We were supposed to be leaving for Philly tomorrow to visit J’s best friend and his family.
Actually, we were supposed to be hosting my best friend and her family on their way back home from Pennsylvania. But, their two-year-old developed pneumonia from the virus that is making its rounds on the East Coast. The doctor okayed him to travel, but really…? Why make a two-year-old with pneumonia take a long car ride? So, I volunteered to bring two of my kids up to Boston to visit my best friend, instead. We’ve all already had this particular virus, so we’re not too concerned about catching it from him. We were supposed to be leaving tonight.
Except? Yesterday morning, she told me the little guy had had a very bad night. “Maybe you could wait to come till Saturday?”
I want to see her. I want my kids to know her kids, which is possible now that we live on the same coast. But, I am cautious about pneumonia. Just over a year ago, I was camping out in the pediatric unit of UCLA Santa Monica, as my two-month-old wheezed and breathed through the help of an oxygen machine.
At the time, I was all blasé and shit. Eh, pneumonia is not a big deal, as long as we catch and treat it. She was fine, six days and many thousands of dollars later (on our “Cadillac” insurance plan, we still couldn’t meet all our out-of-pocket medical costs last year). It seems, however, that something about that experience affected me more than I realized.
I am the mother who figures that unless the boogers coming out of your child’s nose are neon orange, you ought to send him to school. Some people hyperventilate every time their kids start sneezing, but I tend to think that, short of Dengue fever combined with bubonic plague, it all works to strengthen the immune system. Your kid has a virus? Does it involve partial paralysis? No? Then no need to cancel the play date. My kids have probably already been exposed to it anyway.
But that pneumonia a year ago shook me, despite my nonchalance at the time. Every time Lilah gets sick, I clench up inside. Last week, when she was wheezing and having trouble breathing, I ignored my inner skeptic and gave in to my worry. We saw the doctor, despite the fact that it was a Sunday and the East Coast was digging itself out from under the first major storm of the season. It turned out she had a virus but that her breathing was tortured enough to require a nebulizer. Chances are that she has asthma, not a huge surprise given both the history of pneumonia and the fact that I am asthmatic.
In fact, Little Girl has the entire trifecta, it would seem. Asthma. Eczema. Allergies. While Zachary never gets sick and Benjamin can get an ear infection without even noticing, Lilah’s illnesses are tragic, as her little eyes turn red and her tiny lungs struggle to accomplish their job. She is the easiest child in the world, unless you look at the giant stack of medical records. Although I am more or less relaxed about the boys’ illnesses, every virus she gets seems to throw me back to those days in December 2008, when my newly hatched baby was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
I also appear to be hyper-cautious about pneumonia in other people’s kids. When my friend suggested we wait till Saturday, I countered, “Don’t you think it makes sense to cancel altogether? If he’s that sick, why are we exposing him to more germs?” She hesitated. We both want to see each other. But she agreed that now is just not the best time.
So, we changed our plans and were going to Philly. Except that J came down with the virus the rest of our family has already kicked. And the friends in Philly have a newborn. I just don’t want to be the ones who give a newborn the virus that lands her in the hospital. The woman who a little over a year ago shrugged her shoulders at coughs and colds has learned that a minor annoyance to a bigger child or an adult can have grave consequences for a baby.
We are not going to Philadelphia. We are not going to Boston. We are staying right here, nebulizing Lilah three times a day and counting our blessings.