Why I was Happy to have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and How the Red Cross is to Blame

Two weeks ago I was at my family’s annual five-day love fest hanging out with family and friends-who-have-become-family.  It was a gorgeous day and the weather was perfect.  I had just finished having lunch with some just-passing-thru family and was in the kitchen doing a little dinner prep and chatting with an Aunt.

One of the younger cousins came to get my Aunt, but at the time I didn’t think anything of it.  A few minutes later that changed dramatically.

My Aunt came running into the main room of the lodge holding a toddler and yelling, “He’s not breathing and I can’t get his mouth open.”  I dropped what I was doing and rushed over to help.

Even as I was moving toward her I could feel my Red Cross training kick into gear.  I noted that she was struggling to hold the child and that she was trying to get his mouth open, I evaluated his age to be between one and two years old and I remembered that the most common issue at that age is choking on something they’ve put in their mouth.

I took him from my aunt, carefully positioned him over my arm as trained to do and performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him one time. I could feel his chest shudder as he finally took a breath and then he began moaning. I laid him tummy side down on a high table so I could check his mouth for an object and that’s when I found his teeth clenched shut–he was having a seizure.

I rubbed his back, checking for breathing (as long as he was moaning he was breathing) and watched him until the seizure had subsided and that point handed him back to his mother.  While I was doing this, another family member was already on the phone to 911.

He was transported with his mother to the hospital where they did a battery of tests and couldn’t find an exact cause for the high fever.  They released him and, with both his mother and father, he returned to the lodge and spent the night.  On the doctor’s orders he was given some over-the-counter medications to keep his fever in check and he ran around and played all evening like nothing had happened. It was truly a joy to see how much fun he was having!

It wasn’t until several days later, after we had all dispersed, that we discovered what had caused his high temperature–Hand, Foot and Mouth disease–a disease that typically affects children under five year of age with awful blistering around the, you guessed it, hands, feet and mouth (sometimes in the mouth).  Every single family member was exposed.

But we are a hardy bunch, and there had been only one other child under five at the reunion.  That blissful ignorance lasted until the next day when a nine-year-old (who I had spent the entire previous day with) came down with a high fever.  But Sunday evening I, too, was well on my way to 101 degrees.

As miserable as I felt for a few days, I don’t begrudge one minute of it.  I would gladly trade a little illness for a healthy, happy toddler running around and having fun. And so I blame the Red Cross, only in jest, because who can say what the outcome would have been without that training?

Reunion Emergency Tips

Because we average one person per year going to the emergency room during our reunion (we aren’t dangerous I promise, there are just a lot of people having fun), I thought I would share a couple of tips that our family has picked up over the last few years:

  • Have one person (preferably an adult with good hearing) call 911. Have them stay on the phone as long as possible so you can report any changes in the patient’s status.
  • If you are camping or are in a vacation area that doesn’t have a regular address, send someone up to the main entrance to meet the ambulance, it can really save time.
  • Frequently when you are vacation, playthings and toys are scattered along the pathway, make sure it is clear. Open up the doors and make sure the rescue workers can easily access the patient.
  • Have one person get the purse/wallet of both the patient and their caregiver and prepare to follow the ambulance to the hospital to provide support. Make sure that they have an extra charger or cell phone. This is the person who will be called for updates and will relay any additional needs.
  • We’ve learned through experience not to overwhelm the hospital waiting area.  If appropriate we may send another person or two in shifts, but we do not help by showing up en mass.
  • Last, but surely the most important, make sure you have at least three people trained in CPR and First Aid at your next family reunion.  If that seems excessive, consider this,  emergencies can happen anywhere, out on the water, down the hiking trail or in the lodge. The more trained people you have, the better the chance that someone will be in the right place at the right time.  With the Red Cross online courses, it doesn’t even take much time to become trained.  Check it out here:
    Red Cross CPR

May your reunion end happily!Another Happy Reunion!

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