Live Report and Swine Flu

August 11, 2009

We’re getting close to two years since we brought the twins home. And boy, they have certainly blossomed in these two years! Apart from being mischief makers on par with Dennis the Menace, they’ve also bloomed physically. When we got them, they were at the lowest 5th percentile in terms of height and weight. They were already over a year old, so we could only hope that any physical, mental, or developmental delays due to malnutrition or the institutional environment wouldn’t be lasting.

When we took them for their annual check-up last weekend, we found, to our delight, that they’re now close to the middle of their weight range. In height, they’re still below average, but at least they’re somewhere around the 20th percentile. They might come up to average, slowly, or maybe they just have short genes. Anyway, they are generally healthy now, and have got a certificate from the doctor to this effect. I didn’t really need a doctor to tell me this – but we have to send this document to the Family Court every year unti they turn 18, as part of their Live Report – but it was nice to have it reaffirmed from a medical perspective.


I suppose what follows should, logically, be a separate post, but it seemed to me distantly related.
Swine flu is currently all the rage. It’s the number one topic for the newspapers and amongst all parents of school-going kids right now. The papers are doing their best to spread fear and chaos, as usual. Schools are agonising over whether or not to close, parents over whether or not to keep their kids at home, students over whether or not it’s hip to wear face masks. The government has been urging everyone who is even just thinking of coughing or sneezing to get tested for swine flu – without considering first how they are going to cope with the masses of people who come in demanding to be tested. Now that reality has hit them hard, they’re backtracking and saying, hey, hang on, don’t panic, just stay home and drink lots of fluid.

Maybe I’m stupid, callous, and cavalier, but… Don’t we need some common sense here? This is flu season. If you send everyone to be tested, you’re going to be so swamped, you’ll probably just miss the folks who might really have it, or get to them a couple of days later. Why not just tell people to go to the doctor? My understanding is, most cases of flu, even if it is swine flu, can be treated by rest, relaxation, plenty of fluid, and common sense. Only severe cases are cause for concern. The statistics show that, in most cases, the flu runs its course in a week, like any other flu. It is estimated to be fatal in less than 0.4% of cases, and then it is due to complications like pneumonia or pre-existing medical conditions. Don’t take my word for it – go do your own Google search (or any other search engine search, I suppose), and find out for yourself.

In retrospect, it’s quite possible that Amit had swine flu week before last – he is always working with people who travel, or with people who interact with people who travel. He had fever, lethargy, sore throat etc. And it did go off after a week without any medication, but with plenty of rest (and good food – not sure of the medicinal quality of that, but it does the morale a world of good). His doctor didn’t think it was swine flu, but apparently it’s really difficult to distinguish flu from swine flu without the lab test. All the same, unless you develop the severe symptoms or you have pre-existing medical conditions, specially lung problems, it doesn’t seem to be something to get into a panic about. I don’t think panic helps – even if the newspapers delight in it.

As a result of the newspapers’ scare-mongering, even Amit, normally quite a logical and practical person, is worried now. Our girls have had a stuffed head, particularly at night, for the past couple of weeks or more. They don’t really have a cold, only a very mildly runny and blocked nose. No fever, no sneezing, practically no coughing, no apparent sore throat, and they seem to be in fine spirits in every way. So should we be worried about the runny nose? Could it be swine flu? Should we keep them at home? Should we get them tested?

If you believe all you read, the answers would be yes, yes, yes, yes. But I believe getting them tested for next to zero symptoms would be irresponsible and a misuse of scarce resources. Amit thinks we should at least take them to a doctor. I think we just did – though for their annual checkup, not for swine flu, specifically. The mildly stuffy nose was present then, no better and no worse than it is now, but the doctor didn’t even so much as comment on it and prescribe a decongestant, so is it really likely that two cases of swine flu just walked through her clinic and she didn’t notice?

I think getting people to be aware of the symptoms and encouraging people to go to the doctor if they have symptoms of flu is sensible. Getting people to just stay home if they are sick is sensible. Emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently, with soap, is mandatory (and I don’t see enough of that message being sent). But closing schools, testing every single person who coughs twice in a day, wearing face masks all the time etc is just over the top. Starting a panic response to the situation right now doesn’t seem like a really good idea. If a sensible, educated, informed, and generally level-headed person like Amit can be scared into taking two obviously healthy kids to the doctor just because of ordinary stuffed noses; if, in other words, an ordinary parent can be made too scared to call a stuffed nose just a stuffed nose, then you are already succeeding in overwhelming common sense with panic. That’s not sensible.

At least, that’s the way I see it. But then, what would I know?

I Wish I Could Stop Breathing…

June 14, 2009

Oh, not for good… I am feeling a bit sorry for myself, but I’m not that far gone… yet…

It’s just this stupid cold (I mean flu) which Sup33 & Co didn’t give me.

I discovered only today that a cold is not the same as the flu (I always thought cold = flu = viral, but I am only partly right, it seems), and that what I have right now is the flu. Flu, says Wikipedia, is more severe than a cold, comes with fever on the side (not onion rings or fries), and is marked by a sudden onset, while a cold builds up gradually. Apparently both are viral though. So why the doctor has put me on antibiotics, I don’t know, but I suppose that’s what doctors do best.

On Thursday, when I took the girls to school, they seemed ok, so I decided to wait outside the class. For about 20 minutes, all was fine. Then Tara started to cry and the rest of the one-hour session was chaos. She refused to sit in class at all and would only be pacified by being allowed to play in the sandpit, which, apparently, was ok with the teachers. I was impressed with that. (Naturally, Mrini wouldn’t stay in class for more than 2 minutes without her beloved twin – no matter what enticements were offered.) So the rest of the session was spent somewhat sulkily in the sandpit, with only the last few minutes being spent back in the classroom.

