I’m immunocompromised and still learning how to avoid getting sick

Parenting a toddler can make it tricky to avoid seasonal illnesses

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by Erin Fortin |

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The first months of the year are typically filled with New Year’s resolutions, early winter sunsets — and the sounds of coughing, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Every year, it seems like I or someone around me gets sick.

Protecting ourselves in public isn’t easy, but we can take precautions like wearing a mask, keeping a distance from others, and washing and sanitizing our hands. But avoiding getting sick when those you live with are ill is a different battle.

We’re not even a full month into the new year and my family and I have already been sick multiple times. First, my 1-year-old daughter got a stomach virus, then my husband and I got it. Next, my daughter got croup, and then my husband got sick again with flu-like symptoms.

Navigating common illnesses when I already have a weakened immune system due to paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is extremely difficult.

Before my diagnosis, if my husband was sick with even just a common cold, I’d help nurse him back to health. I’d bring him food, clean up tissues, or just keep him company by watching a movie together. We viewed getting sick as an annoying setback but nothing to go crazy over. My mindset was always, “It is what it is.”

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It was actually a virus I contracted from my husband back in 2019 that landed me in the hospital and led to my PNH diagnosis. I wasn’t careful about protecting myself then like I am now. It was clear I needed to take my health more seriously when we saw how the same virus affected us so differently. My husband was back to normal in a few days, while I took much longer to recover.

To help keep me safe when he gets sick, we changed our routine. We stay in separate rooms, I wear a mask around the house, and every room has a can of Lysol at the ready. He even stayed once in our family’s motor home to avoid infecting me. (I think he secretly enjoyed having full control of the TV remote. When he started feeling better, he extended his “vacation” by a day or two!)

This strategy worked several times when he got sick and I didn’t. But all of this changed after we became parents. Protecting my health now is much more difficult because my daughter relies on me for her basic needs, and my sole job is to be her mom. When she got a stomach virus, I didn’t even think of my own health because my mama bear instincts kicked in to take care of her. My husband offered to take care of her, but I was too stubborn. I needed to take care of my baby.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise, then, when my husband and I got the stomach virus, too. I’m grateful for our family members who helped watch our daughter when my husband and I couldn’t even function.

I kept in contact with my hematologist, monitored my temperature, and prepared myself mentally to go to the hospital if necessary. Luckily, all three of us ended up getting better.

I still have a lot to learn about how to best handle a sick child while protecting my own health. It’s hard to not let my instincts as a mother take over, but I know it can be serious if I get sick.

I’d love to connect with someone else in the PNH community who might have suggestions about how to navigate this. If you have thoughts about how to stay healthy while parenting a toddler, please share them in the comments below. In the meantime, our families continue to be extremely supportive, and we all just figure it out as we go.

Note: PNH News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of PNH News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.