Last Friday night, a few friends and I were hanging out when one of their babies woke up crying. His mom thought he was getting a tooth, until she saw the rash around his mouth. She knew within a few minutes it was hand, foot, and mouth disease since a friend of ours had it earlier in the week.
They really know how to name common illnesses so they sound much worse than they are. The name conjures the image of a child sucking on a foot covered in festering sores while flies buzz around his head. Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is too easily confused with hoof and mouth disease, which only animals get. And someone just had to throw the word disease at the end to give it a dramatic ring. In reality, it’s not more serious than getting a cold. Or take ringworm (which Simon also has). It sounds like your skin is hosting a parasitic, flesh-eating worm.
It must have been the name, in addition to a vague sense of obligation to hygiene, that compelled me to stay up till 1:30am cleaning my house. Everything got a round of bleach followed by a Lysol chaser. I washed every piece of laundry in the house, banished hand towels, and started wearing food handling gloves in the kitchen.
Of course, this could not undo the fact that the virus-incubating baby friend played here Wednesday and Thursday, before having symptoms. Simon came down with it Monday afternoon, just hours after we went to a playgroup. I felt worse about exposing others than him being sick, but I’d thought we were in the clear.
Simon was a bit clingy the first few days and is still waking up a couple times a night, but overall the symptoms have been mild. No festering sores or flies. The most severe symptom is that I’m going insane.
I used to have little use for people, holing up in my room alone and pretending to be deep (in high school). Now I love spending time with people but I’m still an introvert. And periodically I feel overwhelmed by my busy schedule of social commitments. But now I’m feeling slightly crazy from being isolated. Just a week earlier, Simon had a high fever for four days so we couldn’t be around other kids then. Neil was out of town the first couple days of Simon’s HFMD so it was just me and Simon all day long. I talked to some people on the phone and talk with the neighbors over the fence. Luckily one of my friends already had the virus last week so she came over. I still didn’t have it so I didn’t want to hang out with the other families who did.
Simon is getting really bored of playing in our main living area. I don’t really want him drooling his virus in every corner of the house, so we’ve been playing outside a lot. He is fearless, crawling right for the fire hydrant and trying to dive into the chicken’s box. And we’ve been taking walks every day. I’m so glad it’s been nice and not raining because I might have been committed by now.
Yesterday we were taking a walk when I noticed a blister on my arm. I’m not sure why a pre-cancerous sun blister was the first explanation that came to mind, but by the end of the walk I admitted it was surely HFMD. The other adults who contracted it reported feeling awful for a few days—fever, sore throat, fatigue, plus a sore/itchy rash. I felt fine but have to assume I’m now contagious.
Today, I have two mouth blisters and a weird feeling in my throat. I’m trying to be grateful that I don’t feel sick, and that I didn’t have to take care of a sick baby while feeling sick. I’m grateful HFMD isn’t as serious as it sounds. I’m glad Neil is home now so I can see another adult, and that cell phones, email, and Facebook exist. I’m glad the other people who had it are better now, and that Simon is definitely on the mend. And the playgroup kids are still healthy. I’m blessed to have so many friends to miss! And thankful I got to hang out with at least one friend who was brave enough to venture over. No doubt there’s much more of this to come with raising children. For now, I’m hoping my mild symptoms mean I’ll clear up sooner. In the mean time, I’m going to try to stop yelling everything I say to Neil, read, enjoy fellowship with God if I can’t with people, and try really hard not to go completely crazy.