It’s that time of year again. The leaves are trying to change (or rather fall off here in south LA), pumpkin spice flavored everything is stocking the store shelves, moms everywhere are pulling out their kids’ winter clothes from last year (praying they fit for just a few more wears), and everyone around is sniffling, coughing, and sneezing. Before I was inducted into the “special needs moms club” I LOVED this time of year. However, I now dread it. Okay, I don’t dread it, I HATE it.
You see, my kiddo is part of the approximate 20% of children in the USA who are considered to have complex medical needs. My Connor was born with multiple “specialties” that cause him to be extremely medically fragile. He is the reason I hate this beautiful weather and time of year. The cold and flu season is reported to be from October until the beginning of Spring each year, and you can bet that you’ll find my family at the doctor’s office at the end of September getting our vaccines to ward off any and all types of flu, viruses, colds, and epizoodies (our family word for any sickness). But we can’t live in a bubble, and we must go out into the world praying that these epizoodies stay far, far away from us, especially my medically fragile child.
What many people may not know is that these medically complex children, especially those with developmental delays, don’t get sick like our typical kids. They can’t just get a decongestant or antibiotic, get some rest, drink extra fluids, and bounce back within a few days. No, they absolutely cannot. These kids battle an illness. They go to war when an infection or virus takes over their body. They have to fight it off with every ounce of strength they can muster up. A simple cold, also commonly known as rhinovirus, can land our babies in the hospital, on oxygen, and receiving chest physical therapy (which is basically pounding their chest and back hoping the gunk doesn’t find a home in their lungs) every few hours. It’s a big deal. But wait, what happens when the gunk does make itself at home in their lungs? Well, that would lead to a nasty little condition called PNEUMONIA. It is life threatening for anyone, but when our medically complex children get the P word (by way of cold virus, flu, aspiration, etc) it could be detrimental and the “life threatening” phrase is never far from our minds as we hover over our children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
So I have a plea for all you parent’s out there. This is coming from my momma heart, deep down where I hold all of my hidden thoughts. The place where I keep the thoughts I have, but dare to never say because they might hurt someone’s feelings. So here goes….KEEP YOUR SICK KID AT HOME. PLEASE!!!! You may think, “Oh, he just has a cold and the sniffles. He can go to that birthday party.” Well, sure he can go, but can you just think for one second about the other kids that might be there? You can obviously tell my child is special and complex because of his big, black 70 pound wheelchair, but what about another medically complex child that has no outward sign? Like a child with an immunodeficiency disorder or epilepsy (illnesses cause an increase in seizures)? Or you may send your child to school despite her 100 degree fever or her vomiting before breakfast. Perhaps you haven’t thought about this aspect before, but you must know that your child’s sniffles are my child’s PICU stay.
I understand that parents out there have no intent to spread their child’s illness, and I know many parents work and have to take off when their child is sick. I totally understand. Ask me how many times I’ve taken off for my sick child since August or how many times I’ve had to take off to spend weeks in the hospital? Yep, I know; it’s hard taking off, but the fact is that our kids (typical or complex) need us there to help them recover when they are sick, and goodness knows we don’t want their illness to spread. This is also a great time to talk with our kids about tips on preventing the spread of viruses/illnesses:
- Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
- Move away from people before coughing or sneezing.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.
- Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose (and wash frequently).
So if you are reading this, please know that I’m being sincere in my request, but also brutally honest about a very serious topic that affects my son and the other 20% of children (adults too) out there with complex medical needs during the cold/flu season.
Now while our kids are healthy and gunk free, let’s get to some pumpkin patch picking and enjoy this beautiful weather!
What do you do to protect your family during cold and flu season?