A pertussis update.
December 14, 2011

Our family is on Day Six of The Great Whooping Cough Quarantine Of 2011 and it must be said that, at this point, our efforts to keep Charlotte sedentary and entertained have lead us to compromise every single parenting belief we ever held.  Television?  Check.  By Disney?  Check.  With a princess?  Check check.  BUT!  But the small child seems to be steadily progressing through the typical stages of pertussis and I’m willing to eat my words every day of the week if a healthy kid is the result.

Yesterday morning she walked into the kitchen rubbing her eyes.  “Hey beautiful,” she said to me.  Like I always say to her.  “I need some toast please.  Yeah.  With some smatos (tomatoes).  Yeah.  And some peas too.  Just a little bit, remember.”

Last night when Donald set her down for the night, her cough seemed to have worsened.  He came out to the living room to grab her sippy of water and when he laid back down with her, she told him “You will stay here.  You will lay in the bed.  I will give you kisses.  And you will be happy with that.”

It seems like such a small thing, but to us these glimpses at the Charlotte we knew before Friday mean the world.  Charlotte’s symptoms never developed to the life-threatening extent that some people with pertussis experience.  (I personally credit this to an incredibly attentive pediatrician, an abundance of breast-milk, and the fact that my husband somehow managed to turn this house into the freaking tropics.)  But being sick has taken its toll on her.  Hearing her talk like her normal amazing two-year-old self again – not telling us how much she hurts, not gasping, not coughing, not asking us to make her better NOW PLEASE – is like standing at the brink of paradise.

Over the past few days, as I have watched Charlotte fight off this disease, I have calmed down considerably from Sunday night when I wrote about vaccinations.  Donald and I are both still upset.  We are both still struggling to figure out how we feel about vaccinations given this unexpected situation.  But it’s common knowledge that a wounded animal is the most dangerous – and with every step our daughter takes out of the woods, the two of us heal a little bit too.

Will we ever fully back down from our outrage and intolerance after this experience?  I don’t know.  I honestly DO. NOT. KNOW.

The only flip-side perspective of this debate which I have personally found compelling over the past several days was put forward by Theresa in comment 50-something of my vaccination post.  She wrote “Asking someone to do something that could seriously harm their child so that yours might be safer…I don’t know…it’s a lot to ask” and you know?  I can understand that.  With a little distance from my family’s current situation, I can even respect that.

Yesterday we received some preliminary results from Charlotte’s cultures as well as the full run-down on her blood-work.  In another week or so, we should know even more.  Today Charlotte begins a new medication and we are both keeping our fingers crossed that this helps her recover.  Our pediatrician’s best estimate is that it will take Charlotte’s body, particularly her lungs, nine to twelve months to fully heal.  She will probably have minor respiratory problems for the rest of her life.  We have made our peace with this.  In fact, considering how low Charlotte’s titers were for pertussis, that’s pretty damned good news.

I’ve reached out to a few non-vaccinating pals who I trust and respect over the past few days and asked for them to walk me through the specifics of their decision so that I can better understand their side of the story.  I also made some time last night to respond to the e-mail the unvaccinated child’s mother sent me over the weekend.  “After I read your blog, I thought I might not hear from you again,” she wrote back.  “I understand if you can’t forgive me.  I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, though.  I need you to know that.”

“I thought about ending the friendship,” I responded honestly.  “But I think it might be better just to get together sometime and talk about this.  I don’t think you’re a bad person or a bad parent.  I don’t think you’re selfish.  Charlotte loves your kid.  But if we are going to agree to disagree then I would really like to better understand your decision.  It’s important to me that you see things from my point of view too.”

Her answer was: “I would like that.  Please give love to Charlotte.  We are so so sorry.”


Our house sort of devolves into chaos with a sick kid.

Someday maybe I’ll re-visit this topic.  Maybe I’ll write about vaccinations or about the specifics of whooping cough or about some of the incredible and thought-provoking comments and e-mails I received from people who disagree with me.  Maybe I’ll write about some of the really crappy comments and e-mails I received too.  But right now, all I really care about is doing just that.  Giving love to Charlotte.

