With the swine flu, we’ve been deluged with scare reports from the media, ignoring the fact that each year tens of thousands of Americans die of the regular flu. As with AIDS, the panic is over-wrought and generalized to scare everyone when the reality is there are more at-risk groups for just about every such illness.
I kept a daily journal of our experience, which follows. I hope it’s helpful to all parents and people in giving a more realistic view of this strain of flu. I still caution everyone to be careful, see their doctors, and otherwise be smart about washing hands, but hope you will have a better perspective of this than the media has foolishly scared us to think.
Day One –Will is sent home from school as the nurse called to say he had a mild fever. We put him to bed, took his temp, and called our pediatrician. He had a 101 fever, a slight cough, but otherwise seemed fine. The pediatrician’s office said to give him Motrin, fluids, and see if he still had a temperature tomorrow and, if so, to bring him in. Later that evening, his temp was just 100 and he was feeling pretty good.
Day Two – Will woke up feeling fine and actually wanted to go to school. We thought better and kept him home and in bed. Later, when his temp was still over 100, we took him to the doctor. 20 minutes after they took a swab, we got the diagnosis – he had the swine flu. They prescribed a Z-pac (5-day dose of antibiotics) and TamiFlu. By now, he was complaining of some aches and pains and a general soreness throughout his body. He also was complaining about missing Halloween. My wife told him that we were going to have to cancel the party she’d been planning for weeks because of his infection and he actually quieted down and realized he wasn’t the only one affected. A pretty amazing realization for a teenager!
Day Three – He’s sleeping in late, so we haven’t taken his temp yet. Was playing his guitar when I went in to check and it was normal. When I asked him how he was feeling, he replied with total teen contempt, “I feel fine,” which really meant, “I’m fine, why do I have to stay in my room, why can’t I go out and enjoy Halloween.”
Day Four – This morning Will apologized for being moody and grumpy. He doesn’t understand why he has to still stay home when he’s now feeling fine, just four days after getting sick and three days into his 5-day course of meds. I told him, per his doctor, that after the five days of meds, if he goes another 24 hours with a normal temp, then he can return to school. The funny part is he’s so bored; he actually wants to go to school. His temp is still normal.
Resignation has set in. He knows he’s not going to talk his way out of his room and back to school. It’s sort of like the stages of grieving, according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. My son was in denial, then anger, and now is in “acceptance.”
Day Five – Last night, Will got a surprise visit from his girlfriend, her step-dad, and another friend. They talked to him from outside his room, through the window, for a few minutes. It was both a boost and a reminder of his “in prison” status.
One amazing thing has happened with his forced lock-down time. He’s actually reflected on plans for the future. A teenager reflecting on anything? As he’s always loved music, demonstrated real talent, as well as developing a lot of knowledge, he’s decided he wants to go to a music school and learn production. While he still wants to be a “rock star,” this sort of mature alternative planning is quite the anomaly for him.
Today, his temperature is still normal. His energy is high. If this is the worse the swine flu throws us, I’ll consider this family extremely lucky. This afternoon, he even went out to the garage and played drums for a while.
Tomorrow is his last day of meds. If he’s got a normal temp for another 24 hours, it’s back to school for him and this episode will have been easier than a lingering cough or cold. Amazing. And, as yet, no one else in the house has got it, though one of our dogs came up lame for a while (she’s veeerrrrryyyyy old).
A friend of his just got diagnosed with swine flu and they thought they could hang out together as they’re both already infected. Are they nuts? Nope, just teenagers.
Day Six – The drama awaits us of whether he’ll have a temp today? He finished his course of meds and today will determine if he can finally leave his confinement. He was all ready for school when I came in to take his temperature. I sat with him, patiently waiting for the results. Normal. Off to school.
So, what did we learn from our bout with the swine flu? Simply, don’t listen to our Vice President, don’t listen to our media, and DON’T worry about it if you’re the average person. Yes, if you’re in one of the risk categories, be extra careful. Also, and we did this constantly and no one else has so far contracted it, have hand sanitizer everywhere in the house. You can’t overdo it.
Finally, and I’m dead serious, if you have a child that is stuck home with the swine flu and ends up like my son, with negligible symptoms, your biggest problem will be his boredom. Help him or her out with books, CDs, DVDs, etc. If they don’t have a computer or TV in their room, move one in just for the duration.
And, most of all, don’t panic.
Please visit www.brucesallan.com to contact Bruce and to enjoy the various features his new Web site offers, including an archive of his columns, contact info, links to his published work, photo galleries, and reader comments, plus much more. Bruce Sallan gave up his showbiz career a decade ago to raise his two boys, full-time, now 13 and 16. His internationally syndicated column, A Dad’s Point-of-View, is his take on the challenges of parenthood and male/female issues, both as a single dad and now, newly remarried, in a blended family. Presently, his column is available in over 75 newspapers and Web sites in the U.S. and internationally. Find Bruce on Facebook and add him as your friend and join his “A Dad’s Point-of-View” group. Just be sure to tell him you saw him here.