Handling the Unexpected: Sick Days

As a mama, you already know that you cannot predict when your kid is going to get sick and when it happens, it will probably be when you can least afford for it to happen. Time and life will not stop while you’re in PA school. So what do you do when your kid gets sick? As promised, I will tell you about how I handled it because this was and is my current situation. Last week Thursday, when my son woke up with a high fever, it wasn’t a question about whether he was staying home from daycare; the question was more about who would be staying with him. Since my husband is active duty in the military, I knew that he was not going to get the day off with such short notice. Luckily, that day was short for me, so I decided to stay home with my son. Knowing I had an exam the next morning, my husband requested the next day off once he arrived at work and luckily his request was granted. During the day, I tended to my son and once he went to bed, I prepared for my exam. The next morning, dad stayed with our son and I was able to make it to school. Since the weekend was upon us, I figured my son would get better over the weekend and he would be ready to return to school by Monday, right? Nope! Monday morning rolled around and he still had a fever. Not only was he still sick, but dad was out of state for training. So what did I do? I stayed home with my son and took him to his pediatrician that afternoon. Yes, my program has an attendance policy; however, they are quite understanding and supportive of the parents in our program. Many of our faculty members are parents themselves, so they understand that my responsibility is first to my child.

After returning home from the pediatrician’s, I took care of my son and studied when he went to bed because guess who had an exam the next day? This girl! But dad’s out of town, so how do I even know that I can make it to the exam? I like to live on the edge and have dealt with sick days as they’ve come up. I’m not afforded the luxury of having a set person that can take my son on days that he’s sick, so instead, I reach out to our support network in times of need. Since this was definitely a time of need, I reached out to my sister, who is a teacher and was luckily on spring break. She stayed with my son while I took my exam and I came home immediately after I was done. The last thing I needed was for my son to get her or my niece sick. So now this brings us to day 6 and the fever finally breaks. According to the school’s policy, they will accept him at school the next day. Morning rolls around and we’re both out the door and on the way to school. I’m exhausted but happy I finally made it to lecture and we’re on the upswing of this illness, right? Nope! During a break in between lectures, I speak to the pediatrician’s office and find out my little guy has the flu. Although it’s been 7 days since the onset of his symptoms, I did not want to take chances because of his age and the concerns of developing complications. I immediately went to school to pick him up and take him home so I could keep a close eye on him.

Although my family comes first, it does not mean that I can neglect my responsibilities as a student. And guess who had a final exam that was two days away? You guessed it. So here’s where it became complicated. Although, he had already been sick for a week, I knew it would be difficult to get someone to watch a child with the flu. I reached out to my sister again and simultaneously reached out to the Assistant Academic Director of the program in order to explore my options for taking the exam. Because I had been communicating with our program about the reason for my absences, they were aware of my situation. Luckily, my sister came to the rescue again and agreed to watch him the following morning. After taking my final, I bought my sister and niece lunch on the way home as a little thank you. After lunch, my sister and niece left and the little guy took his nap. I survived my final and I had the next day off so I could breathe, right? Nope! During his nap, I received a call from the pediatrician’s office informing me that the little guy has a concurrent bacterial infection. Sounds like a soap opera but I could not make this stuff up if I tried! If this week has taught me anything, it has been to take it one day at a time and to expect the unexpected. It has been a very hectic week, and I would love nothing more than for my son to never get sick because lets face it, no parent likes to see their child sick. Kids get sick, period! So don’t freak out when yours does. I survived all my exams by taking care of my son during the day, studying during his naps and when he goes to bed, and relying on family to help during exam time.

Being an active duty military family means that we are far from a lot of our family, but over time we have a built a smaller support system with the family that does live here and friends that have become family. The only thing you can count on in PA school is that life will continue to happen and you can’t plan for every single detail. Your village does not have to be big, you just need to have one because you will need help more often than you think and they will come through when you need them the most. My hope is that Monday will roll around, and the little guy will be ready for school because we’re both so ready for him to be “back to normal” as he calls it. I can only hope for the best but also be prepared for things not to go the way I expect. So the moral of the story is to relax, roll with it, and to count on your tribe.

Flu season is still upon us so please be well!

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