Contracting an illness in a large family can often mean weeks or months of dealing with that illness as it spreads from one person to another and, occasionally, back around again. I often become frustrated when I get comments that we get sick a lot because I take it personally. I feel judged that it is somehow my fault that I’m not clean enough, or feed my kids right, or something. Overall, these trials have strengthened my faith in God as most should do if we allow God to work through them. I will warn you that the following is not for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.
1. The Stomach Bug of 2004. Actually, it was a series of stomach bugs. It started in August. I remember the date well. Karen and I decided to travel to Wichita, KS for the Catholic Family Conference with her 6 children and 3 of my children. It wasn’t God’s will for us to go, but we *wanted* to go and nothing was going to get in
our my way. So, we drove six hours, paid for two hotel rooms for two nights and walked across the street to hear John Michael Talbot sing. Not 30 minutes into the concert, Mary came down with a headache and Joshua, just a baby at the time, was fussy. I left to take them back to the hotel room. By midnight Mary was running fever and vomiting, so I crossed the hallway to alert Karen. I had the girls and Joshua with me and she had the boys with her. She opened the door and I discovered that Brandon was in the same boat. We decided to head out first thing before more kids succumbed to it. The car ride home was miserable for those two kids. Not only did we have to stop frequently to find a bathroom, but the situation forced Lauren and Allison to be seated together in the car. They fought incessantly! We made it home and the bug spread through both households. Worse yet, I had somebody sick every week from that point on until March of the following year.
2. Lice. In the summer of 2009 we came home from camping and I discovered these pesky critters in the hair of my almost four-year old daughter. Thankfully, my friend Fifi was over helping to clean the house. She stayed all day to help me pick the critters out of hair and collect all the bedding and clothing to be washed. 80 loads of laundry! I am not exaggerating, people. We did 80 loads of laundry and spent countless hours picking bugs and their nits out of 5 heads of hair. Thankfully, the baby was bald and my husband has baby fine hair; so they did not even need to be treated. The older girls only had a few nits and I escaped untouched. The boys were an easy fix with clippers and a good summer hair cut. Poor Angela! Her head was infested and that baby girl lay on the counter and had her head combed through for hours. She was indeed an Angel about it. The process had to be repeated daily for 10 days and we were glad when it was over. On New Year’s 2010 the little bugs reappeared. I had taken the kids to Open Gym at the local gymnastics club and it was cool enough to wear jackets. Their jackets had been placed in the cubbies with other jackets and we brought the little boogers home once again. This time was way worse! All the kids had picked it up and now the baby had hair. Patrick was the only one to escape untouched. It took 3 weeks and 8 hours a day of picking heads to rid ourselves of these pests. It was humiliating and embarrassing to no end. I have never cried so much as when I found yet another live bug on a head! My husband would leave for work and I would envy that he got to leave while I was stuck picking nits and learning so much about lice that I became known as the “lice expert” among my friends and family. The poison did not affect the lice this time. My pediatrician proved completely useless in giving advice. So, the internet became my only resource. Lice MD became the solution. A natural product, it basically makes the hair too greasy for the bugs to move and too slick for the nits to attach. Once we were bug free, we loaded the clan up in the Travel Trailer and went camping for three days. This served two purposes: 1. We got to leave the house and 2. The bugs cannot live off of a human head for more than 24 hours, so if there were any critters in the carpets or clothing they would be dead before our return. It worked!
3. Lice. Again! My husband and I took a trip to Mexico for our anniversary, our last fling before baby nine would arrive in the Spring. Our oldest daughter came and stayed at our home with her husband and four children. unbeknownst to them, their daughter had picked up lice from a cousin at Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t discovered until we returned from our trip. Our house was infested as were all the kids! I cried and then got creative. I knew the drill this time and was quick to carry out it. Allison checked my head and we added flat ironing our hair into the picking routine. If a nit was overlooked, it was fried in the heat of the iron and we had great hairstyles when we were done. We took a 3 day camping trip at the end of 10 days this time as well. Lice is a word that is never spoken in our home. I will not talk about this again.
