Immunocompromised by Children

I am living proof that love does not conquer all. And so is Chris. Oh, it has nothing to do with our hearts. Just our lungs. We’re walking test cases that those of us without children are not only more susceptible to everything from the common cold to influenza, but are hit harder, experience it longer, and recover less quickly than those with the little munchkins in the household. I’m 10 days into a cold-turned-bronchitis, and he is 9 days into the same thing. So, what’s love got to do with it? Everything.

My brother Paul came to Minnesota visit his daughter, her husband, and their three small children 12 days ago. Eleven days ago, Paul and I met them for lunch before he went to stay with them for the remainder of the weekend. Adorable. All three of them. So smart, so cute, so funny. Lunch was a crack up. I loved it. It was great to spend time with them. But I couldn’t help but notice the occasional cough from each of the kids, and the runny noses that needed attention throughout the meal. I kept telling myself: “Don’t worry. It’s nothing. You’re strong. Just wash your hands. Stay positive.” Lunch went on, we chatted, played, and then I loaded Paul and them into their car and away they went. Or so I thought. A part of them stayed with me, and as more than a memory… That was 10 days ago. Nine days for Chris. The rest is bronchial history.

Photo courtesy Kyle Simourd, Flickr

Now, I’m not a sick-a-phobe, but I am fairly conscious of health and wellness, given the amount I travel by air. Air travel is brutal when you’re ill, and even more brutal when you are the one who is NOT ill on the plane, but in the vicinity of someone who IS. You get the picture. But I digress… I came home that afternoon, mentioned to Chris that the kids were adorable, but I thought they might have all had the sniffles. All it took was that look from him over the top of his readers, and I turned right back around and hit the pharmacy for Airborne, EmergenC, Dayquil, Nyquil, Robituson DM, Orange Juice, Grapefruit Juice, and a prayer shawl. The race against incubation was on, but we had already lost. There is just no way that an adult household with absolutely no contact with infants, toddlers, tweens or teens can survive an attack of the pre-school sniffles. Just no way. We are living proof. Oh, we kept the full-blown attack at bay. We cloaked the symptoms. We went to work. We traveled by air. We pretended. And by day 6, it had mutated to bronchitis, which, of course, we endured in ignorant, phlegm-filled bliss until days 9 and 10, certain we could beat it the old fashioned way — with a lot of cursing, coughing, and the occasional cry for help.

The dark humor in all of this is that whenever I recounted my tale of germ warfare and woe (between wheezes and unproductive coughs) to my “married with children” friends and co-workers, I was met with looks of bemused judgment. But all of them were human enough to acknowledge that they have immune systems of steel, all thanks to the little guys. Apparently, a runny nose is the status quo once a child hits day care or pre-school age. However, my “child-free” friends and co-workers who would even come close enough to hear my story were definitely more sympathetic — once they understood I was on the Z-pack — but still more interested in exactly how I came in contact with children in the first place. “So, wait, you had Sunday brunch with a 4 year-old, 2 year-old, and a 3 month-old?” Not helpful.

But behind the dark humor and behind this bout of bronchitis stands a man who hopes his immune system — and Chris’ —  is somehow the stronger for it… because the lake is thawing, the boat’s going back in, and I’m dying to get those three little guys out on the water! And there is no runny nose a little lake water can’t wash away, right?

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2 thoughts on “Immunocompromised by Children

  1. alan, Farrah left your blog up on my computer. So crazy. A few years ago we went to St. George with Georgia who had the sniffles. I never get sick so wasn’t worried about trying to avoid her germs and even shared food. Sure enough I got a serious runny nose, first I’d remembered having in YEARS. It was only then I had people tell me that kid germs are deadly powerful.

  2. John laughed when I wondered why I was always the one that got sick–he said I worked in a germ factory: a grade school. All those little bodies hugging me as they left my music room. Are you cringing yet?
    Hope you’re just about better now, and I’m proud of you for being willing to go in for round two!

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