Friday, May 18, 2012

The Plague Has Passed

Every single member of this household has been so sick at some point this week that a visit to the Emergency Room was debated for each person. Now that we are all on the mend I realize that it was actually lucky that we were sick at the same time because we saved hundreds of dollars in copays just because no one with a driver's license could muster the strength it takes to sit in a waiting room.

Jack got hit the worst by far. he went about four days without eating and even then was able to produce large quantities of vomit. I can't even imagine where the chunks were made of and I considered saving a sample to have it analyzed in a lab but I was too busy cleaning puke off of every soft surface within a ten foot radius of where Jack was laying and dry heaving. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure our insurance doesn't cover lab work that serves no purpose beyond twisted curiosity. No wonder the Tylenol isn't bringing the fever down. If a hot dog from four days ago hasn't made its way into the bloodstream chewable grape-ish flavored fever reducers never had a chance. Then you get to decide if its safe to give another dose and find yourself combing through vomit for anything that could possibly have been grape-ish flavored. Welcome to one of those moments you never saw coming: the moment you honestly considered using chewable Tylenol as a suppository. On a person other than yourself.

Both of my kids and my husband have a thing for spiking high fevers. I've had enough experience with each of them to know that its not time to freak out until its over 105 degrees. Also, theres not much anyone can do about it beyond Tylenol and if you go into the hospital and demand answers the next thing you know they are asking you to sign papers allowing them to do a spinal tap even though everyone knows its just the flu. Then you turn down the spinal tap and say a prayer offering your next born child in exchange for the absence of meningitis.

John and I have a different opinion on when its time to involve doctors on an illness. I only want to go if I know for sure that they can do something for us that we couldn't do ourselves which basically means we need a prescription. The run-of-the-mill illnesses that pass through this house just need bed rest and 44 ounce Sonic slushes. I understand that even the most capable of physicians are not just trying to ease suffering but make a living and make payroll. No doctor likes looking a kid over and saying "It's a virus. It will pass. I recommend the lime slushes. We take cash or credit." Instead they always write a prescription for antibiotics in the off chance that its a bacterial infection and to make sure you don't feel ripped off and then you get sentenced to ten days of holding a kid down and pouring "bubble gum flavored" pink liquid down their throat. About six days later when your kid is totally healthy again and you come across the pink liquid in the fridge behind the pickles you wonder if the medicine made him get well or if he would have gotten well anyway. Then you have a pang of guilt that you didn't administer the whole ten day course and consider the possibility that you have unwittingly contributed to the creation of antibiotic resistant super bugs. So that co-pay you forked over and that two hours of your life you will not get back might have done more harm than good. To humanity.

A long time ago before we had kids John had a sickness that just seemed to go on and on and on. We were self employed and didn't have health insurance so I insisted that he not go to the doctor. a few more weeks passed and he still felt like he had a mild cold and he began to make his doctor request more often. I insisted that this was going to be a couple of hundred dollar endeavor for absolutely nothing. He kept insisting that he could tell it wasn't just a cold. He was sure that something was very wrong with him. He went to the doctor and returned triumphant with a solid diagnosis. He had Mono! Ha!

"See! I told you I was really sick! They did blood work and everything. Totally positive for Mono! I told you so!"

"And what can they do for you to make you feel better?"

"There's nothing you can do for Mono. You just have to wait it out."

"So we just paid a couple hundred bucks for nothing. I told you so."

Roughly ten years has passed since this conversation took place and we are both still unswayed.

Every time one of the kids gets even mildly sick John starts insisting that they get to a doctor. He has yet to volunteer to be the parent tasked with carrying this out. Then we exchange a well rehearsed dialog where I explain that doctors are just dudes who have jumped through a lot of hoops and paid a lot of money to a university. They are not healers, they do not have a crystal ball and they are generally not psychic. Then John delivers his lines about how he'd rather be safe than sorry and then we negotiate a compromise involving a strict timeline.

"If he is still coughing by 11:37 am I will call the doctor and see if they can get him in."

"I will see your 11:37 and raise you a visit straight to Urgent Care"

Even if he has caught the same illness and needs to be seen too and we (I) get an immediate appointment for both of them to be seen at the same time, I still have to attend the appointment. Which is a pain but it is way better than sitting home awaiting a full report and then having a conversation along these lines:

"What did he say? Did he make sure his ears aren't infected? Did they swab his throat? You remembered to mention the tonsillectomy from two years ago, right? Could he hear that kind of rattling sound when he breathes deeply? did you ask him about my grape flavored suppository idea?"

"Uhhh… I don't know. he gave me some prescriptions. I'm stopping my Sonic for a slush on my way home. Want anything?"

John and Jack both really like to be taken care of. I kind of suck at taking care of people. They both tend to milk illnesses for all of the pampering they can get. In fact, Thats how I know that they are really really sick. When they are feeling too ill to ask for things. I try really hard to nurture everyone through the sniffles and offer chicken soup and back rubs but I'm far more likely to send you to bed and tell you where the Kleenex is. The other day when John was feeling crappy he was getting dressed. We were both equal distance from the bin of clean socks. "Hun, will you get me some socks?"

So I got the socks and then dramatically held each one open for him to slide his foot into. I thought it would be funny. As if anyone needs their socks put on for them.

John just pressed his foot into the sock like it was totally normal and we both had to exert major force to get it all the way on. "Thank you, sweetie. You take such good care of me." He was touched by my gesture of kindness.

"John, I am kidding. I make Abe put on his own socks. I wasn't trying to be sweet, I was trying to make you laugh."

There is a reason I wasn't invited to The Last Supper. I would be like, "Hey, it actually takes more energy for me to sit still and let you wash my feet than it would take to just wash 'em myself."  I like to imagine myself having a Peter kind of response and insisting that I do the foot washing, but I know I'd probably be like, "hey guys, lets just all agree to keep our stinky feet to ourselves."  John is total Last Supper material.