4. Spring of 2012. We had a horrible case of strep go through 3 of the kids. By the time it finished, two of them got it a second time. Both cases included vomiting and fever and horrible sore throats. Allison got it a third time but recovered under the threat of having her tonsils removed. At the same time, Benjamin was turning one and had back-to-back double ear infections, a third infection and we would be sent to a specialist to have tubes inserted. This same spring is when I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue, low thyroid and food allergies to the tune of wheat, soy, corn, potatoes, yeast, and dairy. I had to learn a whole new way to cook and eat while caring for sick kids and barely functioning myself. Thank God for my teen daughters who willingly stepped in to cook, clean and care for their siblings. Once we were all healthy, my daughter and grandkids came over for a visit. Daniel came in crying and I knew at first glance that we were dealing with a broken bone. It turned out to be a complete fracture right above his elbow and surgery with 3 pins was required to fix it.Patrick and I arrived home at 2 am, got a little bit of rest and then dressed all the kids to head up to church for our family picture in the church directory. That bright orange cast in the picture always makes me smile. We survived the spring and Lauren graduated albeit July instead of May.
5. Summer brought with it the wonderful new experience of pinworms. Yes, pinworms. If lice hadn’t been disgusting enough, pinworms challenged my tolerance for all things gross and disgusting at a whole new level. Although if I had to choose one plague over the other, pinworms are much easier to treat. Other than doing a whole lotta laundry EVERY day, the fix is taking a chewable pill one time and then repeating the dose two weeks later. Bedding, towels, and clothing had to be washed every day and every person had to bathe every morning. That is a whole lot of baths for a family of ten. The bigger challenge proved to be getting the prescription for the magic pills. My regular doctor was out of the office and his partner wanted everyone to be seen. At $80 per person per visit, this would have cost $800 just to see the doctor, not to mention the hassle of ten appointments! I opted to take Sophia into the night clinic and prayed for a doctor with mercy, sympathy and common sense. My prayers were answered. I only had to describe what I saw and within minutes the kind man wrote a script for everyone in the house, except the baby who had to take an over the counter remedy due to his young age. Of course, we were treated like we had the plague for two weeks and felt very lonely without friends or visitors during our outcast. Somehow the mere mention of lice or pinworms makes people head for the hills.
6. Fall 2012 brought new challenges of its own. Lauren was off to college and Allison and I were on our own most days with the “gang of six.” In October Allison came down with a cough that was diagnosed as bronchitis. It got so bad that she would vomit and lose her breath. We returned to the doctor, got a new script and some steroids. It had no affect on the cough. Mother’s intuition kicked in and I suspected Pertussis. A third trip to the doctor for Allison and one other coughing sibling gave me the courage to insist on a test for Whooping Cough. Since I had done my research before hand, I was more familiar than the doctor about the testing and my insistence paid off. This was a Friday afternoon. I took the baby into the Emergency Room to get the test and called both Saturday and Sunday until they finally gave me the test results. By this time two more children were coughing and I was prepared with a positive test result when speaking with the on-call doctor. They were all on antibiotics by Sunday evening and Patrick and I were taking shifts staying up with sick kids.The cough gets significantly worse at night, so there would be no sleep for about five consecutive days. A follow-up call from the health department proved to be a shock to the unsuspecting caller. She thought that she had one case and ended up with nine. Only four of the children showed symptoms, but the whole household went on antibiotics as a precaution. We had to alert our church and volleyball team. Again the humiliation set in as we alerted family and friends to our contagious ailment. For the record, all of my children were vaccinated against Whooping Cough. I would recommend you to do some research as my research revealed a greater susceptibility to contracting it among those who were vaccinated. Interesting stuff.
7. Finally, in January of 2013 Allison came down with the flu. She spent 7 days in bed and missed her trip to Washington DC for the March For Life. Just when she was coming back to life, I succumbed to the nasty virus and spent 8 days in bed with fever and aches like never before. I don’t think it went through the household, but I honestly don’t remember much of that time. I spent most of the days sleeping and it took weeks before my strength came back. It wasn’t so much of a plague as it was just a lengthy recovery for two of the main cogs who were responsible for keeping the household functioning. My poor husband! In the end we survived and our health was restored. We have been thankful for six months of health and for the lessons learned in humility, patience and perseverance.
Every family faces its own plagues and challenges. I just hope that by sharing mine you feel empowered to overcome whatever difficulties you face. I’ll pray for you. You pray for me. Someday, God willing, we’ll meet on the other side.