The Slippery Slope of Sickness

Happy Little Buggers Despite Pneumonia, 2010 

This scenario has played out several times over the past two years… ever since that fateful camping trip that culminated with My Beautiful Boys hospitalized with pneumonia for two weeks – one with a partially collapsed lung — while my Old Soul was juggled amongst family and friends developing her own lesser- case of pneumonia. Bad mama that I am, I erroneously thought that camping at the beach and a bit of fresh air might do The Boys’ colds a bit of good. THAT is now the experience we balance all of our vacation decisions against; the thing to avoid at all cost when one of our kids catches a cold that threatens to endanger any travel plans.

Two weeks ago we planned to take the kids camping for a long weekend with a bunch of friends we don’t see often enough anymore. We reserved the site, paid the money and marked it in pen on the master calendar. With only 2 weeks left to the year, we secretly coveted the idea of playing hooky from school and blowing out of Dodge Friday morning to get an early start. Something I generally do not condone but it’s been a crazy few months and we deserved this break; or so I thought.

After a few hours of swimming at my sister’s Memorial Day BBQ on Monday, my Big Little Man began to cough. On Tuesday, he sneezed. And, by Wednesday, he was wheezing a bit.

Still with high hopes for camping, I dropped the Old Soul to school on Thursday morning where they were preparing for a school-wide Friday Fun Day – another obstacle threatening our original plans – and dragged the newly-sick Little Dude to the doctor. Our beloved pediatrician discovered the pop and crackling of a bad case of bronchitis brewing (“probably started as ‘pool cough'”) and prescribed a strong, 5-day round of antibiotics to quickly nip it in the bud (or is that butt? Getting nipped in the butt would stop most people cold, no?). Then the Old Soul’s backpack carried home its own disruptive news: Fifth Grade Fun Day, Friday 12 to 3 pm. Buggers! Her Fun Day games were scheduled for the second half of the day! Being on Long Island, you have to be crazy to attempt eastward travel after 3pm on a Friday… especially with kids, let alone sick ones! Unless you like being stuck in one big, hours-long traffic jam. I am NOT that crazy… yet! So, our hopes for a Friday departure were dashed!

With fully two days of antibiotics under the Big Little Man’s belt, we remained hopeful – if not secretly grateful that we weren’t camping for Friday night’s thunderstorms – as we re-aimed for a Saturday morning departure to meet up with our friends. Knowing My Boys generally respond very well and quickly to meds, I figured we could join in the camping fun for a down and dirty one-nighter.

Alas, it was not to be. By Saturday morning, the Big Man’s cough was looser but had worsened, and his sinuses were completely stuck — a function of compressed sinus cavities in children with Down syndrome. With echos of our two-week hospital stay in 2010 resounding in my mind. I briefly considered a day trip, willing to forego the campfire, roasting of marshmallows and sleeping under the stars… But his glassy, bloodshot eyes hinted that bigger germs were still incubating.

Camping was no longer an option. No amount of woods, water and sunshine, nor even the rare promise of time with friends, could make me risk a trip down that pneumonia-laden, hospital-ridden memory lane.

We didn’t camp… thankfully, in hindsight. Now, just a week later, the Big Little Man is on a double dose of new antibiotics to fight the double ear infection, bleeding sinus infection and on-going bronchial infection. He’s significantly worse despite the medication and laying low for the weekend. And, I’m thinking I got off easy! I must’ve adequately learned my lesson back in 2010 because I consider myself lucky to have sacrificed the $100 campsite to escape a much worse outcome had I chosen to ignore the slippery slope of sickness.

We Do Get to Camp… Often Enough

Yes, I have kids with special needs. And though we have no chronic, Down syndrome-related conditions, we recognize that getting slightly sick can sometimes be a slippery slope to becoming critically ill. A slope that needs to be prioritized and carefully negotiated. With the onset of each cold, pneumonia is the end-game we now seek to avoid. Yes, it sometimes interferes with our plans… but it’s not nearly as inconvenient as two weeks in the hospital and an entire summer of oxygen tanks, heart-stopping midnight pulse-ox alarms and no swimming.


Thanks, but we’ll choose to camp another day. Know what I mean?


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