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My Son Has the Swine Flu: A Daily Journal

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Editor's note: Bruce Sallan is not a doctor. This item is not intended to be giving medical advice. It is written from his experience with his son and the swine flu and his own personal opinions about media coverage of H1N1. For more information on H1N1, please read our story and check out the Centers for Disease Control's website.

We just learned that our older son, Will, has the swine flu.

bruce and will

Bruce Sallan: Fortunately, we didn't panic or allow the hysteria of the MSM (mainstream media) to scare us to death. His first reaction was simply, "Darn, I'm going to miss Halloween." I believe our media have become hysteria-mongers, as well as all too often focusing on their agenda versus objective reporting. They devote way too much time to subjects unworthy of so much coverage, such as the Balloon Boy or the tragic deaths of celebrities.

With the swine flu, we've been deluged with scare reports from the media, ignoring the fact that each year tens of thousands of Americans die of the regular flu. As with AIDS, the panic is overwrought and generalized to scare everyone, when the reality is that there are more at-risk groups for just about every such illness.

My younger son was exposed to the swine flu at summer camp this past summer. His counselor got it, as well as several other counselors and some campers. Those infected were isolated, those exposed were given Tamiflu, and life as we know it -- and camp life, in particular -- continued. My son's counselor returned to their cabin in a week, no worse for the wear.

I expect the same will be true for my son and the vast majority of those that catch this particular strain of the flu. But, for the record, following is a daily journal of our experience, which I will keep as things occur, in sequence, without editorializing later.

Day One: Will is sent home from school, as the nurse called to say he had a mild fever. We put him to bed, took his temp, and called our pediatrician. He had a 101 fever, a slight cough, but otherwise seemed fine. He suspected he got it from one of his bandmates, who was sick when they last rehearsed. The pediatrician's office said to give him Motrin, fluids, and see if he still had a temperature tomorrow and, if so, to bring him in. Later that evening, his temp was just 100, and he was feeling pretty good.

Day Two: Will woke up feeling pretty good and actually wanted to go to school. We thought better and kept him home and in bed. Later, when his temp was still over 100, we took him to the doctor. Twenty minutes after they took a swab, we got the diagnosis -- he had the swine flu. They prescribed a Z-Pak (five-day dose of antibiotics) and Tamiflu, which we got at Costco for $100. By now, he was complaining of some aches and pains and a general soreness throughout his body. He also was complaining about missing Halloween, and was feeling sorry for himself. My wife told him that we were going to have to cancel the party she'd been planning for weeks because of his infection, and he actually quieted down and realized he wasn't the only one affected. A pretty amazing realization for a teenager!

Day Three: He's sleeping in late, so we haven't taken his temp yet. Up around noon, he took a shower, and said he felt fine. Was playing his guitar when I went in to check his temp, which was normal. When I asked him how he was feeling, he replied with total teen contempt, "I feel fine," which really meant, "I'm fine, why do I have to stay in my room, why can't I go out and enjoy Halloween?" This can't be all there is to this?!

Day Four: They say your kids often do many of the things that you do, good and bad. Last night, my son reflected one of my traits when he apologized for being moody and grumpy. He doesn't understand why he has to still stay home when he's now feeling fine, just four days after getting sick and three days into his 5-day course of meds. I told him that after the five days of meds, if he goes another 24 hours with a normal temp, then he could return to school. The funny part is he's so bored -- he actually wants to go to school. His temp is still normal.

Resignation has set in for Will. He knows he's not going to talk his way out of his room and into school. It's sort of like the stages of grieving, according to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. My son was in denial, then anger, and now is in "acceptance."

Day Five: Last night, Will got a surprise visit from his girlfriend, her stepdad, and another friend. They talked to him from outside his room, through the window, for a few minutes. It was both a boost and a reminder of his "in prison" status.

One amazing thing has happened with his forced lockdown time. He's actually reflected on plans for the future. A teenager reflecting on anything? Wow, maybe this swine flu thing is really a good thing? As he's always loved music, demonstrated real talent, as well as developed a lot of knowledge, he's decided he wants to go to a music school and learn production. While he still wants to be a "rock star," this sort of mature alternative planning is quite the anomaly for him.

Today, his temperature is still normal. His energy is high. If this is the worse the swine flu throws us, I'll consider this family extremely lucky and the media highly inflammatory in their declarations. This afternoon, he even went out to the garage and played drums for a while.

Tomorrow is his last day of meds. If he's got a normal temp for another 24 hours, it's back to school for him, and this episode will have been easier than a lingering cough or cold. Amazing. And, as yet, no one else in the house has got it, though one of our dogs came up lame for a while (she's veeerrrrryyyyy old).

Tonight is his last dose of Tamiflu. A friend of his just got diagnosed with swine flu, and they thought they could hang out together as they're both already infected. OMG, are they nuts? Nope, just teenagers.

Day Six: "Will my son have a temp today?" is the big question. He finished his course of meds and today will determine if he can finally leave his confinement to his room.

He was all ready for school when I came back this morning from getting blood taken, after a recent physical. Took his temperature and sat with him, patiently waiting. Normal. Off to school we went.

So, what have I learned, and what can I impart from our bout with the swine flu? Simply, don't listen to our vice-president, don't listen to our media, and DON'T worry about it if you're the average person. Yes, if you're in one of the risk categories, be extra careful. Also (and we did this constantly and no one else has so far contracted it), have hand sanitizer everywhere in the house. You can't overdo it.

Finally, and I'm dead serious -- if you have a child that is stuck at home with the swine flu and ends up like my son (with negligible symptoms), your biggest problem will be his boredom. Help him or her out with books, CDs, DVDs, etc. If they don't have a computer or TV in their room, move one in just for the duration.

And, most of all, don't panic.

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