Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Flu Week Thus Far

So, I'm sitting here feeling the effects of the flu attacking my body, knowing that sometime tonight probably my immune system is likely to succumb to the barrage of germs swarming my being. I feel like I've gone to great lengths to keep this thing away from me for the last week or so, but dang-it, sometimes it's OK to call it a good game and admit defeat.

This whole flu, SWINE FLU, thing has been circulating in the media for quite a while, and we could all see it coming. We heard about schools closing - WHOLE schools! And we heard about classes without teachers or students - just empty classrooms. And then my son woke up on Saturday with a sore throat. We'll just say there was at least one eyebrow raised in his general direction when he first admitted to having a sore throat. I was suspicious, but I tried to ignore it because, hey, it's just a sore throat, right? That's definitely not the flu or anything crazy. . . Right?

Sunday morning he woke up complaining of a sore throat and headache. A headache. It's hard for me to even put into words how odd it is to hear my son complain of a headache; it just doesn't happen. Ever. Obviously I couldn't pretend the words he said were just a fluke or some little verbal mishap, but I didn't. We checked his temperature, and sure enough he registered at 101. Well poo. So this is where I undertook my super-human ability to ward off illness. I cooked up a big batch of fresh soup, and pulled out the humidifier. I found the vix vapor rub and an extra pillow to prop him up in his sleep.

Unfortunately, despite all my preparation, there was to be no sleeping that night. The fever got a little too high for comfort or sleep. It was around 104 coming down only to 102 at best about an hour or so after giving him the fever reducers. I was alternating Tylenol and Motrin every three hours, which I now realize I had wrong (you're actually supposed to rotate them every four hours, but I was doing it every three hours - so should my child have liver and/or kidney problems as an adult, we'll all know just when the organ damage started). Anyway, suffice it to say there wasn't much sleep for any of us. Jim headed to Wal-Mart at 1:00 AM (yes, you read the right) to get some medical supplies (think Tylenol Cold, Kleenex and Gatorade).

The next day I endeavored to keep Jimmy from spreading his germs around to everyone else. There was lots of hand washing, vacuuming (not that that would get rid of germs or anything - it was just mentally soothing) and scrubbing. That afternoon with Jimmy's temperatures still not dropping below 102, I decided to call his doctor who recommended he come in the next day just to make sure all was well. She also informed me that had I come in earlier, if he did in fact have the flu they could have given him Tamiflu; but as it stood, if I wanted to get the drug within the first 48 hours of his fever, I'd have to find a walk-in clinic or something that night. Feeling far more confident than I should have, I decided to forgo a walk-in clinic and just schedule to see the doctor in the morning simply to make sure there was no infection or anything. Just FYI, this next sentence is where my optimistic, I-can-conquer-the-swine-flu attitude kind of took a nose dive. Being unemployed, we had just been confirmed for medicaid. . and my doctor doesn't take medicaid. . so I'd have to go somewhere else.

Again, there is really no way to express in writing the horror of this statement. You see, I'm picky about pediatricians. Really picky. I've developed a rather judgemental attitude towards pediatricians, largely because I've seen that there are some that are just REALLY good at what they do, and then there are lots that are just REALLY bad at what they do. There's not a whole lot of middle ground or gray areas as far as pediatricians go.I don't like my pediatrician; I LOVE my pediatrician. I don't think I could count on more than one hand the number of times there has been a single. Other. Patient. In the waiting room. They don't overbook themselves - and for this, I am a devoted follower. The doctors are kind and understanding, and they don't overbook themselves. They actually hear what I say as a mom and they VALUE it, and they don't overbook themselves. They're sweet and affectionate and empathetic and engage my children, and they don't overbook themselves. I have been to some practices where the minimal wait time in the packed waiting room (picture kids and snot mingled together in a room that is vaguely reminiscent of a cattle car) is at least an hour every time; of course this is not something that's advertised, but it's a quick and nightmarish realization when it is discovered. So suffice it to say when I find a pediatrician that I like, I stick with them forever til death do us part (or we move away).

I asked the nurse on the other end of the line if she knew of any doctors in the area that did accept medicaid. She rattled off a few names, and when pressed, even mentioned one that she thought was "OK." I called that one and was quickly reminded of other disappointing pediatricians I'd seen previously. "Hellopleasehold" a woman answered without waiting for a response. When she returned to the line, she was unapologetically blunt and brief. Ya, that place just was not going to be happening anytime in my near future if at all possible; we'd just rough it and go without seeing a doctor.

Over the course of the day, I had compiled a list of a few more cold/flu items that I needed, and headed to the store in the evening to get them. Halfway home from my excursion, Jim called to inform me that we needed Feverall. . . 'Nough said. . . Jim didn't realize with his one comment he had fully wiped out any remaining bit of strength and hope I had of surviving the flu with my sanity intact. Feverall. It's a low point for any parent when their kid needs it. As they advertise blatantly, it's the 'only brand of acetaminophen in suppository form.' In other words, my kid couldn't keep down the Tylenol we were giving him to keep his crazy fever down, so we needed medicine we could stick up his rear to keep the fever down. I returned to the pharmacy I had just left in search of Feverall, and they were out. .

