Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lingering Effects of Fevers

Petunia turned 10 last week. Both my kids are in the double digits now, and in most ways the intense years when we had babies and toddlers about the house seem very distant.

This week, Petunia got sick, and those early years seemed much closer. For my newer readers, when she was a baby and a toddler, Petunia often got unexplained fevers. They'd usually last for three days, and she was pathetically miserable for those days, wanting mainly to be cuddled while she watched TV or slept.

She saw a bunch of specialists. We had tests to rule out cancer and cystic fibrosis and rare infections. In the end, the diagnosis was the equivalent of a shrug and "eh, that's just the way she is." And that diagnosis was right. As she got older, it became clear that she just has a stronger reaction to minor infections. I started to notice that often when she'd get one of her 3-day fevers, I'd lose my voice. Neither Pumpkin nor Mr. Snarky would show any sign of illness. My hypothesis is that there is something different about Petunia's immune system - perhaps a stronger innate response (your innate immune response is what causes you to spike a fever when you're fighting off a bug), and that whatever that difference is, she inherited it from me.

Sunday night, Petunia was complaining that her stomach felt weird. We thought maybe she'd done too many cartwheels in the backyard too soon after dinner, and sent her to bed with our fingers crossed. Monday morning, it was clear she was sick, but also clear that although her stomach hurt, it wasn't a stomach bug (phew). She stayed home for the day with my parents, who were in town for her birthday. By Monday evening, I had a better understanding of what she meant when she said her tummy hurt - because mine felt a little weird, too. So I stayed home with Petunia on Tuesday. Sadly, I spent most of the day working and not cuddling her on the sofa like she wanted me to.

Petunia's back to normal now. She woke up Wednesday morning feeling fine. I, on the other hand, am still feeling a bit worn out. Perhaps I should have blown off work and cuddled on the sofa on Tuesday.  If I had, I'd have had much rougher days yesterday and today, so I still think I made the right choice overall. But I find myself thinking back to the old days, when I'd sit on the sofa with Petunia's little feet pushed into my side while she watched Cinderella and my laptop balanced on my lap as I tried to work. It is objectively better now - I don't have a gnawing worry about what the fever means, for instance - but those were sweet times in their own way.

Next week, I'll get another chance to reflect on the legacy of those early fevers. Petunia had to have her blood drawn frequently when we were ruling out scary things like cancer, and she developed an unusually strong hatred of needles and shots. We had just about gotten her back to normal child levels of shot hatred when Pumpkin started fainting when she got shots. Pumpkin has never minded shots, but she hates fainting and so has started worrying about shots.  She'll still get them, but she complains and insists I bring our own stash of sugar to revive her if she faints, because doctor's offices always offer orange juice and she hates orange juice. The fainting really freaked out Petunia, too, and she's back to panicking at the mention of shots. So the yearly flu shot is a struggle. This year, I heard that FluMist is approved for pediatric use again. My kids could get their shots, but it will be so much easier to get them FluMist. We've got appointments for next week. I, on the other hand, got my flu shot yesterday. I have to say, it is a much nicer experience without two whining children in tow!

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