The Fretting Leprosy

Kid #4 is a varsity volleyball-playing high school senior, and taking all 6’ 5” of him into pediatrics after a long day at the office isn’t my idea of a good time.

It has been a long while since I’ve had a sick kid. Our family doctors retired a couple of years ago and a new Pharaoh rose up who knew not Joseph.

The fact is, I had better things to do, like go home and make bricks, and why the doctor standing there didn’t realize that is beyond me.

I don’t bring a kid in unless I actually think there’s a problem. Our old doctor knew that and respected my inquiry. The new guy tried to pat us on the head and send us out the door.

“We’re seeing a lot of this right now,” said Pharaoh, “A virus can present ‘nothing but a fever’ for up to ten days. Go home and rest.”

“He’s had nothing but a fever for five days. That is not normal. At least test him for the flu.”

He saw the look in my eyes and tested.

Of course it was negative. I knew the kid didn’t have the flu. I also knew the kid didn’t have a virus. I also knew the kid didn’t have anything on his whole body infected.

Not my first rodeo.

This is why they made doctors. Do your thing, mister.

But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and we went home to wait. And the kid got slowly slower and the fever came around like clockwork and he missed a week of school and I dragged him back into Pharaoh’s court on Friday.

“Test him for everything,” I demanded, “Our family has some pretty crazy medical history that we can’t ignore, even for a virus.”

They drew eight vials of blood, and we went home to wait some more.

And still the fevers came. They came in low and they roared up high and they snuck out the back door and pretended to leave, only to reappear with the dawn.

“The results are consistent with a virus,” said Pharaoh, “I’ve had two other doctors look them over. Your kid is fine. Get some rest.”

And still the fevers came. He missed another week of school.

We dragged the kid back in, Hubby and I both.

There wasn’t much to say.

“Hmm,” said Pharaoh, poking tentatively at the kid, “yes, this could be a sinus infection. That’s probably what’s going on. The virus gave him a secondary sinus infection.”

He scratched on some papyrus, patted us all on the head, and sent us away.

I had my doubts about it, but a course of antibiotics would work on more than a sinus, so I felt comfortable enough to leave the kids for a weekend and fly to Cancun with the Hubby for a get-away planned long ago. (That blog will be next.)

What I expected to see, upon reentering America, was a son well on his way to recovery.

What I found was a son looking very ill and puffy and strange…and still fretting with his fever.

I am patient and I am logical and I am a keen observer of my children. I gave it two days before deciding that Pharaoh was about to receive all ten plagues upon his pyramid, and I was going to begin with fire and brimstone.

Seeing that my cup of fury was about to runneth over, Hubby offered to take the kid back in.

There is nothing more exciting than to be sitting at your office desk and receive a text saying that your child reacted so poorly to a blood draw that every available doctor was summoned to his side immediately.

And they kept Hubby waiting anxiously outside, wondering if his kid was dead or alive.

Words fail me.

It was a very long day at my desk.

I dragged myself home and into the house.

The kid immediately appeared, saying, “Hey Mom, look at this.”

He lifted his shirt. Red spots everywhere.

I called Egypt. I informed them that we were marching in to war. We jostled between peasants and pestilence and elbowed up to the obelisk, surreptitiously googling petechiae.

The last of Pharaoh’s advisors accepted our challenge.

“Hmm,” he said, “Interesting. He’s had a lot of tests. But I don’t see mono on the list. I’m adding it to today’s blood draw. Might as well.” He turned to the kid, “Let’s have a look at you.”

The kid raised his shirt. The vizier stared at it for a minute.

Then he made the kid say “Aaaaahhhh”.

He swabbed a tonsil and disappeared for five minutes.

“Strep!” he declared, dancing back in, “A roaring case of it, too. I’ll write you up another antibiotic, obviously you’re allergic to the other one and it wasn’t working anyway.”

We went home with some hope in a paper bag. The kid swallowed his new pills and went to bed.

Yesterday was Friday. I kissed my sleeping boy in the dawn and went to work.

Hubby and the kid returned to Pharaoh’s court, who declared that, although his advisor may have diagnosed him, last night’s prescription was not at all correct.

He handed them a third bag of pills, patted them both on the head, and sent them away.

When I finally made it home again, there was a message on my phone from Pharaoh’s office.

“You need to call us right away, there are new lab results that you need to have right now. Please call this number back!”

And I sat down. And the kid wandered over.

And we called the number, he and I.

Three weeks into this, he doesn’t have just strep, he has strep that went into scarlet fever. We glanced at the rash covering his body with bright crimson hieroglyphics. He doesn’t just have a fever, he has a raging case of mono. I looked into his eyes as the nurse went on and on with the edict, and we felt the next days and weeks pour out between our fingers like sand.

