In the past month all three of my children have been sick. It started with my teenager. Almost a week with a nasty cough. Coughing with her makes me nervous – very nervous. She has asthma, which can make these things worse. But it’s not just the asthma. It’s a mistake I made when she was four years old (before she had asthma) that will stay with me forever.
She had a cough then. A cough that wouldn’t go away. I kept her home from preschool for a week, letting her rest – thinking she would get over it. Week two came and while she was still coughing, otherwise she seemed fine. I made the decision to send her to preschool – she was only enrolled for half-days, and I figured a few hours back with friends would actually be a good thing. Two hours after I dropped her off I got a call from the preschool director, “She’s as white as a sheet and just wants to sleep.” When I got to the school she looked like a ghost. She fell asleep within minutes of me putting her in the car. I called the pediatrician while driving (a no-no these days, but this was 12 years ago and I was WORRIED). They told me to bring her right in. The doctor put the stethoscope to her back, and a worried/something-is-wrong look came over her face. A few more listens just to make sure, she stood up and said, “She has pneumonia. I want to send her for a chest x-ray.” I sent my daughter to school with pneumonia. Good God. What an awful mother. (As much as you tell yourself you didn’t know, and never would’ve sent them to school knowing they were really sick, there are few things more powerful or irrational as mommy-guilt.) A chest x-ray later we were going home with antibiotics and another week or so of being home-bound. A few years after that we would have our first experience with the wheezing that goes along with asthma, and I’ve often wondered if that bout of pneumonia did something to make her lungs more susceptible to it.
Anyway, since then my mommy guilt gets the better of me when my kids are sick and I tend to err on the side of caution. That said, my children are consistently pretty healthy. In the past two years I think they’ve had less than a handful of sick visits (knocks on wood…). So when my asthmatic teenager has a cough that won’t go away and starts to feel lethargic – I TAKE HER TO THE DOCTOR. And I did. She was fine, the doctor said. Just keep doing what you’re doing to get her over this cold/cough. My husband looked at me like I was an over-emotional worrier, but I didn’t care.
Next up was middle child – my “almost” teenager who also happens to have autism. When she’s sick the whole world knows. She coughed for about a week just like her big sister and we muddled through without giving her any medicine, because it’s a world war to get her to take any kind of medication. By some miracle though we were able to find a cough drop she would tolerate to at least keep her throat from being too scratchy. It wasn’t pleasant, but not too bad – and she didn’t miss any school.
Last with the cough was my nine year old son. He too had the cough for about a week and muddled through, except that after a week it hadn’t gone away, and on Halloween (a beautiful Saturday) he was “done” trick-or-treating in an hour, wanting to “go home – I’m tired.” UH OH. Saturday night he had a low-grade fever. UH OH. Sunday the fever went away and he seemed a little better during the day, but he didn’t sleep well at all so I kept him home from school on Monday. He was still droopy on Tuesday, so another day at home. By Tuesday night he spiked a fever over 101(f). BIG UH OH. Wednesday morning, first thing, I planned to call the doctor. My husband (who never wants any of us to be sick – we “half” jokingly refer to him as Howard Hughes), was pretty condescending, telling me I was paranoid and rolling his eyes. He was sure it would be a waste of money to take him to the doctor only to get the same message we’d gotten a few weeks earlier with our teen.
When money is a constant worry in your life, a hundred dollar doctor visit needs to be well thought out. We haven’t met our deductible this year, so office visits are still coming “out of pocket,” and a visit costs almost $100.
My husband wasn’t being heartless. He was being the thinker, the logical level-headed one. Often in our relationship we take turns being emotional and/or rational – and we usually balance each other out well so that we aren’t panicking at the same time. But in that moment I could’ve slapped him. My mama bear panic was starting to set in, and no matter how hard I tried to think logically, my instinct told me to get to the doctor as fast as I could. I am determined NOT to ever go through again what I went through with my teen when she was four.
As my droopy feverish (although not as bad as the night before) son sat on the exam table, the doctor got that same worried look I remembered from years before as she listened to his chest. Walking pneumonia. They’re seeing a lot of it this fall… After some helpful advice (keep doing what you’re doing) and a prescription for a STRONG antibiotic, we were on our way home.
BEST hundred dollars I could ever spend.
AND… I completely resisted the urge to tell my husband “I told you so,” although I AM sharing that thought with all of you. 😉