The rest is fucking background noise.


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  1. By tara pollard pakosta on December 14, 2011

    exactly, the rest is just background noise that you do NOT need right now while trying to heal your sick baby! I hope she gets better quickly and I truly HOPE and PRAY she does not suffer the consequences of this for her lifetime, that would be horrible…hugs to you and especially to little Charlotte!
    tara

  2. By on December 14, 2011

    Shame on anyone who would send you vicious attacking emails at a time when you and your family are suffering like this. Shame.  But as you say, it is all background noise and that is certainly the most mature way to approach it.

    Best wishes to your family for Charlotte’s quick and full recovery. You have a lot of people out in this world sending Charlotte their best wishes, me included. :)

  3. By on December 14, 2011

    I hate it when they are so sick that they are begging for help. My family had a horrible run in with rota virus about 2 years ago. My daughter ended up in the hospital. When it hit my son, then 3, he would lay in bed and yell “Have mercy, Mother. Please have mercy on me!“ He’s a little on the dramatic side :)
    Really glad to hear your angel is mending. Yay for steam!

  4. By Mailis on December 14, 2011

    Phew. That is all I can say.

    Good to see the little munchkin smiling. :)

  5. By Kj on December 14, 2011

    I’m even more torn on vaccinating than I was before. I definitely will vaccinate for whopping cough but the other ones I’m so not sure. The socialist in me agrees with for the ‘greater good’, but there’s another side of me that is fearful of the harm they can do.

  6. By on December 14, 2011

    I’m not sure why people think vaccines can do so much harm to their children. Vaccines can not cause autism! The side effects are usually a fever and aching arm. What can do harm is actually contracting the disease and not being able to fight it off!

    What you have been going through with Charlotte is so scary. I’m so glad she’s starting to feel better.

  7. By on December 14, 2011

    Je pense bien fort à vous et à Charlotte. She’s a wee trooper. Lots of positive vibes from Scotland.

  8. By dspence on December 14, 2011

    I am so, so glad that Charlotte is recovering. Praying for her and your family.

  9. By Megan on December 14, 2011

    That is VERY big of you to be willing to move forward, forgive, and keep a friendship.  I respect that and you so much!  Love to you & hope she continues to get well quickly.

  10. By on December 14, 2011

    So glad to see Charlotte is doing better. I am an Indian based in the US and don’t even question the importance of vaccines. I am just 30 and have in my lifetime seen people with diseases such as polio and TB. I understand the concern, I have a 2 year old myself. But, people need to understand that some of these diseases are life-threatnening. To people who are afraid of the link between autism and vaccines I say this: Autism won’t kill your child, contracting one of these diseases might.

  11. By Sarah Christensen on December 14, 2011

    Megan - It’s really not worth praising unless it works out in the long run, so come back and see where we’re at in a year lol.  Or where we’re at if this sort of thing ever happens in my family again.

    Sarah - I know it must have been heartbreaking to hear your son say that, but I have to admit that it’s pretty darling that he was asking for mercy.  It cracks me up when kids say stuff like that!  I hope your kids didn’t have any lasting effects.

    Mathilde - Merci!  J’ai reçu ton e-mail; je répondrai quand Charlotte se coucherai plus tard.  (Maintenant elle est en train de construire un grand tour des cubes de construction avec mon mari, alors je n’ai pas beaucoup de temps pour écrire.)

    Mailis - Us too!

    Animom - Interesting thing.  I’ve received dozens of e-mails from people who, like you, either come from or live in a country where some of these diseases are more prominent than they are here.  All of them vaccinate.  Almost all of them mention polio or tetanus as being the disease that terrifies them.  That’s not to say that everybody in these or from these countries feels this way - I have a friend from Senegal, for example, who does not vaccinate even though her brother died from polio.  But it has been interesting to me, at least.

  12. By elizabeth Mackey on December 14, 2011

    I’m so happy to see her smiling in those pictures!
    I’m in the Vaccine camp myself, and I can’t understand the people who jump on the wagon of not doing it for whatever reason.

