The nurse pointed in direction of a small room attached to the back of the NICU. The one with a sign on its door that read "Quarantine."
"Cool!" I replied before realizing that my son was the one being quarantined.
A few days after Cameron was born, a herd of hematologists took blood samples from both Cameron and me and shipped them off to the CDC in Atlanta. The lab results that came back on Friday night revealed what every doctor told us was "biologically impossible:" namely, that Cameron has active Parvovirus in his body, and so do I. Why Cameron and I are still infected with the virus--six months after exposure to it--is a complete mystery, as the virus is supposed to be cleared from the body within a matter of weeks.
Hey wait! What's Parvovirus? If you don't know, but want to, read one of the following articles.
In descending order of dryness:
Regardless of how the virus has managed to hang around so long, its presence in Cameron's body goes a long way in explaining why he has had such a tough time since birth; he isn't recovering from the effects of being exposed to the virus in utero, but rather, he is actively fighting off the infection that has grown alongside him (and inside him) since the second trimester.
Although it was the weekend, the hope of a research publication got several few infectious disease experts--and their residents--out of their beds. I was very encouraged when I returned from lunch yesterday to find an immunologist sitting at a computer outside Cameron's room, reading the same articles on the Internet that I had read 20 minutes earlier.
"Please tell me that that is not all there is out there," I said, pointing at the computer.
"Oh no," said the immunologist, holding up a thin stack of papers. "There is this."
She handed me the article she was holding. It was written in Chinese.
To make a long story short, no one knows what to do with Cameron. At this point, there aren't any anti-viral medications that he can be given; he is going to have to fight the infection himself. He is going to be fine in the long run, but since he was sick for so long in utero, it may take awhile for his little body to build up enough strength to kick the virus to the curb once and for all.
As for the reason why the virus was able to outstay its welcome in the first place, we may never know. Hematology's best guess at this point is that one of the immunosuppressants that I took during my pregnancy for my Crohn's may have played a role in lowering my and, by extension, Cameron's resistance to the virus. If this is true, then it is somewhat ironic that the same drugs that enabled me to get pregnant and stay pregnant with Cameron for so long (by repressing my disease) also let an infection rage that almost killed him. For the landmine that we sidestepped one way or another, we are very blessed.
As with all setbacks, there have been unexpected blessings that have come with Cameron's NICU quarantine (Parvovirus is contagious an thus the gowns, gloves, and masks); namely, no one can see what I'm up to in that back room. Devoid of any real supervision (Cameron's nurses are more than happy to pass instructions on how to operate Cameron's machinery to me and Tim through the doorway), I am now free to eat cheese and crackers at my son's bedside (a NICU no-no), examine the contents of the medical supply cart without embarrassment, and read my son's medical charts without impunity.