Sneezing girlI am wondering about how to think about the end of the Christmas season. Is it post-coital or post traumatic stress? In any case, with all of this running around, and with all of the weird weather we’ve been having here in BC, the beginnings of ‘sick season’ are beginning to become evident. This is a particularly sensitive for our household, because my daughter has a history of respiratory issues. If she gets a cold, we have to be on watch.

In the winter of 2007, she caught cold after cold. Apparently, children average about 10 colds per season. That seems like a lot to me. I don’t remember getting that many colds when I was a kid, but maybe the average is higher today. Maybe bugs are bigger and stronger versions of themselves in this new century. In any case, one particular virus took hold. It was RSV (respiratory synctial virus) which starts out looking like a cold, but later turns a bit uglier. Basically, it causes mucous to block the tiny branches in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed. This causes some very uncomfortable breathing problems. And like a cold, you never become immune. You can get it again and again, even in the same season.

My daughter Maya woke up in the night, her chest heaving, and her breathing laboured. It was pretty frightening. We drove her to the hospital for a series of traumatic tests, one of which involved an x-ray machine. Because she was so young and couldn’t follow instructions as to where to put her arms while they took the x-rays, they had to strap her arms above her head. It was like the Spanish Inquisition – and terrible for a parent to watch, even though I knew it was necessary. Eventually, after exploring the full extent of the resources at one hospital, it was decided that Maya was to be transferred to the Surrey Memorial Hospital Childrens’ Wing where she would be admitted. I knew things were grim, but I didn’t expect her to be admitted and on constant oxygen.

Surrey Memorial HospitalWe eventually spent five days with her; mum in a cot, and me on the floor. I wasn’t actually supposed to be there, but the staff let the rules slide a bit. They were great – friendly, flexible, good at their jobs. The head doctor, a pediatrician, diagnosed RSV right away, saying that it was a pretty common thing at that time of year. He also said that some cases were less severe than others, and that not all instances of the virus lead to where we were. So, Maya was put on some Ventolin which eleviated a lot of her discomfort (well, eventually – she hated the treatment, because it involved breathing into a mask…). But, now that we’d had the experience, we look upon every cold as a potential ‘situation’.

She’s just developed a cold yesterday, but its a head cold – it’s the chest colds that get hairy. Sick Season is on! The main thing we try to do is be vigilant, without getting too panicky either.  It’s easy to cloister children away to avoid illness.  In the end, kids will get sick anyway – that’s a part of the package. In some ways, our experience was an education. At least we now know what to look for, and we know how to take preventative measures. We’re working with our GP to make sure that Maya (and us too) survive sick season like seasoned veterans.

What are your thoughts, Good People? Tell it to me straight.

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