    I grew up with a family friend that had contracted polio, and was disfigured from it. She had to use iron braces. I marveled that there was a vaccine that could end this. My biggest concern now is that something like Polio will return, if there are more and more people who do not vaccinate their children. Nature has a way of surviving…..so if there are enough people not vaccinating, then what do you think will happen.

    I have a friend that is anti vaccine, and I kind of shut her down when she was on her soap box about it. At the very same time, there was a huge out break of whooping cough at my daughter’s high school!  I’m not a scientist or medical expert, but I believe we were given these tools to help ourselves. I’m sorry for those that have adverse reactions, but I believe the percentage is quite low.

    I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will argue about this, but the thought of more childhood illnesses on the rise again, really has me worried.

    i just recently had a physical, and my doctor told me there had been an outbreak of mumps at the UC Berkeley campus, and that my daughter should come in for a vaccine booster. I ended up getting a MMR and tetnus shot . I had a not so great reaction to the tetnus shot, but I would sure hate to have full blown tetnus, that’s for sure!!!

    Sorry for the ramble, but i’m pissed at the non vaccine people.

  13. By Amber on December 14, 2011

    Sarah, I’m so glad that Charlotte is getting better and is showing you bits of her “old” self. I was so very angry for you and Charlotte when I read your previous post. Honestly, I didn’t read the comments here or on your other post, because I get too fired up. I know parents who choose not to vaccinate think they are making the safest choice for their child. I do all I can to avoid toxins too. But you know what? We don’t exactly know the negative health effects of the vaccinations, it’s just speculation. But we do know what happens when the most valuable members of our society contract such serious illnesses. Thank god Charlotte is doing as well as she is and thank god you are still breastfeeding her. Hugs to you all!

  14. By missjoules on December 15, 2011

    I just love that Charlotte has (what looks like) jimmies and dress shoes on. Adorable. I’m really glad that she is getting better, I was honestly wondering how long you were going to hold out on the TV with orders to keep her still and I think you’ve made a wise decision to break out the princesses. Do you know how long will your quarantine last (surely not the 9-12 months it will take her lungs to recover) Best of luck to you!

  15. By carolina baker on December 15, 2011

    Sarah,

    I’m 28 and have lived with bronchial asthma for most of my life. When I was young, it was worse, as I got it often, and that gave me double pneumonia, and my parents many scares. I’m not going to say it hasn’t sucked, because feeling like you can’t breathe SUCKS. Wheezing SUCKS.  I remember having to use the nebulizer as I grew up many times and having to go to the hospital when I didn’t take care of a cold that turned into a cough that turned into asthma. If I’m careless now, it happens maybe once a year. I try not to let it get to that point. But the most important thing is that this never prevented me from being an active child and continuing that into adulthood. If anything, it helped me make smarter choices, like, um, not smoke or do drugs, as the one time that I tried smoking, I almost coughed up a lung. I recently got my thyroid removed and I was bitching about having to take a pill for the rest of my life but am now seeing things from a different perspective. I feel more in tune with my body and what it requires. I fundamentally believe that my asthma prevented me from being a stupid teenager and lead to healthier choices. Charlotte and her lungs will be fine, if at all, just a tad bit smarter as she grows up.

  16. By on December 15, 2011

    Those jammies, they lie! She doesn’t look the least bit like a sleepy head.  I’m glad your little one is feeling better, though.  And it’s best to leave those big questions aside, and just focus on getting her well again.

  17. By on December 15, 2011

    Missjoules - Oh yeah, we lasted about three days of indoor stay-still quarantine before we queued up the princesses.  One of my oldest friends works for Disney so I asked her if we could borrow some of her favorites and she dropped off a bunch of DVDs.  We also found some old Silly Symphony shorts on YouTube.

    Right now, it looks like our quarantine will last until around Christmas, maybe a little afterwards.  She won’t be contagious that long, she just still needs the warmth and humidity to breathe well, so it really depends on how she’s feeling and doing next week.  We might be able to invite people over, but we have to be careful not to excite her too much.  So.  It really depends.

  18. By Bee on December 15, 2011

    Sending ♥ and well wishes your way.

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