I’m writing to kind of follow up on this post written by another blogger a few months ago.
I am also having a really hard time right now.
In the late fall, an upper respiratory virus made its way through our family. My husband got over it in about a week, but my son developed croup severe enough to spend a night in the ER and I just couldn’t get over it. My cough got worse, I developed a sinus infection, but my GP didn’t prescribe anything, just told me to take care of myself and I’d be fine as I was a “young, healthy adult” who should be able to fight this off. Unfortunately, about a week later, I felt significantly worse and went to Urgent Care. I’d developed both viral and bacterial pneumonia. I was admitted to the hospital later that night, severely ill with low blood oxygenation*. Thankfully, I responded well to IV antibiotics and went home the next day. I was advised to stay home for a few weeks and to rest, continue antibiotic and steroid treatment, and to drink lots of fluids.
I took a few days off work, bed-bound with a fatigue unlike anything I’ve ever felt, when I heard my son crying in the middle of the night, “Mommy, I need a napkin!” Understatement of the century– he’d been sick all over the place and, thus, norovirus (aka the stomach flu) announced its presence in our household. My son was really ill for 5 days and nights– normally, norovirus lasts ~24-48 hours in adults, but it can last longer in young children. I caught it from him– it’s hard not to when you’re caring for a sick kid!
My husband and I dove into lab whenever we got the chance, and emailed our colleagues between doctor’s appointments and my bleach-cleaning everything and doing endless rounds of laundry while my husband and son cuddled while watching endless episodes of Paw Patrol.
There are few things as exhausting as caring for a sick child. It’s 24 hours, day and night, of cleaning and monitoring and cuddling and calming. It’s emotionally draining– your child doesn’t understand what’s happening to their body, is scared, sick, and needs constant reassurance. And it’s scary for parents, too– small children are so vulnerable and can get very sick very quickly.
Well, I thought that caring for a toddler with norovirus while I had pneumonia and norovirus myself, simultaneously, was as bad as it could get. But, haha, I learned the important lesson that things can always get worse, and tend to do so especially when you’re worn down. The night of Dec. 26th, I woke up feeling strange. I stood up to get a drink and then passed out repeatedly. I fell and hurt my foot so badly I couldn’t bear weight on it.
Back to the hospital, via ambulance this time, where I was admitted again. My foot was fractured in 5 places. After 4 days of tests to figure out what was causing me to pass out, the diagnosis was that I was ‘really run down’. I was severely dehydrated and had electrolyte imbalances. I’d been running a fever for 3 straight weeks, trying to take care of my son, coordinate Christmas, clean my house, and keep up with work.
I’d burned through all my paid leave (vacation and sick time) and between my foot and illnesses, I wasn’t up to physically getting to work. Amazingly, my boss agreed to let me work from home for ~2 weeks until I was on my feet again (figuratively, not literally, as I’ll be in a wheelchair for at least another month). My colleagues stepped up in a way that was nothing short of remarkable. My son returned to daycare. And I started to feel better, though I am still in a wheelchair and unable to walk, and I needed another course of steroids and antibiotics to finally bring my fever down. I got the great news that I wouldn’t need surgery on my foot and felt like maybe we’d get to take a breath…
And then, last night, my son fell ill again. I just started to cry.
The doctors told me that it was just bad luck that we’ve been so sick. There’s nothing clinically wrong with our immune systems.
But it feels like we’re stuck in a cycle we just can’t get out of. We’re all so tired and run down. We don’t have any extended family who can help. It’s just my husband and I, and it’s grueling. We don’t have time to recover before the next thing happens. And we also have to send my son back to daycare before he’s fully rested** because we have to get back to work. So I feel like his poor immune system is getting hammered, too.
Is it just us? Am I missing something? Clearly, most other working parents aren’t going around in wheelchairs with pneumonia and needing to be admitting to the hospital because they’re so run down that they keep losing consciousness. I mean, this is so absurd!
The standard advice is to learn to ask for and accept help from a ‘village’– but without extended family, who do you ask? It’s not like people are banging down our door, offering chicken soup and a hand with the laundry. Surely, there must be other working parents in America with children in daycare who don’t have grandparents to lend a hand? If so, how are you managing?
Would a nanny at least reduce the onslaught of daycare germs (though I don’t think we can afford it and I love our daycare other than the illness issues)? Is there a magical immune supplement that my Google and PubMed searches haven’t yet revealed that will help us not get sick***?
I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to get better and avoid such extreme burn-out from happening again, as we were in a similar situation last January/February so I don’t think this is a one-off. Short of either my husband or I becoming a stay-at-home parent, are there any ideas?
Seriously, how are you guys coping?
* from a neuroscience perspective, the low blood oxygenation-induced delusions were very fascinating (in retrospect, of course). I may post about them another time.
** I’d never send him to daycare still sick, but I think ideally, he’d have a day or two of R&R before heading back to germ central.
*** yes, of course, we vaccinate!