I wanted to write this story because I think it’s important. It’s not an easy story for me to tell because I have a lot of guilt and sadness about it, but it needs to be penned down.
So a week ago, last Sunday, Penny came down with a fever. The next day she complained of a sore throat. One of her classmates was confirmed with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) on Thursday, so I feared the worst. I kept her from school on Monday and took her to the doctor, who, sure enough, detected sores in her throat. She did have HFMD.
HFMD symptoms include, fever, loss of appetite, feeling unwell, and the infamous spots or blisters on hands, feet, sometimes the butt and genitals, and sores in the mouth. The sores can be very painful and can stop a child from eating.
HFMD can be very contagious, especially among siblings, and especially among kids like Fighter and Penny, who play together every waking second, and regularly sneeze and (accidentally) spit at each other. So I made the decision to send Fighter to my parents’ house where he would be safe from catching anything.
The next three days were a downward spiral. Penny’s fever went away after a day, but she developed sores in her throat and on her tongue. Tiny red spots also appeared on her feet and her butt, but luckily none of these grew much bigger and they never turned into blisters. The first two days she accepted some ice cream but not much else. On Wednesday morning though after missing dinner and her milk the night before, she drank two cups of cold milk and with a lot of coaxing, ate a bowl of porridge. The worst was over, I thought. I promised her that when she was all better, I would take her out for Mcdonald’s french fries hahahaha (her favorite food in the world) and buy her this Frozen Lego set she’d been wanting for ages.
In the afternoon though, she stopped consuming anything, even water. She was so sad and moody that I was at my wits’ end. To cheer her up, I strapped her into her stroller and took her to Toys’r’us. We went straight to the Disney Princess aisle where she suddenly changed her mind and picked a Cinderella castle instead wtf. I tried to bribe her to drink some water with the Cinderella castle but she continued to refuse.
By 7 pm, she had also refused any dinner, porridge, ice cream, frozen yogurt, Vitagen, Milo, soda, any kind of liquid actually. She didn’t even want milk which in normal circumstances is her vice wtf. It occurred to me that the night before, her diaper was completely dry, and during the day, she had only peed once. The milk and porridge she had that morning? They were the only things she’d consumed in 36 hours. By now, she had even stopped swallowing her saliva, instead keeping it in her mouth until we made her spit it out.
That night, terrified she was dehydrated, I rushed her to the emergency room. We ended up admitting her and putting her on an IV drip. We stayed there for two nights and the entire time she was spitting up in a cup wtf. Even spitting hurt her and she’d cry on and off until her eyes were swollen.
She still didn’t eat but at least she was on the drip. On the final morning, she finally drank apple juice, and best of all, she stopped spitting out her saliva!
Two things happened though that I want to mention.
The first was, I posted this photo on Instagram because I was so happy I could cheer her up even for a while.
I didn’t expect to get comments and DMs criticizing me for bringing out a contagious child.
The truth is, I did thinkabout it before taking her out.
But the thing about my decisions when it comes to happiness vs small health risk, I tend to choose happiness. If something makes myself or others happy and there’s what I see as small potential risk to myself or others, I do it anyway. I operate on a ‘Life is too short to worry too much’ mentality I guess, which others might see as recklessness or impulsiveness.
When we were trying to conceive, I visited Japan anyway, after the Fukushima incident when South East Asia was still awash with rumors of stillborn babies, and everyone was canceling their trips. Because I love Japan, and I’d read up about the effects and judged it to be minimal risk. I ate foie gras in my pregnancy before Fatty and I realized foie gras is supposed to be off limits, and then I ate the last spoonful anyway. I don’t mind letting my kids have play dates with kids with colds because I figure that while falling sick is a possibility, it is temporary, while them being happy and making good memories is a sure thing. That’s worth the risk to me.
So that’s how my decision to take Penny out came about. My reasoning was five minutes in a store couldn’t hurt anyone, not when she’s strapped in her own stroller. I knew she wouldn’t be touching anything, or interacting with anyone, and I didn’t give her anything from the store to hold; the only thing she touched was the toy we’d picked. I saw it as a chance to cheer my sick child up against the potential risk of passing her germs to someone else, and given all the precautions I’d taken, I calculated it as a minimal risk.
I read through all the messages reproaching me. At first I was offended and thought they were being irrational. But after that I saw they had a point. Even though I don’t regret trying to make Penny happy, I respect their point of view; I admit that I could have handled it differently.
So I posted this as a response.
At that point I was still in the hospital so I didn’t give much thought to it further. I was surprised to see the responses. Some people thanked me, a lot of people told me they didn’t see anything wrong with what I did/they’d do the same. Yet others continued to berate me.
This was one of those. Nice hor. After people come out and admit their mistake, this person still wanted to… I dunno, derive more satisfaction by stepping on me further? My answer was damn rude cos this was the nth message I’d gotten in this vein already.
Another one. I was really angry and upset at this point. There were people leaving snide comments like “Penny must have contracted hfmd from a child who has a parent with the same mentality as you.”
