Enter full-on freaking out.
I emailed Jon right away. I went to our Facebook page with my concerns. Do we keep Jack in school? Answers and opinions came pouring in. I did some research. I called my mom. I called Jack's Pulmonologist at 4:45 in the afternoon and left the longest (hopefully not craziest) message. I really needed an expert and rational opinion. I counted down the minutes til Jon came home from work. We talked. I needed another ear, so I met a friend later. We chatted. I slept fitfully. I woke up with a yucky feeling in my gut. I took Jack to his classroom prepared to have a long chat with his teachers about my concerns. We did talk. It didn't make me feel better. The one thing I was waiting for was a call back from Jack's doctor. The person whose opinion I most respect. That call came in a couple hours ago.
Here's what the doctor said:
1) In his expert opinion, Jack does not need to be removed from school.
2) Jack has had no major colds or flu since leaving the NICU.
3) Jack's lungs are very healthy for his early beginnings. He is on no steroid inhaler, lung meds, and has never been hospitalized for lung related issues. He came off home oxygen at 8 months old and has never gone back.
4) Our two years of strict isolation during cold and flu season left Jack with the best start we could give him.
5) Jack is now old enough (turning 4 yrs old in May) and strong enough to fight off illness in the general public. Jack's immune system is ready.
6) The flu shot is essential and effective for this particular strain of flu that is wreaking havoc. Jack (plus mommy and daddy) got the shot in October.
I may be forgetting something, but that is the gist of it.
Being afraid of germs is so ingrained in the preemie experience, and rightly so. For little ones born without immune systems, it is life or death. And from the minute you arrive home from the NICU, it's your way of life. So I'm sure you can understand why it's so very hard to move from the place of "better safe than sorry" to "lets see how he does."
But that is exactly what we are going to do... enter more freaking out.
The plan for now is: keep Jack in school and we will see how he does. If he gets sick, we will closely watch how his immune system stands up. And yeah, I don't feel amazing about this, but I also know that school is where Jack needs to be. He is blossoming because of it. It is time to let our little guy go fully into the world.
P.S. this decision was made under our unique circumstances with Jack's medical team. Each preemie and child with cerebral palsy is different. Please contact your own doctor to evaluate what is best for your little one.