Volleyball is over. Easter is cancelled. There are AP tests, and a youth conference and a family reunion and prom on the calendar.

We have no idea what will be, but at least we have named this fretting leprosy, and so it will lose it’s power.

And we will conquer it.

Will the real doctor please step forward?

Just Can’t Swallow This

Two Easters ago I was attacked by a snow pea.

I never saw it coming.

The fam was over for the day and we had already eaten lunch. We were lounging around enjoying our blessings: the kids were well past the frivolous baskets filled with Big Rock Candy Mountains and also they no longer wanted to hunt eggs unless they were filled with hundred dollar bills…yeah, no.

Each kid did what has now become our latest tradition for both Easter, Halloween and any other ridiculous wanna-be holiday that has nothing to do with anything: walk the candy aisle at the store and choose a favorite. Eat it when you’re feeling a little left out of the general festivity but know better than to get sucked into it.

We’re trying to spend more time just being together.

As I took another cruise past the food piled up in the kitchen (doing dishes has perks), I realized I had missed the relish tray altogether in my zeal for ham.


But not necessarily a draw-back in this land of opportunity.

I grabbed a fistful of snow peas and the tub of hummus and brought them out to share with my fellow loungers. I’m nice like that.

One and a half snow peas into the treat, I knew something was awry.

My throat was closing up. It didn’t want to swallow any more snow pea.

I analyzed it for a moment, looking thoughtfully into space. I’m sure it appeared that I was simply digesting the fascinating conversations going on around me.

But no. Things were getting exciting in my throat.

So I asked myself the basic life affirming questions:

  1. Can I breathe?
  2. Can I still repeat movie lines from Finding Nemo in my head?
  3. Does anyone notice I might keel over any minute or will I die in obscurity behind this houseplant?
  4. If I do, will they eat all the dessert without me?

My answers were leaning into the “yes” category, so I did the next logical thing.

I made a cup of tea.

Denial is my favorite flavor.

I sat back down in the very middle of my people and took an experimental sip.

And it stayed right there, trapped in my mouth.

Now I knew it was the real deal. I got all bug-eyed and spit the tea back into my mug and my people cheered and reminded me that tea is hot and I should know better.

Stupid people.

One single drop of tea had wandered back toward my tonsils and taken a look down.

“I can do that,” it said.

It went rappelling through the maze of lumps that went from my tonsils clear into my stomach.

It took a long time. And it was very uncomfortable.

And my people thought I was doing facial exercises and found them entertaining.

“Hey,” said a kid, “Did you guys know you can’t touch your tongue to the tip of your nose?”

Maybe this whole “family together time” thing is overrated.

I pulled my sister aside, told her the issue, and made her watch me.

She was ready to dial 911 if I keeled over into the houseplant.

It took three hours for my throat to feel normal again.

My tea got cold.

When I went to an allergist that week, I discovered that I didn’t have an allergy to either snow peas or avocados, which I was also highly suspicious of. I was told that if my body was blocking them, just don’t eat them.

Stupid allergist. I love them both. You’re telling me to give up something I love “just in case”.

We all know how I feel about that.

So I refrained and had some uneventful weeks until the final straw, if you will.

There’s a brand of health drinks in the produce section that I love but only buy them when I want a fast, healthy treat.

I chugged the delicious green goodness and immediately my throat began to swell.

Thankfully, I was riding in the car with Hubby at the wheel and he drove straight to a drug store and brought me out liquid Benadryll.

I chugged two capfuls and felt them go spelunking down my throat.

The allergist gave me Epi-pens. He had no explanation.

“Here is a list of raw, green foods that you should avoid.”

That’s it.

I sit in Mexican restaurants and stare down the guacamole.

“So, we’re cheating death now, that’s what we’re doing, and we’re having fun at the same time, I can do this, just be careful…”

But I never do.

“Hey there, Mr Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?”

What’s Old is New Again

When I was about to turn 30 years old, I had my first physical.

Leaving your 20s behind is a big deal.

They were the wild and crazy years.

I had three kids to prove it.

I thought I had better inventory my assets…in case they were considering becoming liabilities when they grew up.

The evaluation was comprehensive, the tests thorough.

The medical team’s goal was to “help me grow older in as good a state of health as possible”.


The written summary contained detailed information regarding my results, and ended with this paragraph:

“Your Health Age is that of a healthy, low risk 15 year old woman. Your Health Age and risk factors are as good as they can be. You will be interested to know that, excluding rare illnesses and uncommon events, a woman like yourself has a 50% chance of living to 80 and a 25% chance of living to 90. Remember to plan for this! The things you are doing are working and you are to be congratulated…we hope to see you back for retesting in about two years.”

Where to even begin?