On Friday morning, I was already coming down with the flu, and what’s more, I had to spend the entire school session in class with the kids, to prevent a fresh outburst of tears and dramatics.

Saturday passed in a haze, with Amit struggling to manage all the household tasks and prepare for an official trip abroad, while I whined and snoozed.

And now he’s gone. It’s Sunday, my household help (the paid ones) are off, and the kids are home all day. So I have to single-handedly bathe them, feed them, play with them, cook for them… All that fun stuff, you know.

And tomorrow is Monday and I have to drive them to school bright and early in the morning – apparently they have been shifted to 9-11 a.m. instead of 11-12 noon as it was so far. And I’m not to be allowed into the classroom “even if they cry”.

In case you think, by now, that this whole post is about how I’ve got the flu and how lousy that is, let me tell you, that isn’t what this is about at all. No, really. It’s about how I want to stop breathing for a while, and why.

See, what with my better half at the other end of the globe and the twins still trying to get used to school all over again, what I really don’t need right now is for either of them to come down with what I’ve got. Can’t I just imagine it: driving to school to deposit one wailing kid all alone in class while the other kid, sick, accompanies me on the drive both ways but doesn’t get to actually go anywhere. Not to mention all the fever, body ache and all that stuff that they will have to suffer. Not to mention that just as soon as one gets well the other will certainly fall ill.

So, I really, really don’t want them to get it. To the extent that I’m actually washing my hands with soap about 25 times a day, in the hope that that will help.

Actually, I don’t want to pass it on to anyone else in my inner circle either – not 8-month pregnant Shaba-aunty, not park friends (of either generation), not the twins’ school mates and teachers, not even, retrospectively, the traveling spouse who, if he gets fever, will probably be immediately isolated on suspicion of swine flu. None of this would be nice.

Which is why, while I don’t want to stop breathing for good or anything – it would be great if I could stop for just a few days till I get this virus out of my system. Oh and, while the breathing is suspended, please god, could you hold off on all that coughing, sneezing, and snuffling business too? Not too much to ask, is it? Thank you so much.


August 19, 2008

Making the mental shift from being irresponsible DINKs to responsible parents is much more difficult in some respects than I’d ever imagined.

As irresponsible DINKs, we never had much of a medicine cabinet at home. Perhaps a couple of ancient band-aids, some disinfectant, maybe some Crocin/Disprin (basically paracetamol) tablets and that was about it. We rarely fell ill, and when we did, we had the luxury of waiting it out, or of rushing off to the doctor or hospital at any time whatsoever. If one of us was out, the other could go alone, but we usually went along with each other. It wasn’t anything we had to think about or plan for.

With kids, it’s different. I learnt long ago to keep painkiller, fever, cough, diarrhea, and vomiting medicines handy, along with copious quantities of disinfectant and a good stock of band-aids. (Laxatives and suppositories were recently added to this stock.) Once a doctor recommends a general medicine for one of the girls, it goes into their medicine cabinet and remains part of my stock, as long as I know the dosage.

On the numerous occasions that Amit and I have had to visit a doctor since the advent of the kids, we have almost always gone alone. It’s the only practical way to do it. The other person stays home and holds fort. It requires a bit of coordination – specially if I’m the one visiting the doc – but it still doesn’t require too much thought.

Last night, I realized that we can’t go on this way at all.

It was 1.30 at night, it was raining, the kids were blissfully asleep, and I had an earache.

Rather, I had the mother of all earaches.

I’ve suffered a couple of really bad migraines in my life, some terrible menstrual cramps in my adolescent years, and a fractured leg which I walked on for a week (without painkillers) before going to a doctor. I’d love to say that the earache beat all of those prior pain experiences hands-down, but, because the memory of pain is always so much less than the pain itself, I’ll say just this much – it was way up there along with the worst of them. I had no idea that an ear could even hurt that much. It felt like the whole left side of my face was swollen and heavy and red and ready to burst, but, much to my mystification, there was absolutely no external manifestation of the pain. I remember that the evening I broke my leg, I kept it still and straight in bed, and I actually slept. Soundly, albeit with interruptions of sudden pain. But with the earache, not only did I not sleep, I couldn’t even let Amit sleep, poor fellow.

He raided the medical kit. But he found no painkillers! I’m generally against taking pills, especially painkillers, but if we’d had a brufen I’d have swallowed it and begged for more, it was that bad. I have no idea whether painkillers work with earaches, but if he had even offered me a digestive tablet and told me it was a painkiller, I’d have swallowed it. In the end, all we had was Crocin, so I swallowed that and waited. At that point, the pain was so bad, especially if I tried to lie down, that I was convinced I should go to hospital right away, even if I had to go alone. Or worse, even if I had to lug Amit and the kids along. The thought of waiting it out till morning, still a good 7 hours away, was completely intolerable.

There was nothing else I could do, so I tried steam inhalation. It must have helped, or the Crocin must have kicked in, because the pain abated enough that I could stop moaning. I could even carry on a sane conversation. A while later, it was bearable enough so that I could lie down, and when I did, thankfully, I slept.

So after all that, when I finally went to the doctor in the afternoon, do you know what he said? “There’s too much wax in your ear, I can’t see anything, use these drops three times a day and come back after five days.”

Five days!? No treatment for five whole days!?

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