December 3, 2023 | Rome, Italy

I dare you

By |2018-03-21T18:54:34+01:00April 14th, 2013|Lifestyle Archive|
Bring on infectious diseases... if you must.

pring has sprung. And you know what that means: chilly weather is dying down, flowers are a-bloomin’, flu season is finished — and infectious disease season is just revvin’ up.

To which I say. Bring on the chicken pox. I can take it. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” It’s in quotes. Does it matter I don’t know who said it? No. Why? Because I don’t have to know; I am strong. So strong I don’t need to be smart. And because this year the flu almost killed me.

It was our first winter with two rug rats in full time preschool. Just as the heavens (and the schools of the Comune di Roma) appeared to have given me some free time, the forces of evil snatched it away with a parade of bacteria. Plague after plague haunted our home. We were peppered with petulance (you’ll remember the

head lice and pinworms.)

Ladies and gentlemen, hell hath no fury like a mother stuck in the house for the winter.

Every other week, a sniffling son became a snotty, coughing, mess. Result: I was forced to nurse them back to health within the confines of our domicile. After which my offspring decided to take on these illnesses like shift work.

“Can you please synchronize your viruses?” I yodeled at the top of my lungs while waving a thermometer around like I knew how to use it. (And I do.)

Once I had them both cured and sent them back to school, I thought I was back in the clear and could resume my life. Wrong. The day of the first morning drop off, I felt a tickle in my throat and achiness. I tried shaking it off. I had a second cappuccino. That did the trick for about 30 minutes. Then I went under. We continued this shut-in cycle until Christmas break, when we were thankfully all healthy enough to travel.

As soon as we arrived at my parents’ house Stateside, we learned my mother was down for the count and in bed. More flu. We ended up taking her to the hospital.

The ER doctors were not cheerful. This kind influenza, they told us, kills tens of thousands every year. Especially people over age 65 and under age four. They swiftly prescribed antiviral drugs to everyone in the house (me, my family, my dad). With the U.S. flu season at epidemic levels, the doctors also suggested we lay low.

So there we were, in American quarantine. Stuck in the house again. We all got some kind of flu, but the flu — full-blown, bad, scary, lethal — we dodged. Or thought we dodged. But intelligent virus that it is, it lay in wait in Rome. And attacked.

That’s when I found myself flat on my back, unable to function, let alone care for my two little walking germ vestibules.

My mother had already given us quite a scare. At one point, she even announced she didn’t think she’d “make it” — uncharacteristic talk for a woman who still does her own heavy lifting. Shocked, we increased her liquids, made her favorite foods, and made sure she took her meds.

Suddenly, I was my mom, but in Rome. I woke at night with a fever so high it elevated my heart rate. I was scorching and my body lethargic. Yes, I’m dramatic, but not when it comes to health. I’ve given myself shots in the stomach, refused pain medication after two c-sections and had more than 300 stitches in my noggin. In short, a wuss I’m not. But that night, with the flu, I talked like my mother. “I’m not going to make it.” And I really didn’t think I would.

That’s how brutal real influenza can be (never shake it off when you read that the 1918 Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people).

Like my mom, I ended up in hospital. Unlike her, I contracted secondary infections, including bronchitis, sinusitis, and welcomed back my old friend asthma. Like my mom, I eventually kicked the killer virus’s gluteus maximus. Because that’s how we Dugan ladies roll.

As I write, I’m feeling better and stronger every day. I’m happy to welcome the infectious disease season like cherry blossoms. Why? Because I’ve already had them all.

So bring on the gnarly hand, foot-and-mouth disease. Hit me with the best measles you got. I’m immune.

About the Author:

Kissy Dugan's "Parenthood" column ran from 2007 through 2016.