It has got to suck to be a doctor in the Information Age. Everyone they see has googled their symptoms to death already and they come in expecting you to be totally familiar with every possible diagnosis off the top of your head. Its got to be hard to compete with WebMD. I'm sure the constant TV ads pushing pharmaceuticals are a total pain in the neck. They are probably right up there with shows about undetected full term pregnancies and frivolous malpractice lawsuits. And I have a feeling that any grown man willing to ask another grown man (or even worse, a grown woman) "Is my heart healthy enough for sexual activity?" has probably got bigger problems than sex or a weak heart. I'm leaning towards severe autism or Tourette's Syndrome. And I would know. I have a smart phone.

Since we have decent health insurance and a really great family doctor I'm not that opposed to taking a very sick kid in. The real hassle starts when you involve the pharmacy. Last week when Abe was extremely sick the doctor's office got him right in. We were in and out on our way home. Then the usual post doctor dilemma came up. Do you drop the prescriptions off on the way home and then go home and then leave the house again thirty minutes later to pick it up? or do you drag your sick kid into the pharmacy waiting room? This time I decided to go to a CVS in the opposite direction of home because it is by Home Depot and I have been needing to get some paint so I figured we could do that while the scrip was being filled. The prescriptions were for antibiotics (sorry about SARS), Albuterol and a nebulizer. Here is the chain of events:

CVS says that they don't carry nebulizers and recommends Walgreen's. (Nice sales strategy, CVS.)

Drive to Walgreen's and they say only the 24 hour location carries nebulizers. I ask if my insurance will even cover a nebulizer. I am told immediately that of course they will. I am suspicious that this response didn't involve a computer or a telephone but what do I know about nebulizers?

Drive further away from home to 24 hour location and drop off prescriptions. Am told it will be ready in half an hour.

Get paint. Totally infect race car shaped shopping cart with what may well be SARS.

Return to Walgreen's. Am told that they are out of both the antibiotic and the Abuterol but they can order it and have it by tomorrow. They would be happy to fill my prescription for a nebulizer. This would have been helpful info exactly thirty minutes earlier. They offer to send the prescriptions to a different location by my house. It will take them half an hour to fill. Thats good because thats how long the drive will take since I drove all the way to the stupid 24 hour location.

I drive to the new Walgreen's and am informed that they too are fresh out of antibiotics  but there is another Walgreen's that has all of it. Its only two miles away but it will take a half an hour to fill.

I drag sick kid to various time-killing errands like getting gas.

Gas pump sells me exactly five dollars of gas and then informs me that the bank will not authorize a purchase higher than that.

I frantically check bank balance. Plenty of money. No apparent reason for debit card debacle. I call bank. They assure me that everything is A-okay and I shouldn't have anymore problems. I give up on gas and head to pharmacy. If you are counting, this is pharmacy number four and Walgreen's number three.

Crazy long line at Walgreen's (which is understandable when you consider that they are the only location in town that sells antibiotics.)

My turn. "Picking up three prescriptions for Kramer."

I have two ready for Kramer. The third one, for the nebulizer is not covered by your insurance. Do you want it anyway? I'm sure I can borrow one but I'm considering the purchase just to have a large object to throw at someone. No nebulizer for us. Clearly God doesn't want us to have one.

"That will be twenty dollars."

"Here you go." Hand over debit card. (which must be done through a complicated metal drawer with a dirty plastic basket because everyone knows that it is a good idea to force all pharmacy patrons to touch the same surface. I give credit to the evil geniuses who run Walgreen's. They know how to get repeat customers.)

The card is declined. God doesn't want me to have a nebulizer and he hates me.

Drive to the freaking bank. Find out that there is nothing wrong with my account, there is just some odd issue with that particular physical debit card. I get cash.

Back to Walgreen's. Back to the back of the line.

Pay twenty dollars and have the nebulizer conversation again. "Just hand over the medicine, please."

"Sure, I just need to get the pharmacist to go make it."

"MAKE IT? It's not MADE? Yes, by all means, now is the time to begin the process of making the antibiotics. I'll wait right here." I passed the time searching for a hidden camera crew. This had to be a reality TV show where they provoke unsuspecting people to their breaking point. How did they get Abe in on the prank? Nah. Has to be God. He is totally holding me to that whole meningitis deal from 2005.

Cue the horrible coughing fit from the sick child who has been dragged all over town for antibiotics to treat a virus and Albuterol with no nebulizer with which to administer the Albuterol.

Cue the vomit.

Cue more vomit.

Lady is back. "It will be a few more minutes. I just need to have the pharmacist go over this with you. Has Abraham ever had this medication before?"

"We will figure it all out. Just give it to me. Please. I'm begging you. Just give it to me." I was scaring her. Now I know why they work behind bullet proof glass.

By the time I walked in the door and was greeted by John all I could do was point in the general direction of the garage and say "Go. Upholstery cleaner. Paper towels. Fabreeze. SARS. Lysol. Go." He was smart and got right on it without complaint. He was very sweet and thanked me for taking Abe to the doctor. I couldn't in good conscience say "You're welcome." so I settled on "Thank you for saying thank you." Then he mentioned that the car was really low on gas. Oh no you di'int.

My emotional state recovered at about the same rate as Abe. Kristen has literally half a dozen nebulizers laying around and I made peace with God and began the process of forgiving Walgreen's (which becomes exponentially more difficult each time I get a phone call from their automated system reminding me that Abe's nebulizer is awaiting pick up). Then I got busy googling the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which I would totally see the doctor about except that he will just write me a damn prescription.  

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys