Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Case of the Painted-on Measles

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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.”

She sighed.

“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.









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