Sunday, November 30, 2008

The neverending sickness

Did you know that Newsweek embedded reporters with the McCain and Obama campaigns for a year? Both campaigns agreed to it, but the catch was that Newsweek couldn't publish anything about it until after the election was over. The resulting 7-part report was released a couple of weeks ago. You can find it here.

I'm reminded of those embedded reporters because for the last month, Jeremy has been very ill. I kept trying to write a post about it but it was just too much. I'm often able to cope with these kinds of situations by finding the humor in them, so the fact that I wasn't able to write about Jeremy being sick while it was going on should tell you how difficult it was for us all. I decided not to write anything until it was all over, just like the Newsweek reporters did. Don't worry, it will only take me one post - not seven - to tell you about it.

It started out innocuously enough when, by some freak of germ exposure, Jeremy came down with hand-foot-mouth disease. HFMD is a common enough disease among children, but is extremely rare in adults. It is also moderately contagious, which meant that Jeremy went into a quasi-quarantine in our own house and spent as little time as possible with the girls and me.

As if the sickness - fever, chills, head and body aches, and sores on his hands, feet, and mouth - wasn't bad enough, there was the fact that it was so awkward to tell anyone what Jeremy was suffering from. Why do they have to give diseases names like hand-foot-mouth? It just sounds so slovenly. It doesn't help that there is an entirely different disease called hoof-and-mouth that affects cows, sheep, and pigs.

Then, just as he was getting better from HFMD - and I mean literally, there was one day where the clouds broke for a few hours and he spent some time with us (I think it was election day) - pneumonia set in. Friends, if HFMD was bad, pneumonia was ten times worse. Meanwhile, I was still playing the single parent, taking care of the girls and Jeremy while trying not to pass germs from the latter to the former (or myself).

Things reached a peak one morning when the girls and I were trying to get out the door to playgroup and also give Jeremy a ride to the doctor for an appointment. Right when it was time to go, Jeremy started bleeding out through his nose. Aside from childbirth, I have never personally seen that much blood in my life. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that if I had walked into our bathroom later, not knowing what had really happened, I would have assumed that someone had been murdered there. It was gross. Also? This was the same morning that our garbage disposal broke. Yeah.

Fast-forward to last night, when the girls and I got home from our trip to Oregon. Jeremy is finally feeling better, but he's not 100% yet. His face actually has some color in it instead of being ash gray, and his hands don't look so leprous anymore from the HFMD sores.

Through all the emotional and physical clouds, there were a few silver linings. The major one was that if he had to be confined to a sickbed (or couch, as it were) for three weeks this year, he chose the right three weeks. The day before he got sick, he finished off a big batch of job applications. He was able to lie low for a few weeks and then get mobile again just in time to head off to Washington, DC to present at a conference and have some job interviews, though it was really, really close.

The other silver lining seems insignificant, but it meant the world to me. Remember the pony invasion? That was right smack in the middle of the worst of the whole sickness extravaganza. The beautiful thing was that Miriam played with those ponies all day, every day, and so for a while I only had to intensively take care of Magdalena and Jeremy.

I know some people don't like blogs because they often only show off the best of us. It's fun to highlight all the awesome things we do, the cutest pictures of our kids, the most fantastic and best experiences. But of course there's always other stuff going on behind the scenes - people just don't always have the energy or perspective to write about it all.

For now, I'm so glad that Jeremy is on the mend. And for all you critics who say that all we bloggers write about are sunshine and roses, now you know why. Who wants to put up with posts like this every day?


Jeremy Palmer said...

The doctor called the pneumonia an opportunistic ailment due to the weakened state of my immune system with HFMD. I currently also probably have a sinus infection that is causing the worst nose bleeds I have ever had - on a daily basis. I spend at least 30 minutes a day dealing with this. It's disgusting when you block the blood from coming out of your nose only to have it begin dripping down your throat into your mouth. I couldn't be a vampire. I hate the taste of blood.

Bridget didn't mention that this is all probably the result of going to the Tucson Children's Museum. I don't know where else I could have picked up HFMD, plus the timing fits. I don't think I will ever return.

Bridget also didn't do justice to the leprous nature of my hands and feet. For about two weeks after HFMD had passed, my hands and feet dried out and began to peel everywhere. I went to great lengths to hide my hands from others due to the large amounts of skin peeling off. The only solution was to put lotion on often, Unfortunately, I hate lotion...and the lotion we have here smells like rusty nails. Finally my hands have stopped peeling, but even just a few days ago my feet looked like a croissant.

Amazingly and thankfully, no one in the family has come down with any of my ailments. I would like to emphasize what Bridget mentioned about timing - anything more than a day or two earlier would have seriously collapsed my world. In total, I missed 5 classes due to HFMD and pneumonia. For a class that meets only 3 times a week, so many absences is considerable. I had to miss an additional two when I went to D.C. I am concerned for my students and their lack of a consistent teacher. I hope they can forgive me and not lower my end-of-semester evaluation too much.

To bring perspective to this all, someone in D.C. that is close to my brother said she almost died because of pneumonia. Fortunately, my version was not so lethal.

I count my blessings to be alive in the 21st century with modern medication. Had I been born a few centuries ago (or even less), I would not be alive at this age. I have had an appendectomy, chicken pox, severe food poisoning in Russia that led to the doctor thinking Bridget had poisoned me. More food poisoning in Syria that made me turn green and cause my roommates much fright. More food poisoning in Syria that led to trips to a clinic and IVs.

