So if you've ever wondered how chicken pox looks in the beginning, well, just take a look at this poor baby. And Jacob's is a mild case because he's had the vaccine. A few days ago, on Jacob's last day of school for Christmas break, I picked him up and noticed two small red spots on his temple. Then I looked down and saw the big one on his neck. I immediately thought, "Oh, no! Chicken pox!" I opened up his shirt and saw to my disappointment many more spots. Yuck.... not such a great start to the holiday.
Chicken pox has been one of my worst fears as a mom because as far as any of us can remember, I've never had it. And I hear that as an adult the virus is just plain awful. So I run Jacob immediately to the doctor. That was my first mistake..... doctors can't diagnose it that early and if it is chicken pox, and they don't want them in their office anyway..... it's crazy contagious.... something like 90% of people who come in contact with it, who've never had the virus, will get it.
So the doctor gives me a list of things it could be, a prescription to a steroid in case it's a dermatitis, and sends us home to wait to see if the spots develop blistery sores and pop open. So for a few days we were quarantined. Yep, right at Christmas when I had just spent 3 full days baking for friends, neighbors, and teachers and not finishing up my shopping. Don't get me wrong.... I love baking all those surprises, but I just had ALOT more Christmas shopping to do and now I couldn't. Not to mention, Jonathan would be out of town for the next 4 days (which meant I was now stranded with 3 children in the house) and there was still that looming fear of contracting the virus myself. Yikes!
So the next day, he had about twice as many spots and I was convinced it was chicken pox. But the sores never really developed the way normal chicken pox does, so I thought... well, maybe I'm wrong. Mistake number 2. The next morning my friend calls me and says her son just came down the stairs with the same red spots. Now I KNOW it's contagious and I KNOW it's chicken pox. She takes her son to the doctor and again the doctor (a different doctor) says it's probably not.... doesn't look like chicken pox.
The next day, she gets a phone call from her doctor saying her son's bloodwork came back with such a crazy reading that they needed to immediately bring their son back for more bloodwork. His platelet count was down to 18,000 when normal is between 150,000 and 450,000. The next test showed 16,000 and that doctor sent him immediately over to his pediatrician on a Sunday. The pediatrician took one look at him and said "definitely chicken pox" and sent him over to the hospital with a mask on for more bloodwork. Now his numbers came in at 15,000.
Of course, the first thing that pops in my head is luekemia, but I wasn't about to say that to my friend who was already completely stressed. So I got on the internet and she did, too, trying to find everything we could on what could possibly cause these low numbers. The first things we read are all the really scary reasons..... like luekemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, etc. And then we find out that a platelet count below 20,000 is considered life-threatening. Basically, your blood loses it's ability to clot at numbers this low. It's so serious because at this level you don't even have to have a cut or a bump to bleed-out.... you could just start bleeding internally from your intestines or even your brain and there's really nothing that could stop it because your blood can't clot.
After staying up half the night and reading everything I could, it sounded like his was most likely a blood disorder called ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) which only around 5 in every 100,000 kids get each year. When I told my friend what I'd learned, she said, "Yeah, that's what the doctor said it might be." It can be triggered by a virus that affects your bone marrow such as chicken pox, ruebella or mumps. When a child is sick their body forms antibodies to attack the virus and in ITP, for some unknown reason, the body will also form an antibody that attacks their platelets. When the spleen removes the antibodies, it also removes all the healthy platelets. Then the child's body can't reproduce the platelets quickly enough and their platelet count drops dramatically.
The doctor, of course, was very concerned and contacted a pediatric hematologist from UAB and they decided the best course of action was to take bloodwork every other day to keep a close watch on him, and to, of course, keep him safe from any injury. It was a tough time for my friend.... she has 3 other very active young boys and trying to keep the sick one away from them so that he couldn't be hit or hurt in any way was pretty hard. Not to mention all the stress of the diagnosis. Many kids with ITP fight the disorder for months even after the virus is gone.
Now to the good news..... after a few days, a few bloodtests and lots and lots of prayer, her son's platelet count gradually started going up again. Hooray! And just before Christmas, too. Times like these truly put all things into perspective. So I think I'll go now and hug my children.... oh yeah..... and wait patiently, worriedly, to see if I, too, get those dreaded spots.