By Teah Mogae

    Looking after the two kids by herself was taking a toll on Melissa. 

    Instead of the usual energetic reaction to their names being called, often followed by a chase down the corridor trying to reach my consult room before the other, I barely got an acknowledgement from them.

    She pushed the double pram carrying her twins. Snotty nosed and looking lethargic, Sam and Sarah, now 2 years old, had been my patients since their conception. Each milestone they achieved had been celebrated by their young parents Melissa and Doug. 

    Doug, an apprentice electrician by trade, worked long hours most days, leaving a lot of the child rearing to Melissa who had recently been planning her career comeback. She had been looking forward to returning to her role as a library assistant and getting some part of her identity back when her plans seemed to unravel.

    ‘We might as well move into one of the consultation rooms, I feel like we are here for one thing or the other every week’, she exclaimed, reflecting on the recent few months since the twins had started childcare. 

    It had started with a common cold, complicated by an ear infection, followed by hand, foot and mouth disease with a bout of diarrhoea. The twins seemed to believe in the motto ‘sharing is caring’ which meant if one was sick, the other would inevitably get sick with the same illness a few days later. 

    In recent days, there had been another viral infection which had coincided with croup for both children, and no sleep for the whole family. This meant Melissa was having a lot of sleepless nights trying to nurse them to health along with the associated guilt for calling in sick for weeks on end at her new job, as they could not return to childcare when unwell. 

    ‘Surely something is wrong Dr Teah, I do not even remember when they had last been well,’ Melissa said as we settled into our regular consultation routine with each twin, listening to little chests and looking into little ears each in turn.  

    I explained that each viral illness comprises up to one week of being unwell with fever, snotty noses, lethargy, muscle aches, and about 3-4 weeks of coughing. Given young children typically lacked appreciation of personal space or hand hygiene, it was common for them to have 6-12 viral illnesses per year. 

    Reassured that this was all a normal transition to childcare, and that there was no need for blood tests to check their immunity or antibiotics to manage their viral infection, she left with the twins looking better after their paracetamol doses and doctor prescribed stickers. 

    Staying home with them another year was not an option for Melissa, so they had to survive the exhausting introduction to childcare and illness. 

    I knew it wouldn’t be long before we most likely had another consultation about yet another viral infection.  

    Dr Teah Mogae is a General Practitioner living in Hoppers Crossing. In the interest of protecting patient confidentiality, patient stories are often composites and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons is entirely coincidental.

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