A View to an Ill

As my life went on hold over these past ten days into what I’ve come to call Report Card Hell (where I prep my grades and begin to write my comments on my students’ report cards), I’ve had to try to negotiate the normal demands of life with an active preschooler at home, while at school, I’ll be chasing down loose papers from reticent students who don’t quite understand the how and why a few random pieces of missed assignments might make or break their trimester grades.

Into the midst of all of this, Kate’s preschool also shuts down for Parent-Teacher conferences, thus sending the wife and I scrambling to try to cover the days without having to hire out for 2 days of babysitters when we’re still expected to pay for her regular surround care. Thusly, one of our designated replacements, Grandma (my mother-in-law) arrives Wednesday afternoon to watch Kate while I head off for my Writing Project meeting. Stowing away with Grandma, an obnoxious strain of Influenza B.

Within a day, Kate is getting sick, as my sister, caring for the kid the next day, notices my daughter running hotter than she should be. When I arrive after school to pick her up, I leave my sister’s house speed-dialing Katelyn’s pediatrician for an appointment the next day. I arrive home reconfiguring my plans for the next day, Friday–I was intending to take a half-day sub in order to be able to attend Katelyn’s parent-teacher conference along with Amber, but seeing Katelyn’s condition slowly unraveling, and now worried about trying to squeeze in work on my report cards, I call her 3rd babysitter in 3 days, a former student of mine and one Kate’s dearest “Ninas”, that I would only need her to watch Kate for about 45 minutes while I run in to school to leave amended sub plans.

I’ve also grown paranoid that Kate might have any number of illnesses. At this point, I didn’t realize she’d had the flu, and my paranoia had translated to on-line visits to Web-MD, where I worry that she might have chicken pox (due to stomach and neck pain, among other signs) and an appendicitis. So I’m actually feeling pretty good when her doctor tells me that it’s either strep throat or the flu. When she comes back and tells us it’s Influenza-B, she writes out a prescription for Tamiflu.

Having taken Tamiflu myself, in the past, Kate’s doctor tells us that she should be good to go back to school on Monday. Indeed, as I type this, despite some problems sleeping (one of the side effects, unfortunately), Katelyn was already feeling better by Saturday. Of course, having had the flu shot couldn’t have hurt her either.

The key point in all of this was the fact that Kate is likely going back to school tomorrow, although Amber might stay home to give Kate one more day to make sure she is completely back and ready to go. Fortunately for us, while its a scramble, we can manage to cover some form of child are for our daughter in situations such as this one. We take off the time we need, and we use our sick time to do so. Despite the minor inconveniences of sub plans, we manage.

And given that we also have insurance coverage, we can manage the $20 co-pay for the medicine that the Walgreens pharmacist tells us would have been $250 for the dosage had Katelyn not been covered.

I am taken aback by that notion. We have coverage and resources with which to care for our daughter. But what of those, including many of those parents of students in my class, who do not have insurance for drugs such as Tamiflu or additional potential caregivers for their kids when these kids get the flu? I can’t help but consider how much lost school time, as well as lost work time (i.e. pay) is the result of policies that seek to limit health care access. I know the rejoinder from those who oppose Universal Health Care, or what became the far more limited Affordable Care Act, is to explain how they shouldn’t be pressed to pay for other people’s coverage. I understand that sentiment. But I also know that Kate got her flu from her grandmother, who, in turn, had gotten sick taking Great Grandmother to ER/Urgent Care, where they sat in the waiting room lobby, surrounded by those who were likely not covered by any sort of insurance to treat illnesses preventatively rather than after the fact. So Katelyn will go to school better able to avoid spreading the flu cooties to her classmates, and I can return to my classroom not necessarily getting my own students sick, given that right before state testing is a less-than-ideal time to miss school when I have to prep my students.

We are the lucky ones. Why must it be this way? We have drugs that can do so much, but limit these drugs to so many fewer, all because private sector profit must ultimately trump public health considerations, I will surely be told.

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