Patient Zero

Unknownby Tejal Toprani

I’m sick. Like really sick. And no this isn’t one of those Shel Silverstein poems.

The reason my sickness is so poignant is that I am the captain of the ship. Not an actual ship – but the self-appointed ambassador of the house. A mom, a wife, a person with some semblance of a career – so I can’t go down. The positive of being an ambassador is that if there were an attempt on my life it would be called an assassination instead of a murder if you can call that a positive. But I digress – back to being sick.

We recently celebrated the Hindu Holiday, Diwali. I wanted to throw an old-fashioned Diwali party – the kind my parents would have thrown in the 80’s. The difference would be that back in those days people participated in pot lucks and the children were ruled by corporal punishment. Thirty years later we cater and hire a baby sitter/lion tamer for the children.

Some of the guests at the party were house guests – wonderful family friends of ours. We have much in common, including our life styles and our children’s’ temperaments. However, according to my husband and I, these friends tend to be a bit lackadaisical in their parenting – meaning that green snot coming out of their child’s 16-month-old nose isn’t on their radar. This green snot, mixed in with a party and six other children who were all snotty and coughy leads to silent sickness in the house waiting to strike. It’s worth mentioning that two of the house guests (the ones who did NOT own the 16 month old) stated that their children felt “off” the next day. So who knows from when, or where the sickness started, but it felt like a looming back cloud.

Well lightening struck. Our baby got sick first. He’s 11 months old and the culprit with the green snot had been trying to play on top of him since he arrived – so that genesis of the sickness seemed clear. Next, my spouse got sick. Now this irks me because he’s been a pediatrician since 2009 – so basically, buck up. I have no sympathy for it even though I probably should. But he’s had 10 years to strengthen his immune system! He’s also a man, so getting sick means he has the “man flu.” My spouse tried to convince me that he had typhoid. Yes, typhoid, like he was on the Oregon Trail and the wagon fell into the river. And since spouses do that funny thing of sleeping next to each other, I was next.

I had to hire a baby sitter so I could sleep – meaning I took a $45 nap. Was it worth it? I think so. My sickness consisted of vomiting and fever. So this was fun. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was going to check in to a hotel that night alone. It was a delayed Mother’s Day present from my brood. The original plan was for me to go to a movie, have a nice dinner, and relax. What a fantasy! Instead, my shivering and delirious body got to the hotel at 5 pm and fell asleep next to a half-eaten Subway sandwich. I woke up 15 hours later. Was that worth the cost of the hotel? Well, I should say yes. I woke up fever free and refreshed – but not completely healthy. I now had the post sickness cold and cough.

I went home because I had to check out and at this point, I missed my family. The baby was better. My spouse was better. And the only person that hadn’t been struck was the 3-year-old – but I had a strange feeling we weren’t out of the wood yet. Of course, the following Saturday he was diagnosed with an ear infection and spent the weekend on top of my head. Now I’m achy again.

Moral of the story: don’t socialize.

But if you do, if you really, really want to have a Diwali or Hannuka or Christmas party, or if you really want to host your old college roommate and his/her three children, try to identify patient zero early – and cross him or her off the guest list!


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