All those years of trying to prove I’m a grown-up, and people saying, “When you’re older you’ll appreciate not looking your age!” were an epic fail.

When you are turning 30 but have a 15 year old body, is this a cause for celebration?

Or mortification?

I looked sideways at Hubby.

“Do you realize you’ve been married to a minor? Is this even legal?”

The cradle-robber just smiled.

I had “a 99% likelihood of living at least another ten years”.

Well, I proved that one right.

When I reached 40, I went in for another physical.

(When you’re planning to live past 100, you don’t want to rush this whole “retesting” thing.)

Their happy little health summary came in the mail, informing me that once again, I had passed my physical.

With the body of a “low risk 33 year old woman”.

This is where I got mad.

According to the stats, my body is supposed to be as healthy as half it’s actual age.

If I’m 15 when I’m 30, then 40 should be the new 20, right?

I could find no cause for this fast-forward aging in the collected data.

The only thing that may have tipped the scales was the addition of two more children, neither of which had I mentioned in the doctor’s office.

This information was on a “need to know” basis only.

Perhaps my body shape didn’t exactly scream “I’m 20!”.

It more or less whispered, “Hey, not bad for five kids, right?”

Sometimes it whined, “Please, let’s trade in the Turbo Kick-box for a Yoga class!”

But the physical included zero jumping jacks, so where do they get off wrinkling me up before my time?

I’m going to give them one more shot at keeping their profession.

Much later – in the murky, distant future – I will go in for my 50th and see what they think.

It will be in everyone’s best interest if they call it at 25.

They don’t have to mean it. They just have to say it.

“You look great for your age!” does not qualify.

You will be interested to know that, excluding rare statements like that and uncommon patient  kickboxing reactions to it, a doctor like yourself has a 50% chance of living to 80 and a 25% chance of living to 90.

Remember to plan for this!

The Hospital Hostage

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It’s never truer than when you land in the hospital.

Some come in and leave with a baby.

Some come in and leave without random body parts; like gall bladders.

Some come in and leave with additional body parts; like pacemakers.

Some come in and leave with someone else’s body parts; like kidney transplants.

But no matter what, you will never leave with the same amount of blood you walked in with.

It’s the law. You have to pay tithes and the currency is red-hot pumpin’ vampire juice.

I came to visit my girlfriend in Room 694 of the swanky new eleven story hospital. It has the best views in town and boasts a garden on every floor, including full size trees.

Already I was worried about root damage in the walls where tubes and wires were connecting her body to vital fluids and chemical cures.

She had been fainting and ill in the night and called for an ambulance to escort her to the emergency room.

“If you just walk in, the waiting room is overflowing. If an ambulance takes you, you get a room quick,” she informed me, “and besides, the cute young EMTs just pick you up and whisk you away.” This, with a sly smile.

She was poking her way cautiously around in a bowl of tortilla soup. The first bowl of soup she ordered from the hospital kitchen menu was the cream of broccoli which turned out to be a complete disappointment. “Nothing like Panera,” she mourned, “I called the kitchen and had to order something else. I don’t understand. Breakfast was so nice.”

“It’s hard to mess up a fruit cup.”

“This looks hopeful,” she said, and dumped the container of chips into her soup.

Just then, a large apologetic man peeked around the curtain.

“Yoohoo,” he said softly, “Your doctor has ordered some blood work STAT and I’m here to collect.”

She held out an arm while sipping with the other.

I had to look away because only a fool will watch a vampire at work.

After a few moments of quiet, I dared to look over at her face, and it was pinched with pain.

“Does it hurt?” I asked.

She shook her head and gave a mighty burp.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said, and put down the spoon.

“Thank you,” said the vampire, rolling away his cart full gallons of blood in tiny tubes.

They must do shots in the break room when no one’s looking.

She settled back onto the pillows and closed her eyes.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, sitting up to the soup again, “It just wears you right out, having a draw while you want to eat and have to pee, all at the same time.”

I raised my eyebrows at her.

“Well, I’ve got a diaper. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.”

A perky petite young lady walked into the room.

“Hello! I’m the doctor at large today. How are you feeling?”

“Fine, except for being so weak.”

“Initial tests indicate you’re blood pressure is spiking and dropping randomly. The blood work shows you have anemia.”

“No kidding. You just had it all sucked out.”

“I’ve ordered up two EKGs and an MRI. Your records show you were here recently for this same issue, and we’re getting to the bottom of it. Get comfortable, you’ll be staying a while.”

The doctor left, and I watched three more spoons-full of soup go down before a young man barreled in.

He had a complete EKG sonogram on wheels and proceeded to hook her up to the video monitor.

I settled in to watch the show, wishing he’d brought popcorn and Twizzlers.


