Contagious

We are all settling into our new life with a family of five. So far, it’s been pretty good. Elliot is a very sweet baby who rarely cries and sleeps relatively well at night. We all enjoy having him around; his cute little face brightens our days.

Grace has especially enjoyed having a baby brother. She loves him soooo much. She is always wanting to kiss him, hold him, read him stories, and sing him songs. She is a very sweet older sister.

Unfortunately, she is also a very contagious older sister.

Since Elliot has been born, she has had three viruses, came thisclose to a hospital stay in his third week of life, and just today had to come home from school because of the latest atrocity—lice. (*Shudder*) The first two viruses were short-lived mystery fevers. She would complain of a headache and body aches then spike a high fever. Both times, this resolved in about 24 hours. Our pediatrician assured me that this particular virus attacks older children, and not usually babies.

The next virus was a severe cold; it took her weeks to shake the lingering cough, and she still will let out a rattly cough now and then. She was never sick enough to stay home from school with the cold, but she was sick enough to feel bad and to cough all over the house. We were constantly reminding her to cover her cough, to little avail.

It has been so hard for her to stay away from her brother through all of this. She loves him so much that she just wants to be with him all the time, snuggling and kissing and loving on him. She does not understand just how serious it could be for a little guy like Elliot to get sick, and can only think of how much she wants to be near him. Exasperated, I finally told her that if she really loved the baby she would try not to get him sick. She’s had a few reminders of that, but generally has been able to stay away so as to not get her baby brother sick.

She was finally on the upswing from the cold when she got the finger infection. This kid just can’t stop biting her fingers—every day she has a new wound (or two, or three…). She refuses to use any of the non-finger chewing alternatives available, and scorns every new chewy I bring to her. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see her do so much damage to her own body. I have cried, begged, pleaded, scolded, ignored, redirected, and everything else, and she still won’t stop biting. It’s a bad habit that she has grown to enjoy, and one day it could cost her fingers, a hand, even her life. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

A couple weeks ago on a Tuesday night, I was giving her a bath and noticed that a deep new wound on her thumb was red and hot. To my horror, I saw a red streak tracing down from the base of her thumb all the way up to her elbow. My heart sank, knowing that the speed and intensity with which this infection developed almost guaranteed a hospital stay. At that time, Elliot was three weeks old. I was scared to expose him to the big, bad hospital germs. He had weathered Grace’s viruses, but could he fight the germs in a hospital emergency room? After much soul-searching and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to give her a dose of the Keflex we keep on hand and see how the night went. If she developed a fever overnight, she would have to go to the ER. If she made it without a fever, I would take her to her pediatrician as soon as possible the next day.

Amazingly, she made it through the night without a fever. I think her pediatrician was shocked that she was afebrile with that bad of an infection, but she understood my fears about taking the baby to the ER. She prescribed a stronger antibiotic and sent us home with instructions to go to the hospital if a fever developed.

Grace never did get a true fever, even though she did have a slightly elevated temp that night. But she probably should have been admitted for the infection, anyway—it’s been three weeks now on the stronger antibiotic and her finger is still red and swollen. The infection is slowly, slowly resolving, but it is taking a very long time. It seems obvious to me that the infection is in her bone, and it will take a while to get the medicine where it needs to go. If she had been admitted, she would not have been discharged until the infection had resolved more than it is now. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Today’s installment in our game of “What will Grace bring home next?” is the grossest, although the most benign. She has had lice before—she brought it home at the end of the school year last year—so we know how to treat it. (She calls lice “her little creeps”—a suitable moniker, for sure.) Last time she had it, I was pregnant and was cautious about what treatments I applied to her in order to protect the baby. This time, I bought the stronger pesticides in hopes that it will resolve faster. But if Elliot gets lice, the only option will be to pick the nits individually. Luckily, his hair is wispy and soft, and any lice would be easy to see. Still, I hope he can avoid them. They’re disgusting little creeps.

If we’re lucky, this will be the last time Grace brings home a germ or parasite for a very long time. Hopefully and with a little luck, she will be able to be the big sister she wants to be once all the germs and bugs are gone. And hey, at least she’s helping Elliot to develop his own strong immune system. With any luck, it will be MUCH stronger than his sister’s.

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