How one mom is coping with not being able to protect her preemie daughter from germs.
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Healthy Essentials

As the thermometer drops outside and the bare trees begin to collect snow, I take a deep breath.

Despite the beautiful winter landscape, the first thing that comes to my mind is that we are officially in cold and flu season.

A little over three years ago, I gave birth to our daughter, who was more than 17 weeks premature. Our surviving triplet spent nearly four months in the neonatal intensive care unit, and when she finally came home, on oxygen, we avoided germs like it was our job.


Image by Stacey Skrysak, used with permission.

Being a micro-preemie, our daughter is more susceptible to getting sick, so we spent the first few years of her life avoiding illnesses. Giant bottles of hand sanitizer and a sign that our daughter is more susceptible to illnesses greeted guests when they entered our home, we kindly said “no” to friends who were not vaccinated, and our daughter only left the house for doctor appointments. The doctors had warned us that a simple cold or the flu could land my daughter in the hospital or, even worse, could kill her.

After essentially living in a bubble for more than three years, our daughter started preschool this past fall.

Image via iStock.

The days of isolation suddenly turned into a jam-packed adventure filled with recess, music, and crafts. But with the excitement came fear, on my part — the school setting is a cesspool of germs. I could no longer shelter my daughter.

It was a learning curve for this first-time mom. But rather than be a paranoid parent, I decided to be proactive.

I realized that the classroom setting, coupled with coughing kids, would create a cycle of illnesses. Once my daughter came down with a virus, it would most likely pass over to me, then to my husband. Once we all felt 100% healthy, the next virus would soon plague our family and start the whole cycle all over again.

Image via iStock.

After a few weeks of never-ending sickness, I learned my lesson — and took action.

  • In anticipation of future colds, I printed out our trusty medicine dosage chart from the makers of Children's TYLENOL®, hung it inside our cabinet, and bookmarked the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS Program® page.
  • The thermometer went front and center in our daughter’s room, and boxes of tissues began appearing throughout the house.
  • We all received our flu shots, and we make sure to wash our hands often, especially when my daughter first gets home from preschool.

I also found ways to help my child better understand different ailments.

She loves her pretend doctor’s kit, complete with BAND-AID® Bandages and pink sparkly tools. We introduced the kit over a year ago, when she was constantly being poked and prodded by doctors. Many kids have a fear of needles and of the doctor’s office as a whole, so this is one way to help ease the nerves. By spending countless hours checking our blood pressure and heart, my daughter has no fear of going to the real doctor. Plus, she’s more in tune with her body and can tell me when her ears hurt or if she's struggling with her breathing.

Above all, I learned the best way to help my daughter is to watch for signs and trust my instincts.

Each time she comes down with a cold, I know that sleep, a humidifier, and a box of tissues is the best remedy. If she’s wheezing or acting lethargic, or if I have any other questions or concerns, then I know it’s time to call her doctor. Every child is different, but the more you can read into their symptoms, the easier it may be to treat them.

Image by Stacey Skrysak, used with permission.

As I stare outside at the cold and dreary day, I’m ready — bring on flu and cold season! We got this.

We’re loaded with all the health and wellness products we need, and even if an illness knocks us down, you won’t see me complaining.  A day home from school to cuddle and hold my daughter sounds good to me. She won’t stay little forever. I need to cherish these precious moments, for some day, those hugs will be few and far between.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Motherhood is a journey unlike any other, and one that is nearly impossible to prepare for. No matter how many parenting books you read, how many people you talk to, how many articles you peruse before having kids, your children will emerge as completely unique creatures who impact your world in ways you could never have anticipated.

Those of us who have been parenting for a while have some wisdom to share from experience. Not that older moms know everything, of course, but hindsight can offer some perspective that's hard to find when you're in the thick of early motherhood.

Upworthy asked our readers who are moms what they wish they could tell their younger selves about motherhood, and the responses were both honest and wholesome. Here's what they said:

Lighten up. Don't sweat the small stuff.

One of the most common responses was to stop worrying about the little things so much, try to be present with your kids, and enjoy the time you have with them:

"Relax and enjoy them. If your house is a mess, so be it. Stay in the moment as they are temporary..more so than you think, sometimes. We lost our beautiful boy to cancer 15+yrs ago. I loved him more than life itself..💔 "- Janet

"Don't worry about the dishes, laundry and other chores. Read the kids another book. Go outside and make a mud pie. Throw the baseball around a little longer. Color another picture. Take more pictures and make sure you are in the pictures too! My babies are 19 and 17 and I would give anything to relive an ordinary Saturday from 15 years ago." - Emma H.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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