I saw a meme recently that said, “The reason parents are so stressed with the pandemic is we are constantly having to choose between our children’s physical and mental health.” Those words are painfully true. But for most, it’s not a hard choice—even if they got COVID, most kids would be totally fine. Those kids get to go to school, play with friends, do sports, etc.

Not my kids. Mine don’t get to do any of that. And here’s why.

We have been socially distancing for months. We wear our masks every time we go to the grocery store, we have avoided restaurants, we barely see anyone (the kids have each spent time with their besties occasionally, but that’s about it). School has started for everyone now, and both kids are missing their friends, though both are also kind of settling into the routine of homeschooling.

As the Girl Scout troop leader, I realized a couple weeks ago that it was time for Girl Scouts to start up again, too. We can’t meet at the kids’ old school anymore, so we went to a local park for the first meeting last Thursday. The girls all wore their masks for the entire meeting, but when it ended and they ran to play on the playground, they took the masks off.

Three days. That’s how long it took Gracie to get sick after that interaction.

She started with a cough and sore throat Sunday night—she couldn’t stop coughing when we laid down for bed. I wasn’t too worried; she has been having sinus problems ever since she had that month-long sickness in March. I figured it was an extension of that.

The next afternoon, she got a fever. In typical Gracie fashion, she had the fever shakes (a/k/a rigors) for over an hour before the fever spiked. Though it only got up to 101.3, that was enough to concern me. She is already on antibiotics because of her fingers, so any fever is cause for concern.

When the fever came back 8 hours later, I knew I had to call the doctor.

It’s always so tricky with Grace. You never quite know if she’s got a tissue infection breaking through and causing the fever or if it’s all attributable to the virus. As a general rule, when someone is on antibiotics and they get a fever, they need to be seen. I decided to call her infectious disease doctor, the one who prescribed the antibiotics, for advice.

At first, the MA who works for the ID doctor did not believe Grace needed to be seen, but decided to run it by the doctor anyway. The doctor recommended getting blood work done to check her infection markers and rule out tissue infection, and to check for viruses.

So, we spent the afternoon yesterday at the doctor’s office. Grace was in rare form; overheating plus worries about COVID plus fever caused her behavior to be—well, like a toddler throwing a tantrum. A bad one. The doctor was astounded. She’s never seen this from Grace. (Lucky for her!) We ended up talking about the mental health issues for quite a while, in addition to doing an ear exam (Grace’s favorite! Just kidding. She HATES them.) and checking her throat and lungs.

All this from ONE TIME at a park without a mask.

People like Grace are the reason people like me wear masks. I could have a virus and not know it. I could be contagious and feel healthy. So, in order to keep from breathing germs on others, I wear my mask. It’s a small price to pay to help others.

For those of you who refuse to wear masks, please—think of Gracie. She’s battling a fever right now, at this very moment, from some viral infection she picked up in a few minutes at a public park. No one else is sick, just her. She is the one whose immune system is compromised.

And for those of you who are able to send your kids to school and for whom the decision between their physical and mental health was a no-brainer, please remember how lucky you are that your children do not have compromised immune systems. Please remember that for some of us, every outing is a roll of the dice.

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