School Germs and Preemie Lungs

I don’t know if there is ever going to be a time that I can completely let go of the fear of germs.

My son, Jaxson, was born at 23 weeks gestation. Before I saw him for the first time, I had to learn how to do a proper three-minute scrub in. Throughout my son’s 93 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), we constantly heard medical professionals say “the most effective way to prevent sickness is to limit exposure.” We were taught from day one that protecting our preemie from germs was very serious business.

When Jax came home on oxygen support, his pulmonologist instructed us to isolate our preemie so his lungs had time to grow without being weakened by illness.

We took isolation seriously. I quit my job to care for my preemie. We left the house only for doctors appointments. We did not allow visitors. We did not attend family gatherings or holiday parties. Some people gave us a hard time because they didn’t understand why isolation was important for our preemie.

Isolation took a toll on our family, but it was worth the loneliness and financial stress because we knew we were doing the best thing for Jaxson.

As Jax grew, his lungs became stronger. Just before his second birthday the pulmonologist decided that it was time for us to have a real taste of freedom! Jax was cleared to start daycare part-time. (You can read my tips for transitioning a preemie from isolation to the “real world.”) We took it slow at first – he was only in daycare one day a week. He was sick alot and it took him a long time to recover from a simple cold. There were hundreds of nebulizer treatments and an ER trip. There were many times where we second guessed our decision to expose Jax – we just weren’t sure if his lungs were strong enough.

A couple of months ago, Jax caught a cold and he was showing all the symptoms of a serious respiratory illness – I thought for sure we were headed towards another ER trip. But – he pulled through! It was the first time I ever thought – “OK, maybe his lungs are getting stronger afterall!” Because he showed signs of being able to fight off a respiratory illness without the use of oral steroids, we decided we would try exposing him to the BIG GUNS of SCHOOL GERMS and enroll him in preschool. 

Jax has been in school for less than two weeks and today he woke up with a runny nose and a bad cough. I knew it was only a matter of time before he caught a sickness from his friends at school. This will be the real test to see if Jax will be able to handle school germ exposure all winter long or if we will need to make some modifications to his schedule to keep him safe.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that he does not need oral steroids, that he heals quickly, and that there are no ER trips in the coming days! Exposing preemie lung to school germs is a huge stressor for this preemie mom!