The adventures of an Air Force spouse

The Chicken Pox Tale

It’s been crazy here in Oklahoma, and most of the country, with winter storms. Last Tuesday we got 12 inches of snow here in the Oklahoma City area. Everything shut down until Friday, when we got another couple of inches. Now Tuesday is about to roll around again and we are expecting another winter storm Tuesday night into Wednesday.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about, except to remind spouses of the deployed that this is the kind of stuff that happens when your military member is gone.

What I really want to talk about is illness. Two weekends ago the Good Chaplain called and said he wasn’t feeling well. He had some sort of stomach virus. At the same time, Illinois Girl called to say she had a nasty cold and stayed home from work. Sorry to hear that, but really, I am many miles away from both of you. I can give you my sympathy and my motherly advice to go to the doctor, but other than that, well you’re on your own.

The following weekend Mrs. Senior Airman calls from Alaska to tell me that she thinks her throat is bleeding and she feels awful. This call came at 5 a.m. In my groggy state, I suggested she gargle with warm salt water and go back to bed. Later, when I was fully awake, I called her back and told her to go to the doctor — motherly advice again. She had a nasty, nasty case of strep throat.

All these illness got me to thinking about the October in Georgia when all the children in the neighborhood came down with the chicken pox. We had at least 20 kids running around in various stages of the pox, from exposure, to full-blown cases, to on the mend. Lots of polka-dotted kids hanging out.

It started the day after I took a group of kids to the lake to see the geese. As we were walking back to our homes, one of the little girls stepped in a fire ant hill. I quickly brushed the ants off and carried her to her house. The next day her mom called to say she had the chicken pox. How do you get from fire ants to chicken pox? Apparently they were separate incidents. The evening of the biting, the little girl was complaining that her stomach itched. Thinking maybe an ant had made it up that high, her mother lifted up her shirt to find a child in bloom. Her other two kids also came down with the pox soon afterward.

We were doing okay until I noticed one spot on Mrs. Senior Airman’s chest and one on her back. Were they chicken pox. I waited a few days to see what would happen. No change. I called the neighborhood pediatrician who came over. He couldn’t tell either, but said if we gave her a warm bath, the blisters would probably come out if it was chicken pox. I left the girls in the care of the Good Chaplain while I went with a neighbor to see how many boxes of oatmeal bath we could find since things were getting a little spotted around the neighborhood. When I returned, the rose was in full bloom, so to speak.

For the next several days and nights, I stayed with my little blossom, making sure she didn’t scratch herself. At one point, while we both felt stir-crazy, I called the doctor to ask if she could go outside for a while. His response: “Every child in this neighborhood has either been exposed to, has or is just getting over the chicken pox. As long as she isn’t running a fever, out she goes.” It was liberating for both of us.

The only night she ran a fever unfortunately was on Halloween night so she couldn’t go trick or treating. If she’d felt better she might have minded.

As the epidemic wound down in the neighborhood, I realized Illinois Girl still hadn’t come down with them. I sent both girls to school on the first Monday in November and that evening, sure enough, “Mommy, my stomach itches.” Here we go again. Although her case seemed twice as bad, she also seemed to recover twice as fast and by the following week, mothers in the neighborhood thanked God as all 20 children were now back on the bus heading for school.

We had pulled together and helped each other out to make sure that everyone survived with most of their sanity intact.

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