Oct 26 2007

Hooray … Whoopee … It’s Whooping Cough!

Published by at 9:19 pm under Children,Family,Health,Parenting

Parenthood is unrelenting.

It turns out that the persistent and annoying little cough that Filosofo brought home from school at the beginning of this month has turned into whooping cough.

Whooping cough. A highly contagious illness the Chinese refer to as “the 100-day cough.”

Great! All this past week, Exacto, our middle child, has been waking up in the middle of the night with violent coughing fits, followed by vomiting all over his bed sheets. Now it looks like his little brother Destructo is going to join in the fun too.

One hundred days of sleep deprived nights, holding a plastic bag-lined shoebox under the face of a poor choking, coughing, barfing little child who just wants to be able to go back to sleep, then changing vomity bed sheets and pyjamas, only to go through the whole episode again about an hour later.

Corporate Babe has it too. She has stayed home from work most of this month. The few times she tried to get to a meeting with some of her clients, including one interstate trip, she had to cut things short when the coughing fits took over.

Before we knew what it was that we all came down with, we just assumed it was a really persistent form of a flu virus. So, to combat what we thought was influenza, we all went on a “Suburban Health Blitz” and started taking olive leaf extract, cod liver oil, vitamins and multi-vitamins with our McDonald’s meals (we were so weak, we could hardly make it to the local drive thru!).

After doing this for about a week and seeing no improvement in the symptoms, Corporate Babe took the kids off to a local doctor and then to a Homeopath. I stayed home to consult the runes and read the green tea leaves in the tea bag at the bottom of my tea mug.

The kids all came back a few hours later sucking homeopathic lollipops and playing with their new McDonald’s toys. Then, at night everything started up again. The “paroxysms” (the technical name for the coughing fits), the vomiting, the gagging, the choking sounds. In the morning, we decide Exacto is not well to go to school. No one is well to go out of the house, except for Filosofo, who has already gone through his late nights staying up barfing and having cold night sweats a few weeks earlier.

The alarm goes off at 7:30am. I hit the snooze button. It goes off at 7:38am again (my cellphone alarm is fixed at an 8-minute snooze interval. I have no idea why they set it at “8” minutes instead of 10, 15 or 60, but I can’t change it). I hit the snooze button again. It goes off at 7:46am. Again, I hit the snooze button. It goes off at 7:54am again. I reach over an hit the snooze button. It goes off at 8:02am. Snooze button. 8:10am. Snooze button.

In my desperate attempt to squeeze a few more precious minutes of sleep (well, not sleep actually … more like just lying there with my eyes closed wishing daylight hadn’t arrived), I come up with an ingenious idea for easing my burden. So, I roll over and ask Corporate Babe (who has been up with me all night, as well as going through the violent coughing fits herself) if she can get up and make Filosofo’s breakfast and lunch, then come and tell me when it’s time to take him to school.

She utters one very flat-sounding, resolute “no.”

I’m on my own here. So, I roll over, make myself as horizontal as I possibly can and try to make the most of my last snooze break.

I don’t let it get to 8:18am. I’m up at 8:16am, looking pasty white and groggy. I feel nauseous and my head is spinning from lack of sleep. So I go into Filosofo’s room and tell him to get up, get washed and to go make his own breakfast, while I get his lunch ready. We get in the car 5 minutes later and I drive him to school. I look like a foul-breathed, scumbag zombie, so when we get to his school, I just drop him off at the gate and try to get out of there as quickly as possible, before any other parent sees me.

By the time I get home, there’s no chance of going back to bed. The two younger kids are already up and Corporate Babe is in no condition to get out of bed.

Things have been pretty much like this for the entire month. No sleep at night, the two youngest children at home during the day and Corporate Babe in bed trying to get enough energy to get to an occasional client meeting or make an appearance at the office where she works.

So, when Corporate Babe called yesterday from work saying that her blood test results showed she had whooping cough, I felt my heart sink a little. Even though I didn’t know much about it, I knew it wasn’t good. So I got on the net and googled the term “whooping cough”.

I came across the website of a Dr Doug Jenkinson (whoopingcough.net), an English doctor who has studied whooping cough in the general population for 25 years. After personally studying over 700 cases of whooping cough, here’s what Dr Jenkinson has to say about treating whooping cough:

“For the average case of whooping cough there is no treatment likely to make a difference to the course of the illness or materially reduce the symptoms. It will generally take its course no matter what. Attempts to get benefit from bronchodilators, cough suppressants or antibiotics are generally futile.”

Now that the illness had a name, I felt we could do something about it, even though there’s nothing that can apparently be done. So I decided I would wait for Corporate Babe to come home, so we could discuss, commiserate and come up with a plan of action.

So, that’s what I did about it until Corporate Babe got home yesterday night. Nothing. I just sat there with the word “whooping cough” going through my mind over and over again, and the feeling that this could go on for longer than we initially expected.

For some reason, I haven’t been affected with the cough. But I have been told that this is yet to come …

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