The little red-haired girl is getting over swine flu. Well, I say swine flu because it’s the hysteria du jour, but it could have been anything that lays a kid low for a few days.
She is one of 16 from her grade 7 class of 28 at home instead of school right now, though we don’t know how many of those kids have simply been taken out of school because their parents got the jitters, or whether they’re genuinely ill like she was.
We also don’t know for sure if it was swine flu, but the symptoms seem to match.
Temperature about 38? She got up to 39.3C – or nearly 103F – at one point, though thankfully she’s now back to just above normal.
Headache? Runny nose? Sore throat? Lethargy? The British National Health service says if you’ve got only two of their laundry list of symptoms you may have swine flu, so with five already, she had more than a double dose, I guess.
Never mind that most of us have headaches, a runny nose, sore throat and feel like crap when we have a common cold, too, but we’ve got to keep the worry up, right?
The other day the headlines in Germany screamed that a healthy 15-year-old girl died of swine flu within a few hours of her first symptoms, that 14 in Germany have died so far, that we’d all better get vaccinated or the numbers will only climb, and on and on.
Tell you what, people. When the headlines start to blare about how dangerous it is to go outside and move about in traffic, I’ll start to take swine flu seriously.
The number of people in Germany who die in traffic accidents – that includes cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, car drivers and passengers, the works – was a little under 5,000 last year, or around 13 – 14 every single day. The annual death toll is always framed as GOOD NEWS, because the figure has been falling steadily from a high of around 20,000 per year four decades ago.
But if we’re all potential victims of swine flu, and are told we should get a vaccination, we’re also all potential traffic stats, against which there’s not much you can do but try to follow the rules and hope for the best.
Every morning when I haul the little red-haired girl’s bike out of the basement to carry it up the stairs for her, I try not to think of the dangers she faces in rush hour traffic, armed with only a good light, reflectors, reflective vest and helmet. I shake my head and imagine her steering well clear of those roving one-tonne tin cans of death she has to make her way through, arriving at her destination safely.
Just before the kiss good-bye, I always slip in a “be careful” in as many ways I can think of spread out over each month, a verbal talisman to pin on her as her rear light fades from view, round the corner and out of sight.
I remember rolling my eyes a bit whenever my own mother said that to me. Every time, without fail: You be careful, now! It was her standard send-off, though she’d often tack on short summaries of her more harrowing shifts at the Lion’s Gate Hospital emergency intake.
Ya shoulda seen this guy on a bike who came in lass week, I tellya, he was a mess! Car smucked him going down Lonsdale and they brought him in within five minutes, but his head was so bashed in you couldn’t tell what he looked like.
If I was headed up to Whistler skiing I’d hear about everything from torn ligaments, spiral fractures and quadraplegic cases to ski pole impalements and guys getting lost in the woods, their corpses recovered the following Spring.
Anything to ward off a parent’s worst fear, the fear that came true when her first-born was killed in a car accident at 18, and the constant worry that it might happen again to us.
No, we didn’t get swine flu vaccinations, and don’t plan to. Too late for our daughter anyway, who got hers the hard way.
I know it’s only human to fear a new disease whose final impact is not yet known more than it is to cower at the daily sight of a throng of traffic at an intersection, but I wish there were a vaccine to protect cyclists. A pill to pop that would shield us from the dangers lurking around the corner.
I wonder if it would sell, though. First you’d have to whip up the hysteria, but all we do is take for granted that 5,000 people will die a horrible death in this country every year, and hundreds of thousands more around the world, and hope to hell it isn’t us.