|One of my prized possessions from Jack's NICU stay, proudly displayed with hand sanitizer at our front door!|
One thing I have discovered about preemie parents is that we are serious about our hand hygiene! One of us even wrote a post about her favorite hand sanitizer! And for good reason. Many of our kiddos have lung disease and many of us take precautions to prevent further lung damage for our little ones. We know we can’t stop them from EVER getting sick. But since we can’t put a bandaid or helmet or cast on those fragile lungs, we do what we can. We give daily breathing treatments to keep lungs “open” and decrease inflammation. We change our lifestyle and spend A LOT of time at home isolated. We limit exposure to illness by often skipping large family gatherings and avoiding public places (particularly in the first two years). And, of course, we practice good hand hygiene. And we ask others to at least do that, for the health of our child.
So, what I can’t understand, is why SO many people have a problem with being asked to wash their hands or sanitize them? Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family were pretty good about following our “rules” and restrictions when it came to interacting with Jack. And we were pretty extreme. I know that. We limited visitors, rarely let others hold him at first, and showered when we returned from work or public places. But it worked. Jack did not have a possibly lung damaging illness until he was over 2 years old. And when he did have that illness, his x-ray proved that his lungs still are not completely healed or fully developed from his premature birth. I hate to think what a respiratory illness may have done to his lungs in those early months! We are at the end of our 3rd RSV/flu season and I can’t help but be proud of how far I’ve come from the days where no one touched Jack and he only left the house for doctor’s appointments. Now, we still practice good hand hygiene, but we don’t follow the severe precautions we used to like showering after being out in public or at work or not taking Jack to stores or restaurants. I still like to know if someone is sick, so that we don’t expose Jack unnecessarily. But now, Jack has playdates with other kids, goes to story time and the park, and really enjoys restaurants!
But not everyone’s family and friends are as supportive as ours. I’ve heard stories of family members who downright refuse to wash their hands or called preemie mama’s “abusive” for even making that request. Family members who stopped visiting because they didn’t.want.to.wash.their.hands. How ridiculous does that sound? I can’t imagine losing time and interaction with a special family member just because of an argument over handwashing! Blows.my.mind. Seriously, we aren’t asking you to cut off your fingers…just soap up!
In addition, the debate will continue from well-meaning friends and family saying that preemies need to build immunities by being exposed to illness…but for many preemies, coming home from the NICU does not equal health. Many need time to heal and recuperate from their premature birth. They DO NOT need to build immunities or be exposed…at least for the first year and possibly the second. It’s a simple as that. Tatum, at Ain't No Roller Coaster does a great job of explaining in this post: But, preemies have to get sick to build their immunity, right? Preemie parents are protecting the health of their child…the health they prayed for and their child fought for. Why anyone would contest that is beyond me.
Wash your hands. Stay away if your sick. There. I said it. A preemie parent thanks you!
|The sign used to hang on Jack's car seat and eventually his stroller.|