Monday, June 29, 2009

Swine Flu, Part 2

We leave tomorrow for a two week visit with family back east. If at all possible, I will post from there.

In the meantime, for the sake of closure I'm sharing an entry I wrote on May 11th and just now found in a draft folder...


I write my previous entry, hit "publish post" -- then sit back in my chair.


What if he gets this thing? No immunity. They keep saying those most vulnerable are young kids, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions...

He's been coughing for the last couple of days, no fever.

But still.

So I snatch up the phone and call his diabetes clinic. After a brief conversation with the answering service, I type an email to Joseph's endocrinologist telling her about Joseph's classmate.

Twenty minutes later, I receive the following message from Joseph's doc:

If Joseph gets a runny or congested nose or fever, or a cough, he should go in THAT DAY to be swabbed for H1N1 and started on an antiviral. Treating influenza requires starting meds within 3 days of symptoms. The problem with H1N1 is that no one has any kind of immunity to it, so it could lead to weeks of high glucoses and/or ketones if untreated.

Hmmm. It's just a cold. I know it's just a cold... but what if-

Just then, the front door bangs open-- and I nearly jump out of my chair.

"Hey, Mom- can I go on the computer?"

"What? Oh... sure, Bud."

"Mom-- can I have a snack?" Evan chimes in.

"Okay, Honey. Joseph can you help your sister find a snack? String cheese, an apple... there's some bananas... guys, I need to go downstairs and make a quick phone call.

Minutes later I'm talking to a nurse at Joseph's pediatric clinic.

"Can you get here in the next 15 minutes?"

"Sure, we're only five minutes away."

"Great, and he'll have to put on a mask at check in."


"Bud-- we need to get you checked for swine flu," I announce, returning to the kitchen.

Joseph looks up from the laptop, confused.

"Honey, it's just a precaution. Dr. C wants you to get checked. You may have been exposed, and if you get this thing you could have some pretty wild blood sugars."

So I pack both kids, and off we go...

True to their word, Joseph is wearing a mask the instant we identify ourselves. The two of us are then quickly escorted to a small exam room, while Evan remains in the waiting area immersed in a book.

"Mom, do you think they'll let me keep the mask?" Joseph asks once we're alone. "I could make a YouTube video about this."

"Sure, Bud," I say, head shaking.

There's a light knock at the door, then a lovely young nurse steps into the room -- also wearing a mask -- and it's not long before Joseph is cracking plague jokes. She thinks he's hilarious.

Me? Not so much.

Moments later a doctor walks in. Not Joseph's regular pediatrician, but rather a very small man with dark hair, eyeglasses and -- unlike the nurse -- no mask.

"What seems to be the problem?" he asks.

I fill him in.

"Well, this is all hysteria," he says in an angry voice.

"Excuse me?"

"So much overreacting- "

"But I just explained that my son's endocrinologist advised us to come in and have him swabbed."

"Still, much too aggressive... "

And now I'm angry.

"That may be so," I begin -- struggling to keep my voice steady -- "but this was the course prescribed by my son's diabetes physician."

"All right. We'll swab him."

Then he gets up out of his chair, grabs Joseph's chart and stalks out of the room.

When he returns, the doctor instructs Joseph to sit on the exam table, sets a vial full of clear liquid down on the table next to him, and holds out what looks like an extra long Q-tip.

"Now hold still. This is just going to make you feel like you're going to sneeze."

He then takes hold of the back of Joseph's head and proceeds to ram the swab up one of my son's nostrils-- so hard that Joseph cries out, begins to struggle, and then falls backward on the table while the doctor holds him down and continues "swabbing."

"Whaat? Wait!" I barely manage to get out before the doctor releases my son.

When Joseph sits back up, blood is streaming out of his nose.

"Now I have to get another one!" The doctor growls.

"What?!" Joseph and I say at once.

"You spilled the vial!" On the exam table beside Joseph is a wet spot where the vial once stood.

Without saying another word, the doctor storms out of the room.

"Mom, I hate that guy! That was terrible! This really hurts!"

I'm so angry I could spit.

Before we leave, the doctor returns to tell us that he has no idea when we will get test results.

"Until you know, he must be quarantined."

And so we wait the whole weekend for test results which (thankfully) come back negative.


Since writing the above entry early last month, I haven't thought much about swine flu.

Until another death is reported. And I read the "but the victim had an underlying health condition" tacked on to the end of the announcement.

Then it's like another little poke in the gut.

Did this person have diabetes?

For a moment I'm gripped with fear.

(It doesn't help that Wisconsin leads the nation in confirmed cases.)

But then, I move on.