Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Three Down, One To Go

I was originally going to call this one “A Virus Runs Through It(Us)”, but then I though this website would go crazy, FB would have fits, and no one would eventually see it.  Not what I intended.

So with one month down in the school year we are already dealing with our first virus.  It starts with a phone call from the school nurse, “Mr. Edelman, we have your daughter down here in the health suite because she threw up…”

Either daughter has great timing at all when they get sick, from either end.  On the way back from a family vacation, travelling on I-80, without warning, which clearly there should have been something, even a pending odor, one of my daughters explodes literally out of her diaper all over the car seat and car.  Of course, being a major interstate, we have to wait for at best a rest stop before we can pull over to take care of it.

Madison fortunately is not one to get sick often with the exception of frequent ear infections as a toddler.  So it never fails that she gets hit with a bug at the wrong time in the wrong place, not that there is a perfect time or place.  As a second grader with a growing understanding of “image”, she lets loose in the gymnasium in front of so many classmates.  But it was not the location that concerned her, but rather she had plans that evening to spend with an old daycare friend.  Begging that she was fine, I still informed her that it was best not to make someone else sick.  Somehow telling a seven year old “we will do it another time” equals “it will never happen”.

Our youngest does not get off the hook that easily either.  Again really only dealing with more frequent ear infections, Emmy’s first bout with nausea came in the evening at around twelve months of age.  It began around eight at night, she was vomiting some very strange substance which originally looked like finger tips of a latex glove.  We were not sure what it was, but the vomiting continued several times.  Eventually, we took her to the emergency room only to give up waiting for care around 2:30am.  This is from 11:00pm, no one came in to see her.  By then Emmalie had fallen was no longer vomiting and had actually fallen asleep.  We found out the next day, she had eaten some white grapes which clearly had not digested.

But when it comes to battling viruses, especially those carried home from school, as a rule, I generally do not make light of anyone getting sick in our house.  One of the things that I discovered being a long term cancer survivor, is that due to all of the unknown conditions of testing, diagnostic surgeries, and treatments, my immune system had been left severely compromised.  The most significant factor is the fact that I am asplenic.  I have no spleen.  Decades ago, it was quite common for spleens to be removed for a variety of reasons.  In my case, to stage my cancer.  I was told I could live without my spleen, with just a simple precaution, a pneumovax shot.  This vaccine would be good for the rest of my life.

Of course, today’s medicine knows completely different.  The spleen is crucial in fighting infections and sustaining immunity.  In fact, the spleen also plays a major role in recovering from heart attacks (really technical – too long for this post).  Of course, I had not been planning on heart issues in my future either.  So following my heart surgery in 2008, and subsequent research on my health history by doctors who study and treat long term survivors like me, a new protocol is followed in caring for my challenged immune system.  For the last two years, I have averaged three pneumovax shots, two vaccines for menningicoccal, and at least two different flu vaccines each year.  This past March I came to find out, that even these efforts are not enough to protect and keep my life.  I developed sepsis and pneumonia in spite of all the prevention, both of which carry a high mortality rate for someone with a normal and healthy status.

So here I am, another school year, and another round of “avoid the bug”.  First Emmalie was sent home from school last week.  And a few days later, Madison was kept home.  By the weekend, Wendy went down.  So that makes three out of the four of us.  It is inevitable that I will get a crack at it.  But as one of my doctors is fond of telling me, in all the years I came down with the flu or other virus, I was lucky.  To get his point across, he asked me if I played Blackjack or slots and asked me the longest streak I ever had and what it felt like to finally get that losing play.  Point taken.  So what do I do?  I cannot live in a plastic bubble.  I can only rely on those who have to live with the same precautions as fellow long term survivors.

I have to be aware of those around me who are sick.  I have to keep in mind that even the slightest infections that a person may carry, could be devastating to me.  It is one thing for a student to miss several days of school, but another for an employee to miss time from work.  As I did in earlier days, if I was breathing, I was at work, no matter what my ill was at the time.  Chicken pox, whooping cough, strep, even a tooth with an abcess could all have fatal implications.  So even with my children vaccinated for everything under the sun, I have to assume that there are parents who have not done so with their children.  I have to take precautions such as disinfecting surfaces and frequently washing hands.  I need to make sure that I get plenty of rest, and not wear myself down physically.  And that may still not be enough… oh no…

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