I plead the Fifth

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It started about a week ago – a strange itching sensation on the palm of my hand. No redness, no bumps. Only a pesky itch with no apparent cause. I mentioned it one day to my dad, who said an itchy palm means you’re about to receive some unexpected money.

What I got instead was a deluge of other symptoms, not just for me but for two of our three kids. One kid had a low-grade fever, which I chalked up to the common cold or 24-hour virus. The other had achy legs, which I attributed to the kind of growing pains that take a kid from 46 inches tall to 48 inches seemingly overnight.

Then I came down with a combination of the kids’ symptoms – fever and general body aches that made me miserable for most of a weekend. But the tiresome symptoms passed, as most illnesses thankfully do.

After several days of being back on our feet, 6-year-old Kate woke up with bright red cheeks. She looked as if she’d been outside riding her bike on a blustery, cold day. Even though she felt fine, the red cheeks lasted all of Sunday and into the next Monday, when the school nurse called to say she thought Kate might have something called Fifth Disease.

Any illness with the word “disease” as part of the name tends to quickly get a mama’s attention. But the school nurse assured me it wasn’t as dire as it sounds. It’s just a simple virus with a tell-tale red rash that has earned it the nickname “slapped-cheek rash.” By the time the rash appears, the contagious part of the illness is already over.

After two days of extra pink cheeks, Kate was back to normal. I, on the other hand, was not. I climbed out of bed and winced in pain as soon as my feet touched the floor. They felt as if they’d fallen asleep and couldn’t wake up. That pins-and-needles feeling made my feet throb with each step. And my hands and knees had that same strange, prickly soreness.

When I hobbled downstairs, I found11-year-old Adam at the breakfast table looking like the sandman had slapped him hard across the face all night. Fifth Disease had come back for its second act. The rash traveled from his cheeks to his arms, legs and feet, so I kept him home from school so he wouldn’t have to explain why his splotchy arms and hands weren’t contagious.

I googled the symptoms and found that an adult who catches this common childhood virus doesn’t typically get the signature rash but does often get achy joints, particularly in the hands, knees and feet. Check, check and check. I was three for three. It felt like a faint hint of what it might be like to move around as a 90-year-old arthritis patient.

The good news is that we’re finally getting better, and the rash is fading into an unpleasant memory. Most of all, going a few rounds with Fifth Disease has reminded me how great it is to feel great again.

One of the occupational hazards of motherhood is battling the bacteria and viruses your kids drag home from school, and there’s not enough Germ-X in the world to keep from catching something now and then. But when the fever breaks and the symptoms subside, you realize that the real windfall is having your good health back. All the unexpected money in the world can’t buy that.

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