It was like looking for a baby but finding a beating heart. Instead of finger and toes, you could see valves, chambers, moving blood. I realized I was breathing right along with her as he said, “Breathe in, now hold it. Okay, breathe out…slowly…hold it! Good.”

From the way she was ogling the tech, I imagine her blood pressure was going up again.

As he finally rolled off into the sunset, we discovered that the soup had taken a turn for the worse. It was stone cold.

My girlfriend gave a sigh. “They keep telling me to eat. How am I supposed to do that?”

A nurse walked in.

“The doctor has ordered an endoscopy for you tomorrow,” he said, “That’s a tube with a camera, a flashlight, and a laser on the end of it. We send it down your throat to your stomach and have a look around. Just want to make sure you’re not bleeding internally somewhere.”

I looked at her.

“Keep your mouth shut!” I suggested.

“They’ll just put it somewhere worse!” she pointed out.

The nurse walked out but was replaced by two interns. They had a walker and a fat black strap.

I got ready to pull some defensive judo moves. This was getting out of hand.

They rolled up to the side of her bed and explained that it was time to freshen up and walk the hall. They didn’t want to take the chance of her fainting on them.

As they tossed around sheets, gowns and body parts, I covered my eyes with the end of my scarf.

She laughed as her black belt went on. “What are you doing?”

“Preserving your dignity.”

Really, was I was the only one left in the building attempting that?

“I’ve got to go,” I said, “but I’ll meet with the warden and try to negotiate your release.”

“Hard to believe I get all this plus room service, just because I fell down in the middle of the night.”

“If only fainting spells were still elegant. I’ll have to write about this in my blog, you know.”

“Hey, what happens in the hospital, stays in the hospital.”




I am so weary of medical professionals calmly explaining to me that I am getting old.

This I know.

My friends and loved ones would never talk to me this way.

My mirror tells me every day.

I have had the same general physician for years now. He’s completely incompetent and I like that about him. I walk in, tell him what’s wrong with me and listen for his suggestions.

Then I tell him what to do about it.

And he does it.

I’m no hypochondriac. I come from solid pioneer stock and our routine for healing a body part that tries to fall off is to “slap a little dirt on it”. There’s not much that some sunshine and fresh air can’t fix, so I’m rarely in his office anyway.

The year I came to him and quietly pleaded for something to help me feel better was a classic though.

“Doctor,” I began, “I feel so tired all the time. My hair is thinning. I have headaches. My throat is constantly sore.”

He ran some blood work to look professional.

Taking blood out of people proves you’re a doctor, as does a messy signature.

“My dear, your thyroid is fine, your blood work came back normal, you’re not pregnant and there’s no strep in your throat. I suggest an exercise routine.”

“But doctor! I’ve been losing weight for no reason already! I have no energy! I have no time!”

“Five kids, huh? I suggest you stop yelling at them, and your throat will feel better.”

“Do you hear me? I’m exhausted and I take my vitamins faithfully. This is ridiculous.”

“You want to gain weight? Eat a bowl of ice cream every night before you go to bed.”

“Ice cream?”

This is where I began to understand who I was speaking with.

A moron.

“Yes, and try going to bed at a decent hour.”

Obviously the man was out of his mind.

You don’t go to bed at any hour if you’re raising five kids. You don’t eat regular meals unless you count the ones over the sink. Hollering and pulling out your hair is par for the course. What this man needed to prescribe was a babysitter or a nanny. Hook her up to my IV please and refill the prescription for, I don’t know, maybe 20 years or so.

This is the doctor who, after a full physical to celebrate my 40th birthday, cheerfully explained that “from here on out, everything goes downhill”. I wasn’t to be surprised when “things just no longer work the way they used to” and I was encouraged to “take care of myself as well as I could, but it would be pretty futile”.

At this exact moment it occurred to me why they only let you have a paper gown in the room.

Even so, I was sorely tempted to use it as a weapon.

I keep him on my payroll because he lets me go to specialists whenever I ask. If there is actually something wrong, he is willing to let the big boys handle it. It takes a strong doctor to admit that.

This particular week, I referred myself to an ophthalmologist. One of my sons seemed to be having eye troubles and so in an act of support, I signed myself up with him to have our eyes checked together.

The good doctor did a thorough job, and gave the kid a clean bill of health.

He decided I needed glasses.

Perfect eyesight for my whole life and now this! Okay, okay, so maybe I hold the menus further away to read them lately, but I haven’t tipped over my water glass yet. It’s not like I can’t take an educated guess at what the entrée is.

He calmly explained…that I’m getting old.

I calmly explained that Jesus could slap a little dirt on ’em and I’d walk away with 20/20.

For free.

Just another quack thinking he knows more than I do.