Fear, resilience and hope: reflections as we enter an unknown world

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus a pandemic, I was silent.  I did not know how to process this information.  A few of my close friends described this as a real-life “Contagion.”  I am not a medical expert, but what I do know is that the worst here in Canada is yet to come.  I also know that it will be a very long time until things are back to “normal” again.  Like many of us, I entered a state of shock.

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The hardest thing for me to process was watching my husband’s demeanor change over a course of a few days.  My husband is a respirologist and like his colleagues, has been monitoring the situation quite closely.  When I asked him what this all meant, he looked at me and said that life will be different for a very long time.  The events happening throughout China and Italy paint a grim picture of what could happen if we don’t act fast to “flatten the curve.”  Within a week the number of positive cases in Canada have jumped to just over 1000.  

Not only are there an array of health issues and questions surrounding the management of the virus itself, but it touches upon so many other facets of life:  the economy, the workforce, the way government works, education and overall, our lifestyle.  Schools across the country and around the world have closed down.  Employers are asking their employees to work from home if at all possible.  Places of worship have asked their membership to pray/reflect at home; restaurants and bars have closed down, although some are remaining open for take out or curb-side pick-up just to keep afloat.  People are asked to self-isolate and keep their distance until medical professionals and governments can come up with a solution.  Life as we know it has stopped for a while so we can self-isolate in hopes of containing the virus and give the medical system some more time.

Probably the hardest thing society will face is not just the virus itself, but the financial implications that come with it.   In addition to that, I fear a mental health crisis is to follow

Humans are social beings and I know from experience that being on lock down is difficult.  I’ve had some experience on being on some sort of lock down:  my oldest son was born prematurely and the first winter home we could not leave the house (except for medical appointments) as his immunity was compromised.  I remember screening all visitors for colds because a common cold could harm his premature lungs.  He obtained an antibody shot called Synagis every month during cold and flu season to protect him against RSV.  As parents, our goal was to keep him safe.    

When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I experienced a form of isolation again. I was considered high risk due to my history of preterm labour.  This meant extra medical appointments and physical restrictions.  I  was placed on strict bed-rest for 2 months following a one-week hospital stay for short cervix.  I remember how difficult those times were-  not being able to go out, not being able to go to work, to pick up my toddler son, I couldn’t do anything….it was hard, but I had one goal in mind:  to keep my pregnancy safe and deliver to my baby to full-term

You see, there is a common theme here with this isolation- being safe.  In this present moment, our duty is to keep our loved ones safe; to protect our grandparents, our parents and our children.  It’s our duty to stay home and to protect the elderly and the vulnerable.  Our governments are asking us to do this and our medical professionals implore us to do it.  I don’t have a crystal ball, nor will I speculate on what is to come, but I do have hope that we can get through this.  It won’t be easy, but we have to stay positive.

It is clear, the effects of this pandemic will last years to come.  I’m sure our children and our children’s children will be learning about it in their history classes.  But as history has shown us, humans are resilient, time and time again.  We will grow strong and learn from this experience.   I am sure the best and the brightest are working on different treatments and solutions to bring this pandemic to an end, because there is hope.

We all have a role to play in this, by self-isolating, by helping the elderly, by being connected with our loved ones virtually, by staying home when you are sick and by washing our hands.  In the meantime, lets show our gratitude to all of those on the front lines:  doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, hospital staff, custodians, grocery store workers, delivery drivers and so on.  Together we can overcome this virus.  Together we are stronger, for our future depends on it.