So I hit another store just up the road to see if they had Feverall. I looked around, and not seeing it on the aisle, approached the pharmacy counter - loudly coughing and jingling my keys to get the pharmacists' attention (you know how they all always do that. . that thing where they pretend like your not there and there's just no possible way for them to even glance over and say, 'I'll be over in second'). Fortunately, one of the women was pretty quick to respond. I told her what I needed, and she cheerily turned to the shelf behind her commenting "Yes, we do. . . . . . . Umm. . Where's the Feverall?" she called to another woman shaking up some medicine. "Oh, we must've sold it all. We had some earlier." Another uber low moment. There's a pandemic, and all the Feverall in the area has been sold; the gravity of the situation was surreal. At the same time, I saw some Motrin Cold on the pharmacists' little shelf of hidden goodies. I didn't mince any words in questioning why the Motrin Cold was hidden back in the pharmacy when I had been looking for it for the last two days, and "No one told me people were hiding it in the pharmacies these days! " The woman responded that it was a drug which had to be signed off on to be sold. "Oh, that's great! So I've got a sick child at home, and I can't find the drugs I need to help him because there's a bunch of drug addicted crazies out there!!!". I was fully and unabashedly venting at the pharmacy ladies because I was frustrated with everything in my life. And you know what they did? They did the best thing in the world at the moment. They empathized. "That's exactly right! YOU are the one whose punished because there are crazy people in the world. It's not right! It shouldn't be that way. What does your child have, may I ask?". Well, now that we had reached this level of flagrant emotional honesty, and she actually asked the question, I didn't hold anything back again when I sob-sassed my cynical run-on response back to her "He has the swine flu. And my husband's out of work, and we don't have insurance, and the stupid medicaid isn't working, and it's not set up, and I don't know what to do!!!!". And again, I love that they leveled with me on this and empathized with me as a human being - not just another customer. "Well. . you could always go to the health department; they'll probably at least put you in a room if they know that's what you're there for. . . Or you could go to the ER. Heck, that's covered by medicaid! Ya, they'll figure out something to do with you there too!". All of their responses were offered with a tone disgust which matched my own for a broken system that's too complex and frustrating to be useful (think of submitting papers requesting medicaid for your children on the basis of NO INCOME and then having that request kicked back THREE separate times for varying, time-wasting, useless reasons). So I'd like to say to these wonderful ladies at the pharmacy 'thank you.' Thank you for really getting my outrage and fear, and thank you for offering your wonderful solutions that sounded more like solutions my girlfriends would suggest to me. Thanks for not making me a number, but for actually acknowledging my humanness.

Fortunately, we didn't end up needing the Feverall. Jimmy was able to keep down his fever reducers after that one incident. So I resumed the sick protocol in our house: writing down the times and name of each medication administered along with temperatures (we don't always remember what was given or when it was given as you may recall from previous blogs), sanitizing everything all the time, pushing liquids, and quarantining ourselves in the house. A few days later Jimmy seemed to be feeling a bit better though with a very runny and raw nose, still hanging onto a low grade fever, and coughing pretty much nonstop. It was today as we sat next to one another and he coughed and something landed on his leg that I realized the utter lameness of my attempts at scouring this endless onslaught of germs and sickness away. A little later I observed Kyla, who now had a low grade fever too, sipping out of Jimmy's cup. And then a little later I observed Kyla, who now had a real fever, sitting on top of the bathroom counter brushing her teeth with her brother's toothbrush. Ya, the germs were obviously communal within our home at this point. No amount of cleaning or cautioning was going to overcome the impending illness.

It was noon today, and I had just put Kyla down for her nap when it dawned on me that she now officially had the flu given that she had a fever and I guess that's the official start of the flu - after which you have 48 hours to treat with Tamiflu or suffer through the whole nasty thing unaided. I thought of the next week, and I thought of the week I'd experienced up to this point. Ya, um, no. It's just not going to happen again. No way on earth am I going to just deal with the flu. I called up the pediatrician (ya, my pediatrician - the one I unabashedly love) and found out how much it would be to pay for a visit cash. For around $100, I could find out if Kyla had the flu and get a prescription written up for her if she did. I thought of saving the money and trying to get in to one of the medicaid doctors, and then I thought of my sanity hanging narrowly in the balance and decided to go ahead and take that single remaining available appointment for the day.

Sure enough, Kyla does have the flu. And the doctor even volunteered to look at Jimmy too to check for signs of infection (which he doesn't have). And the doctor offered to to right a note for Jimmy's school to excuse him. And the doctor called in the prescription for Tamiflu. And the doctor gave both of my kids stickers and a squirt of hand sanitizer. Once again and this time to the kids' doctor, THANK YOU for your humanity. Thank you for offering your help. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for actually caring about what you do. Thank you for being more concerned about kids than about lawsuits.

I left with my sanity intact and my faith in humanity renewed, and picked up the prescription which medicaid did pay for (Thank you too, medicaid. You do serve a purpose, thought it's not without a lot of jumping through flaming hoops and pleading and a complete loss of dignity). Yes, so here I am now - feeling like next week will be a better one. I may be sick, but at least my kids will be feeling better, and that will make it all much more bearable.

***Update: I've just discovered that for liability and legal reasons non-medicaid participating doctors can NOT see persons who carry medicaid. I guess I was just lucky to get in to our doctor by some error. I have a feeling our next visit to a pediatrician will be a very different kind of one.


Mom said...

In spite of the sadness with the situations, you make the tale humorous, very refreshing!!! You are a true storyteller!

turtllelady said...

Danielle, you have such a gift with words...I am totally in awe of your style, wit, and reality...we must work to get you published!