'The sickness' descends, swallows family whole

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By DAN HALEY

In the Haley house this February we have "the sickness." We had planned for "the operation." Really, "more of a procedure" than an operation, said our daughter, Mariah, who was, in fact, the operatee. In the end, though?#34;if this is the end and not just a stage on the path to further influenzas?#34;we got the sickness and the operation/procedure.

Regulars may recall that Mariah, then 8, now 9, broke her ankle in a rather grotesque manner last August, just days after some dimwit bought his daughter a trampoline. How many times have I heard the droning reply, "Oh, trampolines," after the nosy poker asked how my kid broke her ankle.

Anyhow, she had surgery last September. Hobbled around bravely on crutches for two months and then began focusing?#34;in that way kids have of honing in on that thing which transfixes and terrifies?#34;on the second surgery, the surgery to take out the hardware that held the splendid splinters together in the first place.

The date was set. February 4. Something fresh to fixate on after all the joy of the holidays. Take down the tree. Then, "Dad, will they have to knock me out?" "Dad, will it still be that bitter tasting medicine?" "Dad, will I be naked again under my gown in the operating room!" "Dad, why did you buy that stupid trampoline in the first place?!"

This time the doctors agreed; this really was going to be just a procedure. In the hospital first thing Friday. Twenty minutes, maybe a half hour in the operating room.

She'll be walking back to school on Monday.

Mighta been, coulda been. The procedure went smoothly. We were in and out of Rush by mid-day. The patient was ensconced on the couch by 1 p.m. But where did that cough come from? Probably a post-procedure cough, tied to the bitter tasting medicine, a tube in her throat, a frog in her throat?

No. It was the sickness. The crud. The coughing-up-your-lungs, seven-boxes-of-Kleenex-in-seven-days sickness. My daughter, the one who cannot be contained, took to her bed for days. She slept for 40 of 48 hours. She did not eat. She did not ask to invite a friend over. She ignored her cats and dog and gecko. She declined TV. She coughed and coughed and ran modest temperatures. She awoke one afternoon on the couch, sat up in a stupor, looked around the room, and said, "I really must be dreaming this" then keeled over again. Another time, she sat up briefly, to pronounce seriously, "I think I've died."

Never have I seen a kid, who most assuredly would survive her illness, be so sick.

She was so sick, we, the parents, didn't even estimate in that way logistically overburdened parents now do, "Well, if she is still sick on Tuesday I can cancel ..." We just knew she was going to be good and sick for awhile. And then, as we sat at her bedside with her coughing up germs by the bucketful and were languidly handed soupy Puffs we both knew that before Mariah was well, one or both of us would be sick.

And so it is. Day 11. Monday. Mariah returned to school. She came home astonished to tell us that six kids and her teacher were missing today.

Mary took to bed with Day 3 of the croop. She's got sick eyes. And she's canceling Brownie meetings. Our world is closing in on us.

Surely, we will all feel better at the same time again, someday, after the plague has passed by this house.

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