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The wrath of those nasty daycare illnesses

One parents experience 

These past two weeks our household went through a variety of illnesses- pink eye, ear infection, gastrointestinal virus, and pneumonia to name a few. ¬† It got so bad to the point that our youngest was admitted to hospital due to severe pneumonia. ¬†Thankfully, we got there on time and things are on the mend now. ¬†These past two weeks have been extremely challenging on us. ¬†Having my youngest son in hospital triggered so many memories of my oldest’s time in the NICU. ¬†It is awful to see your child in pain and as parents, all we wanted to do was to take it away and make him feel better. ¬† However, thanks to an amazing paediatrician who sent us to hospital and a great support system at home, we got back on track. ¬†As soon as we got admitted, my son was hooked up to an IV and things started to get better. ¬†As quickly as his pneumonia came, it also quickly started to disappear¬†when the antibiotics started to take it’s course.

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As soon as October comes around, we try to “mentally” prepare for another brutal cold and flu season. ¬†You would think that after a few years of being in daycare we would be better prepared, or immune to say the least. We prepare as best as we can: ¬†giving our kids proper nutrition, and taking daily multivitamins. ¬†We practice good hand-washing and hygiene at home and put the kids to bed early. ¬†We even get the flu shot yearly, as my oldest was preemie and his immune system was compromised for a while. ¬† However, when your child is in daycare, they catch different bugs, no matter how well-prepared you are. ¬†Research has shown that children get sick on average of 8 to 12 times a year, at an average of 10 days per illness. ¬† So in laymen’s terms that means that they are pretty much sick for 6 months of the year!

Last year we thought we experienced it all- hand, food and mouth disease, strep and so on.  We were hopeful that their tiny bodies developed a better immune system for this upcoming cold and flu season, but boy were we wrong!  

It started with my youngest developing an upper respiratory virus and was at home for 7 days; then my oldest and I had a gastrointestinal bug for a few days.  Then my husband caught a nasty virus and eye infection.  Then my oldest got sick again with fever which ended up being bronchitis and an ear infection.   Then my youngest developed pneumonia and in less than 24 hours he was in hospital.   It was an awful feeling but we got to the right place at the right time, and here we are, on the mend, all healthier and happier.

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Although it was challenging, as my husband was on call and I was trying to manage things at work, we were able to work things out.  When your child, or children get sick, my advice is as follows:

Have a support system in place:  
I was fortunate enough to be granted time off from work to watch my kids. We also had lots of help from my in-laws. ¬†I am grateful to have a good support system around when times like this happen and that’s important, especially when your little ones get sick. ¬† Have an emergency list at home of family and friends who are available to help when your child gets sick; especially if you have more than one child at home. ¬†It’s nice to have someone available to help run out and grab some groceries or watch one of your children at home if you have to take one to the doctor’s office or hospital.

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Proper nutrition and sleep:
This is key- any person, let alone a child, is healthier when they eat and sleep well. ¬†Try and encourage good eating habits at home and set a bedtime routine. ¬† I also stock up on homemade chicken soup and keep some broth in the freezer in the event a fever is brewing as it has lots of nutrients. ¬† Not only is good nutrition and sleep good for children, but it’s¬† beneficial for you as well. ¬†I got sick a lot last year because I was not sleeping enough, despite eating well and exercising regularly. ¬†Some things like laundry just have to take the back burner because sleep is more important. ¬†Research backs that up!

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Keep a list
Keep a list of important phone numbers such as your family doctor (or child’s¬†paediatrician) handy in the event you need to make an appointment for a sudden illness. ¬† ¬† I have our doctor’s office phone number stored in my phonebook and also in my Outlook. ¬†Know where your nearest urgent care centre, walk-in clinic or hospital is if you¬†have an¬†emergency. ¬† Also keep handy a list of important phone numbers such as family members, friends, or neighbours in the event an emergency takes place. ¬†

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Practice good hygiene 
This is common sense, but good hand washing and sanitizing will prevent the spreading of illnesses.  If you are sick, stay home from work or school as illness can spread easily.   I also like to wash linens and towels weekly.

water of life
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In a cruel way, it’s ironic that a respirologist’s family all developed pulmonary illnesses, including himself. ¬†However, we survived. ¬†We hope this is the end of those nasty daycare illnesses….for now.