The guest opinion piece in The New York Times warned of new pandemics long after COVID-19 has flittered off into the nether.
I cringed when I read that. I’m pretty sure my kids are Patients Zero.
That’s not a typo. I do mean “Patients Zero” plural and not “Patient Zero” singular. The first week of summer vacation they each contracted different diseases. I was in the pediatric nurse practitioner’s office twice that week. I spoke with her by phone four times. I went to the pharmacy three times – in one day.
It started with my 15-year-old daughter, who held her hip-flip blonde bangs back from her face one day to ask if anything appeared wrong with her left eye.
Boy did it.
Her entire lid was swollen, the skin so distended it was translucent. Over the next twelve hours, the white of her eye became bright red. It oozed a yellow goo that sealed her eye shut until she held a warm compress to it, then sealed it shut again.
When you’re a parent, there are certain illnesses you dread. Sometimes, it’s because they’re labor-intensive. Vomiting comes to mind.
Sometimes, it’s because they’re nerve-wracking. They flirt with hospitalization. You lose sleep, constantly checking that your child’s breathing hasn’t been stilled by croup or bronchitis.
But sometimes, it’s because it spreads, and even though the school communiques maintain anonymity, the text communiques pride themselves on quite the opposite. Lice are an example.
So is pink eye.
School, thankfully, had ended. But that kid is on swim team. She’s getting SAT prep. She’s working.
So, while hardly anyone has been sick with anything besides COVID-19 in 15 months – as noted in this piece from The Washington Post – my kid has possibly annihilated the swim team with one gelatinous eye.
I shuttled her to the pediatrician, who put her on antibiotic eye drops. But forty-eight hours later, her eye was worse, not better. It was now swollen shut, the yellow gunk matting her eyelashes like cheap punk mascara. Worse, the entire left side of her face had blown up, savage red welts blooming next to her eye.
“Bring her back,” the pediatric nurse practitioner sighed.
The antibiotics shifted from drops to pills. The entire family was banned from everything but work. Nobody wants to be around pink eye, but pink eye that had developed its own personality? We were pariahs.
As a side note, I’m content to be a pariah. We have established that I do not enjoy people, parties, or anything not occurring on my sofa. So, although I didn’t give my daughter pink eye on purpose, I am enjoying the side effects.
While none of us contracted pink eye, my son was just as – with all apologies to my husband for the abuse of his family name – rank. His back, chest, and neck were peppered with a rash he had nicknamed The Supermarket Gremlins.
That seemed to be as good a diagnosis as any. The Supermarket Gremlins piqued the pediatrician, who suggested a steroid cream, isolation, and maybe some more aggressive handwashing in the Rank household.
Handwashing would be a good start, as body washing, tooth washing, and hair washing are all considered optional. A word of warning to you obsessive moms-to-be out there: Hide it. Hide your obsessiveness and your germaphobia. You think your kids will follow suit. But kids are naturally rebellious. They will embrace germs, love them like puppies or chocolate. And you will never sleep again.
My grand plans for the summer – swim team and karate, tutoring, and more tutoring – faltered thanks to some eye goop and a bevy of red welts splattered across the trunk and eyeball of two kids.
So when The Philadelphia Inquirer says kids might be leery of going maskless, it might just be that they’ve spent time with my kids, Patients Zero for the next pandemic.
Sorry about that.