Actually no. She got it from her classmate whose first symptom was fever after their school trip to the zoo. His mom immediately kept him home, so Penny must have caught it from him when he was asymptomatic. Great job making judgments on other moms who are not even me, the person you’re targeting. And good luck teaching your toddlers not to be judgmental. Actions speak louder than words.
The worst comment though is one I’d deleted so I can’t post it here. I can’t remember her username but her name was Liz. In response to my apology post, she wrote something along the lines of “it’s attitudes like yours that cause Malaysia’s endless outbreaks of HFMD”. I clicked on her profile and yep, she’s Singaporean.
Right. Her country so good leh. As if Singapore doesn’t get any influenza or HFMD outbreaks? In fact, I often hear about HFMD and influenza swirling around Singapore before hearing of its arrival in Malaysia. Every damn country deals with rampant cases, even Australia and UK – Suet’s baby nephew in the UK just caught HFMD days after Penny. She basically summed up my mistake and equated it to my entire country. Liz from Singapore, message for you: get your head out of your supercilious ass.
I was so angry. There were way more nice and understanding messages, but I got worked up over the nasty ones cos I was at a really low point then. We were still in the hospital, Penny still wasn’t eating or drinking, and she was asking to spit up in a cup every two minutes. I was sanitizing my hands like crazy cos she was drooling over me, my tshirt and my face wtf. And the pain was worse at night so she woke up crying every hour for the two nights we were there.
Oh ya and this week, we discovered fleas in our house again wtf. So in addition to worrying about Penny, and Fighter away at grandma’s, I also had to worry about the fleas taking over our household. And then this.
On Friday, the doctor told us Penny was well enough and could be discharged. It was also the day Fatty scheduled a house fumigation, to bomb the fleas. The fumes are obviously poisonous, so nobody could come home until the evening about 5/6 pm. At our usual hospital, discharging takes a few hours so I thought by the time we were done would be good timing to go home.
But suddenly this hospital damn efficient and we were discharged by 12 pm wtf. I delayed a bit by telling the nurse we had to wait for our ride home, and then lunch came so I ate some and tried to feed Penny. We ended up leaving at 1.30 pm and from there, I decided to wait it out at the kids’ playroom in Colony @ Eco City, since it’s much quieter there than Colony @ KLCC or say, a cafe or restaurant.
I called up Patricia, our Eco City community manager who told me nobody was currently using the room, and maybe someone uses it on average once a week. I told her we needed to prepare cleaning supplies to disinfect the room after we leave.
When I got there, to Pat’s credit, she’d already prepared disinfectants – Dettol and Clorox and antibacterial wipes. When we left two hours later, she stripped the bedding in the little play house we have and sent that to laundry. Then the Eco City team and our cleaners immediately got to work airing the room, and wiping down the surfaces and toys. It was also Friday evening, and it was unlikely anyone would come in on the weekend, but I asked Patricia to tell our clients to try not to use the room during the weekend, at least not until we had sanitized it and let it air for a couple of days.
However, one of our clients saw I was there with Penny and filed a complaint. To be honest, I was very angry and upset when I heard. I didn’t intentionally come to the office to terrorize people, I just had nowhere to go. And we took utmost precautions, doing everything needed to sanitize the space. Why was Penny being treated like a leper wtf.
But I’ve calmed down since. To be fair to that client who complained, she didn’t know that we already had an action plan and were working on it, so I can understand why she kicked up a fuss.
But to be fair to me, maybe we should all take a step back next time instead of judging a fellow mother who’s already doing her best?
Penny has made a complete recovery. 🙂 But this is what I wanted to write about:
Without knowing her or her actions, there were people judging Penny’s friend’s mom for letting her kid pass the illness to Penny. People, these things happen. I don’t blame her at all, so why should you?
And after I apologized, people continued to pass judgment on me and criticize me. Why though? Did it make you feel good to sit on your pedestal and lecture me after I’d admitted my mistake? Do you feel like a more superior parent when you compare yourself to me? Was it so important for your two cents to be known when we are already so down?
And people weren’t even thinking logically. The HFMD virus is not airborne so while it may cling to surfaces, it will not float around in the air waiting to attach itself to your throat. It is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions, or poop. But the way people were behaving, it might as well have been smallpox (which IS airborne). Or ebola. I’m not saying don’t be careful, I’m saying exercise your judgment and Google, and don’t give way to paranoia.
We’ve all been there – sick kids are exhausting, worrisome and heart wrenching. As parents, loved ones and guardians of children, we all know how painful it can be. We at least have that in common. So maybe next time we should remember exactly that – we’re all in the same boat, raising our kids day in day out, and trying to do the best by them. Nobody is perfect and we may make mistakes. Yes, we can point those out, but when we do, maybe we should have a little less judgment and a little more kindness and empathy for someone else struggling as much as you.
To those who messaged with support and understanding. Thank you. Reading your messages really cheered me up this bad week. 🙂