The pathology of the H1N1 progressed like this at our house:
On Monday, Zoe’s nose runs. It runs all the way through Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, she was grumpy and feverish. On Friday, I call the doctor’s office. The nurses say to watch for lethargy and for respiratory distress. I tell the nurse that the doctor promised to prescribe Tamiflu. The nurse says no. There is a nationwide shortage. And Tamiflu comes with side effects. If she turns blue, take her to the ER, they say.
On the one hand, I feel better. They have confidence that my kid, even with her Reactive Airway Disorder, could kick this thing. On the other hand, if they aren’t giving Tamiflu to my asthmatic kid, who were they saving it for?
I sniff and hung up. I have had a stuffy nose for days. To sleep, or rather, to not sleep, I have to turn onto one side, let my sinuses drain into one nostril and then turn to my other to drain the other side. I imagine white blood cells attacking, attacking and then succumbing, succumbing. My mother- and sister-in-law are coming to town. I hate the idea of inviting them to come and take a dip in the flu germ bath that is our house. I turn and turn and don’t sleep. As if not sleeping is a vaccine. As if worry acts as some kind of Lysol.
Is insomnia a symptom of the H1N1? Are insomnia, worry, and overzealous phone-calling underlying conditions? If so, perhaps that’s why pregnant women succumb more than others. Or is it just that it’s already so hard to breathe. Insomnia, worry and phone calling are each conditions of struggling breath.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday—rebound! Zoe is up and around and not collapsing in my arms. We go to get our 8:10 and 8:15 o’clock shots. The nurse said as long as she wasn’t wheezing or didn’t have a fever, Zoe could get her shot. She was not wheezing between 8:00 and 8:30. I hope wheezing or fevering at the exact moment of the shot is what the nurses meant.
That night, Erik and I have to go to Phoenix for the Regional Emmy’s. Have to go might be overstating it a bit, but Erik bought a tuxedo. After the vaccine, I feel slightly less frantic about the swirling, imminent flu of death. I write directions to the hospital on a yellow notepad. I also include directions to the Thai restaurant to mark my sense of perspective and balance. She’s on the mend. I couldn’t have written directions for Thai if I thought she was still that sick.
We return on Sunday. Zoe has survived the night. No one else has as much as a sniffle. I thought this thing was the contagion to end all contagions. Apparently not, as we go to the brew pub for dinner and then return to drink wine and watch Madmen.
On Monday, the fever returns. Her grandmother leaves and she is bereft. So bereft that she sleeps for two days. By Tuesday night, she’s all cough and shivers. A relapse. Is this lethargy? Is it my lethargy that lets her sleep and can’t bring myself to panic. Perhaps this is how the flu kills. After seven days of worrying about it, you find you can’t any more. Tuesday night, I finally sleep. In the morning, Zoe is coughing but no more than with a usual cold. We have albuterol and a nebulizer. A cough I’m used to. Thursday night, she has an ear ache. She’s never had an ear ache in her life. Maybe this is how the flu kills. By confounding me.
By Friday, she’s back to her normal, ear ache free cough. By Saturday, she’s dressed for Halloween. I want to dress up as the swine flu but I don’t want to tempt the fates. Instead, I go as a Volkswagen bug since I’m big as a car. “Bug” is as close as I want to get to “germ.” Erik wears his tux and takes Zoe’s floaty tube with him to go as a Titanic survivor. Swine flu survivor to boot. So far. I knock on wood. Although we didn’t win the Emmy, the tux gets double use. And Zoe goes as a witch—perhaps it was some kind of Wiccan magic that kept the flu from taking her down. Or maybe we’re just waiting for relapse number three. Apparently, the vaccine can manage only so much protection. At night, I still turn, drain one nostril, turn, drain the other but in between the turning, I sleep.