Diagnosis: Annoyed

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’ve been hearing about COVID-19 for two years. It’s even more impossible, in my opinion, to think that we’re still arguing over the effectiveness of masks and vaccines, but that’s for another post. Today’s post begins with the time when we were in lockdown, how nice and healthy my family all was. Thanks to staying inside and frequent handwashing, we experienced about eighteen months of virus-free living. Those sick-free months were one of the very few positive side effects of lockdown.

Fast forward to fall of this year, when the kids went back to school. Two of my kids are in college, and they now live in the dorms (which require masks and vaccination). Another child is in high school, and then there’s Melina, who is in middle school. If you’ve ever had middle schoolers, you know that they can be very inconsiderate, or maybe they just don’t have the self-awareness yet to remember that other people besides them exist. I’m really not sure, but what I am sure of is that despite the masks, despite the handwashing, despite the “please keep your child at home if they are exhibiting any symptoms,” Melina sat in a classroom with other students who didn’t cover their coughs or care about the fact that their sneezes can travel up to twenty-seven feet.

“Mom,” Melina said in early October, “he sits right next to me and coughs the whole class long.”

The next weekend, Melina was on the couch with a bad cold.

“Mom,” she said in late October, “he sits in the desk across from me, and he’s carrying a box of tissues with him all day. Plus, he wears his mask under his nose.”

People, if you have to send your child to school with a box of tissues, your child should not be in school. School administrators? Shame on you for letting that happen. Don’t even get me started on the proper way to wear a face mask . . .

Melina is an interesting and complex child, like all our fellow humans. Part of what makes her Melina is that she follows the rules, and while she has a very good sense of what’s fair and what’s not, she’s not yet ready to stand up for herself. Despite my suggestion to ask her teachers to move seats, she didn’t. So, in late October, weeks after her weekend under the weather, she missed two days of school with a cold that lingered for several more days. (Not Covid, but that’s not the point.)

And then in early December, she started complaining about a headache, which included light sensitivity and a belly ache. We gave her some time to work through it, but when she’d missed three days of school, we brought her to the doctor to make sure all was okay. Signs pointed to a migraine—Tim used to get debilitating migraines, and both my sisters were migraine sufferers at one point—and we went home with a heavy-duty prescription for the next time another one rolled in. The headache went away, but the belly ache didn’t. And she wanted to go to bed at 8 p.m.

What teenager willingly goes to bed that early?

I pestered Melina about any other possible symptoms, and she admitted that in the prior days, her urine looked odd.

“Next time you go, don’t flush,” I said.

I hadn’t been on pee and poop patrol for a while, but I take my duties seriously. Each time Melina remembered not to flush, I took a picture. Those pictures spoke of something, for her urine was orange and her stools pale. I know enough about anatomy and physiology to run through a whole list of things that could be wrong, but in medicine, they say, “When you hear hoofs, think horse, not zebra.” Chances were, something pretty common was at play.

And they were right. After a thorough physical exam, a urine culture, and some bloodwork, the diagnosis? Mononucleosis, and she has some liver inflammation to go with it.

We’re all glad that we know what’s wrong with the poor kid, but the doctor asked if we knew where she had gotten it. “I got it in eighth grade from drinking out of my buddy’s cup,” he said. But Melina doesn’t share utensils or cups, ever (not even with me—it’s part of that interesting and complex personality of hers), and the only things I could think of were those kids she’d been complaining about again who’d been coughing and sneezing next to her. So while I’m grateful for her general good health, I’m truly annoyed by this diagnosis.

I’m hoping for a full recovery by January 3, when Melina needs to go back to school. But I’ll be emailing teachers after her follow-up appointment and as we get closer to that date. And I’ll be contacting administrators too. It’s not too much to ask to keep a kid home if they are sick. But what would be even better is if people learn how to wear a mask properly, cover their sneezes, and coughs, and—what a novel idea—think about their fellow humans once in a while. But again, that’s what we’ve been hoping for the entire time we’ve been dealing with COVID, isn’t it?

Image of oranges and mug by silviarita at Pixabay.com.

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