Whooping cough, the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving.

7 May

This is what happened when my entire family was hit with whooping cough.

Whooping cough school photo

It was a usual frantic morning in our home. Getting three children ready for school is always a rushed and frantic affair, even on the mornings I wake up at 5am to get a head start.

We arrived at school on time and then I drove off to spend a pleasant day working out of the local library that has a cafe filled with delicious food and beverages – toasted gourmet sandwiches and ice coffee’s being my ‘fuel’ of choice. A friend had just arrived share cake and coffee during my self-assigned afternoon tea break when I got the phone call.

“Your son has tested positive to Bordetella pertussis. You need to come in immediately.”

I sat back down and resumed drinking my coffee as my brain tried to muddle through the information I had been given. My son had whooping cough. It is highly likely that my younger son had it too. My daughter, my husband and I had ‘confirmed exposure’. We would all need to take strong antibiotics for the next five days in order to control the spread of the disease. We were to stay home until the antibiotics were complete. We were under voluntary quarantine.

Mixed in with my concerns for my children was a strong sense of responsibility about the position I was in. I could do everything the doctor recommended, or I could go about my life, allowing this deadly disease to spread.

Whooping cough fun fair

I got on the phone.

My first call was to my children’s school. I asked the office ladies to pull all three of my children out of class due to a positive whooping cough diagnosis. They always send out ‘alerts’ to parents when contagious diseases have been confirmed at the school and they did that quickly. I took the kids to the doctor and walked out with five separate scripts for power antibiotics.

Once home I emailed all the places we had been since Philip started showing symptoms. We’d been to school, a fun fair and Taekwondo. I’d been feeling a little off for a few days and I had been to a work engagement, the local shops and I’d visited my mum, dad and sister-in-law. I contacted them all and urged them to ask their doctor for advice. My dad is elderly and not in good health. My sister-in-law has my beautiful baby niece.

That done, I got busy cancelling my week. We’d be housebound from Tuesday until Sunday. Then, pending the outcome of a second visit to the doctor, we’d be released from home detention on Monday.

There was so much we would miss out on. I had some work engagements I was physically ill at the thought of missing. My children would miss out on shopping at the Mother’s Day Stall at school and we’d all miss out on the Mother’s Day celebrations on Friday. We wouldn’t be able to attend soccer training, soccer games, art class, or any of our other activities, not to mention school. I’d miss out on work and uni commitments.

The kids were all a little too excited at the news they wouldn’t be able to attend school for the rest of the week. Thanks to the fact we are a fully immunised family, Philip and Giovanni had a mild version of the disease. Caterina and I escaped the cough but both developed a temperature and lethargy.

Mum felt a little sick and so did my sister-in-law.

With everything sorted, everyone contacted, everything cancelled and a grocery delivery ordered, there was nothing left to do except ride it out. We’ve effectively stepped out of our deranged, busy, stress-filled schedules and been given a forced break from the mad rush of life. It’s been quite lovely.

Staying home for days and days on end with my children, guilt-free, is so much fun. We are really enjoying our time together. We sleep in until our bodies tell us it’s time to wake up. There are no alarms or calls to wake up because we’ll be late.

We eat breakfast in our pyjamas and then eventually get dressed. I have time to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. We eat together. We talk.

Each afternoon we run around our backyard with our puppy and sometimes we just sit in the sun on the grass relaxing.

The medicine is a different story.

Whooping Cough requires a really strong and disgusting-tasting antibiotic called KLACID. It tastes like cherries and dish washing liquid and to make it even worse, it is grainy. Two out of three of my children gagged and spat it out on the first day but we have gotten the hang of it now. I give it to them on a spoon – one spoonful for my daughter and two each for the boys – and I have water bottles for each of them and a snack to take the taste out of their mouths because it has the worst after taste in the world. Caterina gets Potato Sticks, Giovanni eats pretzels and Philip drinks a glass of lemonade.

I really must teach them to take tablets.

Experiencing the mild version of Whooping Cough makes me realise how easily it spreads. The cough comes later. At first it feels like a virus. Philip was the first to get sick and we took him to the doctor where we were told it was just a virus and there was nothing to do. After explaining that we’d received a notice from his school telling us a student in his class had been diagnosed with Whooping Cough the month before, we insisted on a throat swab that later turned out to be positive.

If we hadn’t been aware that it was going around, we would have been none the wiser, participating in our normal daily activities and infecting a lot of people. If they are vaccinated they would probably be okay. For those families with new babies, sick children or elderly people in them, it could be deadly.

I asked my doctor why it was spreading so quickly in our area and he explained that the lower the rate of immunisation, the more it spreads. For the millionth time I was told that vaccinations only work if majority of people get them. Once enough people decide against vaccinations, we are pretty much stuffed.

I’ve never felt more strongly about vaccinations in my life. Disease prevention methods are a miracle, a gift we give each other. The anti-vaccination movement with all of it’s deadly mis-information has a lot to answer for. I’d go as far as to say they have blood on their hands, so to speak.

If your children become ill, always ask your doctor which diseases are going around at the moment and insist of relevant testing. That way you know what you’re dealing with and you can take steps to protect those you care for and the general public.

See you on the other side. x

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