I know, I haven’t posted in a couple days. I can explain, and it’s a little bit being sick and it’s a little bit of just being scared. Not just my fear but also the fear of my kids, my family, lots of other people.
I am certain I told everyone, but in case some of you have come to this website or blog recently or via my friend Rene Syler’s “Good Enough Mother” I feel like I need to tell you what caused this fear.
You see, I fought the flu about ten days ago. It’s not a big deal, it’s the flu, right? I went to the doctor, both of my own volition and my daughter’s insistence, as well as because I had 48 hours after the first symptoms to get the anti-viral medication to do any good and lessen the symptoms of the flu. My kids had been sick, coming home with fevers, coughs, all of it during school. I used sick days for that and then we’d entered the all-important “sweeps” period, the ratings survey for our television station. I couldn’t call in sick, and quite frankly, I wanted to reserve what days I had left for the kids being sick. I had also just asked for about 10 days vacation so it wasn’t exactly “good form” to call in sick right after requesting vacation, right?
But that’s not the big thing. After a couple days of aches, fever, barreling through the chills and such I figured I was fine. Sure, there was a heaviness to my chest, but I was breathing OK, wasn’t coughing anything up, no pain when I breathed, so I figured I was OK. But a few days into that, 10 days after the flu, I could feel it. You see, as a kid, I had horrible asthma. It was to the point that I nearly died when I was a baby, got even worse the couple years later when my family moved to Nebraska. I knew the feeling, I had it now. Fluid in the lungs, the heavy feeling inside the chest, like a glass filling, not with water, a liquid though. It itched, pushed, feeling like you have a man standing on your chest as you try to breathe in. It’s like you want to reach into your throat and start scratching your insides.
But I tried my hardest to ignore it. There’s no sign of true infection and I really didn’t want the kids to freak out. I just wanted to get the kids to feel like I was OK and still taking care of them.
But I wasn’t. The house isn’t as picked up, the laundry’s piling up . . . again . . . and they know something’s not right. By the time I’d gotten to Monday night, I was having a hard time breathing in and I knew I had to face it. I also had to face the fact that if I waited far too long I’d end up in bad shape and the kids wouldn’t be able to handle it. Mainly because this was the chief cause of their Mom’s passing away. Pneumonia with a secondary infection going to sepsis.
We tend to take modern medicine for granted. Pneumonia sounds bad, but we go to the doc in a box, get some antibiotics, go home and rest, it’s nothing, right? I mean, it’s not like the Old West, we don’t lie in a bed of straw, racked with fever, tossing and turning, and a mortality rate with a top age of 45. Pneumonia is a curable disease, not something that kills you anymore, right?
Still, remember Jim Henson? The founder of the Muppets? He wasn’t supposed to die, he had been fine one week and gone the next. John Ritter? The guy from Three’s Company? Same thing.
My best friend, my beautiful, wonderful wife? She went in on Tuesday, was gone by Saturday at 8:30am, the morning of our 18th anniversary. So when I had a hard time sleeping because lying down made it even harder to breathe I decided it was time to go to the doctor, no matter how stressed the kids may get. That night, my daughter breathed a sigh of relief and said she was thrilled I wanted to go in because, in her words, “you’ve been sick for far too long, Dad!” I realized then that they were really concerned that I hadn’t gone to the doctor. When I went, the fears were confirmed, pneumonia. Not like I needed the diagnosis, I guess, I could feel it.
You see, there is that tendency as a guy, a father, as the protector of the family, that you can’t take the time. You have to keep going and show them that they’re protected and happy. You want them to know that you’re still somewhat invincible, even though you know deep down that you’re scared to death something could happen to them, that you could disappoint them or see that horrible, panicked look in their eyes like after they realized their mother was gone. It’s also that very thing that made me decide to see the doctor. I cannot fathom disappointing those little children again. It’s a silly theory, that, “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. It’s actually silly to think that you can get through something without getting help when it’s possible to get it.
So I sit here, today, breathing a little better, forcing myself to sit rather than walk around or go to the grocery store or even do laundry.
It’s not smart to try and get through something this serious – and kid yourself not, it is serious – without the help or the medicine. Andrea didn’t ignore her illness, she was just too weak, too many things attacking her body at once, to get through it. My kids need to know I’m not just taking care of them, I’m taking care of the family, and that includes myself.
It doesn’t kill me . . . it makes me stronger.