Monday, October 12, 2009

The Swine

"Dad, there were a bunch of kids missing from my class today," Eli 8.2 said on Thursday. "And two of them have"--here he dropped his voice to almost a whisper--"the swine."

The swine.

Eli has 18 kids in his class, and there are about 55 in his grade. Attendance on Tuesday was normal. By Friday, almost 40 were absent.

72 hours to go from normal attendance to 70% absence. Welcome to the swine flu.

In spite of all the illness, though, Eli was raring to go when he woke up Friday morning. We briefly thought about keeping him at home, but swine flu has such a long incubation period that he had already been heavily exposed. So he went to school, full of beans as usual.

When I picked him up from school that afternoon, he had a light cough. He said he felt fine, but he didn't look right around his eyes. This won't make sense if you don't have kids, but you can look at a kid's face and tell if they're sick, particularly if it's your kid. And Eli was sick, unfortunately.

I called Gloria and she made an appointment with the doctor for Saturday morning.

By Saturday morning, he felt awful--fever of 101+, achy, a headache, and his cough was much worse. Of course, while they're at the doctor, I saw a story on our local news site about a five-year-old girl dying from swine flu during the week. I know that's a function of the incredible number of people who caught the disease, but that function doesn't matter when it's your daughter. And it doesn't make you worry less if your own kid has it, too.

It turns out that he had a throat infection as well as swine flu, so he started taking both an antibiotic and Tamiflu. His throat infection was some kind of precursor for pneumonia, which really frightened me, because the flu by itself (even the 1918 Spanish flu) is not particularly lethal--it's secondary infections, pneumonia in particular, in combination with the flu that are so deadly.

So yes, we had about a ninety-minute freakout on Saturday when his temperature went up to almost 103, but he had some lunch and felt much better. And by the time he went to bed, his fever was back down to 101.

This led to one of my most unusual experiences ever: this morning, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so by 4:45, we were watching a replay of the Penguins-Maple Leafs game from Saturday night. And by 5:15, we were playing NHL 10.

As the saying goes (sort of), we see more hockey before 6 a.m. than most people do all day.

Incredibly, he feels very good today, and he's had almost no fever. My doctor told me that swine flu was remarkably contagious but quite weak for most people, and I hope she's right.

I've been waiting for two days to catch it myself, since Eli coughed right in my face about five times on Friday, but the incubation period is so long that I won't know if I'm going to catch it for a while.

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