I know. I’ve been strangely silent. You’ve been worried about me, but it’s ok. I’ve just been sunning myself on the southern shores of Portugal for the last week — taking a needed break from Facebook and email and the like. It turns out I needed a break from talking about vaccines and diseases too.
There we are, my husband and I, enjoying a kid-free lunch at our fancy pants resort overlooking the ocean. Just as I am preparing to bite into my prawn salad, my cell rings. It’s the hotel kid’s camp: Olivia is sick. Please come get her.
That morning she had complained of a sore throat and achy legs but seemed fine at breakfast. So off she went with her sister and cousins to the Camp of All Camps (seriously, lunch in a giant pirate ship?!). I trotted down to the camp to pick her up and was told she was asleep. I entered a darkened room with a few baby cots. Huddled under blankets, her face hidden, was Olivia.
“Olivia,” I whispered. “It’s Mommy.”
She rolled over and her face was red. And pink. Mottled. Totally, unforgettably weird looking. My God, I thought. . . She has measles. We come to Europe and she gets the measles?!
I scooped her up, prepared to run towards the nearest hospital. “Olivia, your face.”
“It’s a butterfly, Mom. They did face painting today.”
Not measles. Face paint. (Face-painted-on-measles disease, my brother-in-law dubbed it).
She did turn out to be pretty sick for a couple of days, but with a virus. The pediatricians I travel with (husband and sister) assured me she would be fine, but by then I was a mess. I had convinced myself it was meningitis and measles and a million other things that were way off base. It was suggested to me, by my eloquent and no-nonsense sister, Dr. Zibners, that maybe — just maybe — I had been spending too much time reading about infectious disease.
So I took a vacation from it. I read People magazine and took a walk. I stood at the shores of the ocean watching my kids play with their cousins. I went birdwatching with my husband and saw flamingos. In. The. Wild.
I spent some time practicing gratitude. Being thankful for their health. And yes, being thankful that, as my sister put it, they were at a very, very low risk of acquiring many serious diseases because they are vaccinated. Sick kids are scary. Knowing I had done what I could to protect them from the really serious stuff — that gave me some relief.
Enough relief, in fact, that I allowed myself to relax. I kept that computer closed up. I enjoyed a few glasses of wine and went back to ignoring diseases and outbreaks for a few more glorious sunny days.