I am truly grateful to be alive. I also know that I have not seen as much illness as many. I'm certain many readers could share equal or worse experiences. As for today, however, Bridget has decided to share tales of my weak constitution for your enjoyment.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

HFMD appears to be one of those diseases that is worse in adults than children, Jeremy. I never heard of it until having grandchildren, so perhaps it's also one of those ailments that is more common now because of day-care centers. I'm so sorry about the terrible month you have endured.

Best wishes in upcoming interviews and I hope the job offers that come in give you some welcome choices.

Jeremy Palmer said...

I also forgot to mention the terrible Noro-virus which sent me the ER and Miriam to the hospital for nearly a week in 2007.

Praise also needs to be offered to Bridget for her care of me in my sorry state. She bought some maximum strength cortisone cream that relieved my HFMD.

Nancy said...

That sounds awful.

But really, Bridget, I think eventually you'll look back and laugh. Maybe.

Nancy said...

Oh, and get better, Jeremy!

I was once sick for an entire semester. Seriously...the whole semester. Every time I'd get better I'd end up getting something else worse. Finals week was endured with strep throat, which was awesome because I had oral exams in Russian and I could barely squeak out a noise.

Anyway. Being sick for a long time is no fun. So I hope you get better!

Shannan said...

I don't know how you did it - Mr. Jeremy Palmer. I would have thought I was dying of some terrible auto-immune disease if all of those things happened to me.
We were not hit as seriously as you were but this past month I swear all of us have had circulating diseases that we keep passing back and forth and back and forth. haang in there

Kristen said...

Wow, I don't know who to feel more sorry for, Bridget or Jeremy. Of course he made a very compelling case with the added graphic details that I imagine she intentionally spared us. :)

I'm glad you opened up when you were ready and shared some not-so-pretty details of life. No one has everything perfect, and keeping it real is the way to go. Plus your friends can offer support when you need it, you know. (Not that I could have FedExed a casserole or anything, but emotional support is always at the ready).

Liz Johnson said...

Are HFMD and hoof-and-mouth really not related? I always just call the human version "hoof-and-mouth," and then I giggle when I think of humans having hooves. Heehee.

PRAISES BE TO YOU, Bridget. Dead serious. And Jeremy, I am very glad that you got better. That just sounds purely awful.

Bridget, I'm glad you blogged about this. I enjoy the posts about the good as well as the bad. It makes you seem human, as opposed to plastic, which is how many other bloggers seem to me.

Jeanerbee said...

Oh Bridge! I'm so glad things are better now... I hear you though about the lack of energy or whatever to post some of the tougher things...exactly why I haven't blogged in two weeks! Anyway, I'm wishing you all a healthy and rare-disease-free holiday season!!! By the way, we'll be in Tucson from Jan 4-24... we'll have to get together!

Susanne said...

I am so sorry for your rough month! Thank you for sharing it with us. I remembered you mentioned Jeremy having pneumonia, but I had no idea all that was going on. Ugh! I would have prayed for you all!

I hope Jeremy continues to get well. Bridget, thanks for always being real.

May God bless your family and give you good health!

Birch said...

I have been thinking about this a lot lately--only posting about the things we are proud of and want to show off to other people. I feel like I should have an entirely separate blog about what I really think, feel and worry about. I guess that's where a journal comes in since it's so difficult for me to open up publicly. Thanks for writing about real life. I can't imagine dealing with a situation that difficult for so long. I also wish we could be honest when we ask each other how we're doing. 90% of the time, "Fine," is accurate but in other times it would be nice to honestly tell people what we're going through. I think we would be less judgmental of others and easier on ourselves.

Bridget said...

I appreciate all your well wishes! I'm sure Jeremy does, too. And for those of you in Tucson who wondered why you basically hadn't seen Jeremy in a month, and also why, if you saw him today, he looks like he lost 10 pounds (he did), now you know why.

In some ways it was easier to not have people know about it because if they did know about it, they asked me how I was doing and I would start crying :). Christina, I'm looking at you, poor soul.

Alyson P. said...

I wish you would ask us for help when this stuff happens! I hate when I read about it after the fact. Like last year when you guys were so sick you had to fly Teresa in to help. We aren't that far away and we are family. My mom can take care of my kids and I can come by myself or my mom can come down and help. We also have Charity and Jessica that can help. I don't know what I would do without their help sometimes. Stop trying to do everything by yourself and ask for help.

Bridget said...

I'm just always wary of asking for help from people who have kids. The last thing I need is to feel guilty for passing on something horrible like pneumonia to your children. When Teresa came to help when we had norovirus, she ended up getting sick...on the plane ride home. Yuck.

Lark said...

Wow - so glad that Jeremy is feeling better and Bridget - what a great wife and mom you are! Way to hang in there - it sounded like things were purely awful.
I really enjoy your blog because you have a great mix of happy posts and real ones too. And you are right, no one wants to read about everyones sob stories everyday, but it is nice to hear them amidst the shiny, happy posts. I found I did a lot of "happy" posts last year when I was feeling like crap so that I could find joy in the everyday things.

I have never known anyone with HFMD but we have dealt with pneumonia - Parker got it on the plane when he was interviewing for residency. He completely ruined his Colorado interview because he broke out into a fever and could hardly even move/talk - it was bad. I guess we were really meant to move to Vegas. I'm so glad that this sickness came at a "good" time for Jeremy. And good luck to you guys with upcoming interviews, etc.

Liz Johnson said...

Ian currently has HFMD and I started having weird itching and pain on my feet this morning. Then I remembered this post. And now I am... even more freaked out. UGGGGGGHHHHH....


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