformation has made your life crazy! The older I get, the more I realize that most of the public has such a poor understanding of health and medicine. Hoping things straighten out soon. You are right to be honest than easy — medicine isn’t simple or straight-forward. Even the test for H1N1 isn’t perfectly reliable (sorry, probably not what you want to hear). Hang in there!

  2. Seems to me people should stop watching the news and start listening to their doctors. We have a lot of H1N1 around here, but it is incredibly mild, like a cold. If people didn’t know to expect H1N1, we would all be saying, “Wow! This is a bad, early cold season.” The hysteria is driving me crazy!

    We are NOT getting the vaccine, mostly because it is a pain to find it since everyone is so paranoid and rushing to get it. I figure we’ll just take the illness (and maybe get Tamiflu…if our doctors will prescribe it).

  3. Oh, and if I were a parent, I would want to know so that I could treat it properly. I’m guessing the parents at your school feel the same way and that it is the administrators who are freaking out.

  4. I would certainly appreciate it if parents at my kids’ school would be as forthcoming as you! And I would totally listen to a doctor over the school nurse any day! Nuts!

  5. I was told the H1N1 has a rate of 30% false negative- just barely good enough as a diagnostic, but better than nothing.

    When most of us were sick last week (I still don’t know whether it was a cold or the flu), I kept all of them out for over a week. I wanted to strangle everyone including my husband by the time they went back, but I made the decision based on the fact that one of the teachers was in her third trimester. Otherwise, I might have told everyone to suck it up.

    I’m glad they’re so concerned about your children’s safety that they gave you a hard time about the sign out… ?

  6. I think the hysteria about H1N1 is absurd. Our own pediatrician has sent out two very informative emails about H1N1, the vaccinations and Tamiflu. I posted the first one on my blog.

    It sounds like you’re a really conscientious mother, and school administrations are generally, well, I won’t say…

  7. GO YOU for being honest in the first place. And GO THEM for making sure (doubly). And GO all of us from being informed.

    And here’s hoping it wasn’t…da big flu.

  8. Oh good HEAVENS. On my campus we’re having to do a totally ineffective daily ‘out sick’ reporting (which won’t catch either those who don’t happen to have class on the days they’re sick or those who feel they have to come in regardless). We also have purell stations all over (kill off 99% of germs, including helpful ones, leaving a nice open environment for the resistant ones) and none of us can tell if it’s because there’s a genuine chance of an H1N1 epidemic or if they want to cover themselves just in case. Sigh.

    Regardless, I just got my regular jab and will get the H1N1 as well if and when it’s available. I’m around too many people who have compromised immune systems to take a chance!

  9. oh no !!
    Looks like you were responsible and caring and proactive throughout it all

  10. I can understand that they don’t want parents to panic, but if there is actual preventive action that can be taken you need to be proactive. If I were the expectant mom I would be pretty pissed to find out that the school knew I might have been exposed and said nothing. I don’t blame you for being Annoyed, not one bit.

  11. Using that logic, if anyone at the school develops H1N1 it should be treated like a state secret, and therefore only mentioned at midnight during the new moon using code phrases like “my dog has fleas”.

    Because we don’t want anyone getting hysterical. I mean, it’s fine if they get vilely ill, but we can’t have any hysteria. Hysteria is obviously the bigger issue, right?

    *shakes head*

  12. The CDC estimates that 40% will get the H1N1 virus. That’s 40% of the population. Of the EARTH.

    I think what you did was right on. You informed the school, the parents, etc… It seems like the administration’s approach is to stick their heads in the sand. Let’s pretend like you didn’t have it.

  13. Once again no good deed goes unpunished. We should all be so lucky to have more people like u in the world but sadly we don’t

  14. so you’re not allowed to decide what is right for your kids? Absurd.

  15. Seriously?! I work in a school. there are ALOT of kids out with flu-like symptoms. The health department and my dr. that I took JJ too last week when he had a fever are saying that anyone that has the flu probably has H1N1 (JJ did NOT test positive for the flu, however). Our school is not notifying parents, because so many kids will probably get it. They will recommend that students, especially those in high risk categories receive the inoculation. But, it is not available yet. And I am just waiting…with 5 of us working, or going to school in 5 different schools, somewhere along the line, we will get it. I would rather have someone let me know so that we could get to the dr. for Tamiflu, if needed. Usually, I ride out the flu and fevers, but this time when it targets school age kids who don’t usually get the seasonal flu, and because my 10yo, has seizures and reacts badly to fevers (ending up in the hospital one time), as soon as we can get the H1N1 immunization, we are. It seems to me, that instead of making things difficult for you, the school should be finding out actual information so that parents can get Tamiflu quickly if their kids get symptoms.

  16. Ok, first off, Coco’s comment just made me laugh out loud. That was hilarious.

    Second, WTF?? Fucking beauracracies. And I agree, I wouldn’t have agreed to lie, either. Lordy.

    Third, your fancy-schmancy DOCTOR might have his fancy-schmancy SCIENCE behind him, but *I* know from reading teh intertubez that if I swing a dead cat around my head at midnight while drinking a Diet Cherry Fresca, the H1N1 virus will be totally cured (I think it’s the red food coloring and the tiny bubbles that does it – the cat is just for show). So take THAT, science! (I’ll just be over here in the corner, dying of something as easily curable as THE FLU.)


  17. That story about the school makes no sense at all! It seems like they are just making their rules up as they go along!

  18. What Aunt Becky said.

    And that kicker about the sign out? OMG.

  19. well, I am just getting around to reading this because we all had H1N1.
    Today’s lesson, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!”

    You should really work on that signing out thing, okay?
    ps, culture back yet?

  20. hi, emily–

    the H1N1 swab test has a sensitivity of only 60-70% so has a high degree of false negatives. also if you test too early, it is possible that it may not pick up enough antibody production. also, it is supposed to stop replication of the virus through the body and decrease duration of symptoms. hope this helps. i think your doctor was right is thinking this is probably H1N1, but the test is not so sensitive.


  21. Thanks for posting your Tamiflu experiences. I’ll second it’s apparent effectiveness. Both of my children developed flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks back (rapid onset fever, upper repiratory, fatigue) as soon as we started them on Tamiflu they improved. Within another day or so, they were almost completely recovered. I spoke with another parent at their school who took their son into urgent care the same weekend as my kids fell ill. He was diagnosed with h1n1, started on Tamiflu, and had the same type of rapid recovery as experienced by my kids.

    I, myself, came down with it on Halloween night. Started on Tamiflu immediately. By day 2 began feeling a bit better (no more fever, much less achy). Today is day 3 and additional improvement. This seems much at odds to the severity and length of time others I know, who have had the swine flu without the benefit of tamiflu have experienced.