From hand (and foot) to mouth

Monday: I have lunch with my wife and then walk across campus to the Hillel building. There’s a quiet room there where I can study, get drinks and sometimes snacks, and even go chat with someone for a while if I feel like socializing. I arrive, use the restroom, set up my work-zone, and…

…my phone rings. It’s the daycare; the kid has spiked a fever of 102° F and they want me to come pick him up. Well, it’s not the first time. Daycare is apparently a thriving trading-ground of disease. So I pack up again and go.

The kid seems mostly okay; his appetite is normal at snack-time. But in the evening he gets warmer and warmer, and has almost no appetite for dinner. He gets very droopy and we put him to bed early to no complaints.

Tuesday: The kid seems better, although he’s a bit cranky. He’s been eating a lot of grapes recently, and we’ve been blaming this for an increase in frequency and wetness of certain diaper events. This, in turn, seems to have led to a rash on his butt. We have an appointment with the pediatrician, though, since the daycare staff said there’s a possibility some strep throat is going around.

I put him in the stroller and walk to the hospital (a couple miles). Everything seems mostly okay. The doctor swabs his throat for a strep test and recommends a “barrier cream” for the rash. We walk home, with stops for me to do a little grocery shopping and vote in the primaries. Yes, now you know where I live, if you didn’t already.

The kid’s appetite is back, and the quick strep test came back negative. In the afternoon he’s a bit fragile, though; he doesn’t want me to put him down for very long, which makes it hard to get chores done.

Wednesday: The kid is still kind of cranky, so we keep him home again even though he’s been fever-free for the past day. I don’t get much done, of course, but he seems to have a pretty good time! We play with his toys, walk outside, and so on. The rash seems to be spreading, though.

Thursday: I’ve been trying to get up early to run recently, but this morning it’s more difficult; I just feel a little more slow and heavy than before. In part it’s got to be the weather, which is chill and overcast and a bit damp. We get on with our normal day, though. We take the kid to daycare… but I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be getting another call. With weather this nasty, it’s almost required.

The call comes, of course. It comes at about 12:30, while I’m waiting for my wife to finish her work and let me know she’s ready to eat lunch together. She’s working on a term paper, and I’m proof-reading a longish (~17 page) paper for one of her colleagues (who’s not a native speaker of English). This time, instead of strep, they saw the rash (which has apparently spread to his hands by now) and suspect hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which has also been going around. I call the hospital and talk to a nurse, and she tells me that by the time symptoms show the worst is over and all we have to do (all we really can do) is wait for it to clear up on its own. So I just head home.

I’m starting to feel pretty bad myself, by this point. Bad enough that I can’t just blame the weather. I ask my wife to come help out but she really wants to get this paper written; she’d like to take the last bus (on the loop that goes between our apartment and campus) and come home at 6:00pm.

Soon it’s clear that this isn’t going to work. I’ve got a fever and a mild headache, I’m dizzy, my throat is scratchy, and my body tells me that it really wants to hold still and not move, which doesn’t make the kid happy – he wants to play and go outside and so on! I message my wife, begging her to come home ASAP.

She’s not happy about it – she grumbles about the stress she’s under, and accuses me of setting myself up to get sick by staying up late too much – but she does come home. She makes dinner, feeds the kid, plays with him, puts him to bed, and washes up before going back to work on her paper. At one point during this process the kid brings me our thermometer (which I’d searched for earlier, fruitlessly!) and I find I have a temperature of 101° (still F).

It’s good that the wife came home, because by that point I was starting to feel like how drunk must feel – very dizzy, hard to focus, babbling like an idiot when I try to talk, no appetite, and I even pass out on the floor a couple of times. Over the course of the evening I feel increasingly chilly and put on long sweat-pants, then a jacket and knit cap, then wrap a blanket around myself. I force myself to concentrate long enough to finish proof-reading the paper I’m checking, and then go to bed. By this point my fever seems to have broken: I’m a bit sweaty, and don’t need so much layering to feel warm.

Friday: The kid’s rash may be subsiding a bit by this point, but mine is just getting started. Over the course of the day my hands and feet are covered in red bumps and blisters, and by evening they’re pretty itchy. I normally do without socks around the house, but today I wear them for most of the day because it’s a bit unpleasant trying to walk without the padding. Cool water is nice, if weirdly overstimulating, but touching things isn’t, except maybe in that pins-and-needles sort of way.

Thoughts: On the balance, putting the kid in daycare has probably netted me more time than it’s lost, but not nearly as much as I had thought it would. It seems like he’s been sent home once every two or three weeks, and he’s definitely been home for at least about three full weeks’ worth of the eleven since he started. I can only hope that both of us come out of this experience with more robust immune systems.

My wife had been counting on being able to write all day on Thursday, then have me check her paper and do her rewrites on Friday. Obviously, that didn’t work out, and as she struggled to get everything she wanted to say on paper in a timely manner, her stress levels ramped up pretty quickly. She went through stages of being angry at me for getting sick at exactly the wrong moment, then at herself for not having gotten more done sooner, but I feel like the real lesson is that she should have contacted her professor, or her adviser, or someone in the department, as soon as it was clear that the kid and I were both sick. Most teachers are going to try to work with you and give you some leeway in that kind of situation! As in many situations, communication is the key to keeping things in balance.

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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