(Warning: My Saturday evening was very, very long. And in consequence, so is this post. Also, it's a little whiny. Read at your own risk)
Saturday afternoon, Diminutive One's fever spiked to 103, despite the antibiotics he had been on since Tuesday and the children's Motrin I had been cramming into him for the past 24 hours.
I've been a mom for 13 years. I've done this a time or two. And still those little fingers of panic ripple up my spine when my children are sick.
Realistically, I know it's probably something viral and that's why the antibiotics haven't stopped it. I know it's likely that he's just got the flu or an ear infection or something run of the mill.
But there is something about the sight of a normally exuberant and energetic child reduced to a nearly comatose state, with flushed cheeks and glassy eyes that strikes fear into a Mother's heart.
"Mom" he croaked, "My back hurts and my neck hurts and it hurts to move my eyes."
Pre-Pubescent One makes sure I know about every ache and pain that he has, real or imagined. I treat his complaints with a kind of concerned skepticism.
But Diminutive One is incredibly stoic. He will rarely admit to being hurt or sick. Once, he had a splinter that got so horribly infected that he needed medical attention. I never even knew until he came to me and said "Um, I think I might need to go to the doctor." Indeed he did.
So when he told me his back and neck were hurting, I took it seriously. And I began thinking scary medical things like "meningitis".
At 3:30 we set off for urgent care and I jokingly told Husband "Well, I guess we'll see you around ten o'clock."
I would regret those blithely uttered words later.
The first urgent care facility we visited had a sign on the door saying they were closed due to physician illness.
I called husband and asked him to locate the next closest urgent care facility. Diminutive One moaned piteously in the back seat while we waited. After a few moments Husband called back and told me there was another one just down the road. We headed over there, and as I had anticipated, the parking lot was full. But when I got to the door, practically carrying my 100lb child, I was confronted by another sign that said simply "Closed". The lights were off, there was nobody within.
Swearing, I half carried, half dragged Diminutive One back to the van and called Husband again. He gave me coordinates for a third location. I asked him if he would call and make sure they were open, because it was quite a drive and I didn't want to get all the way over there only to find that they too, were closed.
Diminutive One was begging me to go home. "Please Mom, I'm okay. I just want to go home and go to bed. I'm so cooooooold! I want my blanket." I turned the heat up full blast, handed him my coat to cover up with and cursed myself for not thinking to bring his blanket.
When it was confirmed that the third place was open, we sallied forth once again.
The parking lot of the third place was also overflowing. Naturally, all the patients who had tried the other two places had ended up here. I took Diminutive One in, expecting a wait, and resigning myself. I had a book, two bottles of water, and a granola bar.
When we checked in, I noted that the waiting room was not quite as full as I had expected. I asked the girl at the desk if she had any idea what the wait time would be. She merely shrugged her shoulders and said "I'm sorry, I really have no idea. As you can see, we're real busy today."
We settled down to wait.
Diminutive One was very, very sick. He was clearly the sickest person in that waiting room. There was no place comfortable for him to rest. He tried leaning against me, but the wooden arm of the chair cut into his side. He tried curling up in the ridiculously small chair, but his feet kept slipping off the edge. He tried sitting with his head tilted back resting on the chair back, but he kept falling asleep and his head would drop off to the side, startling him awake.
Finally, I pulled two chairs together to make a little bed, gave him my sweathshirt for a pillow and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I got a few dirty looks for using up a chair, but I didn't care. I went into the bathroom to get a paper towel to make a cold compress, but there was only a hand dryer. I rummaged around in the cabinets until I found a package of rough brown paper towels. I wet one and took it back to Diminutive One. He moaned with relief when I applied it to his burning brow.
For an hour and a half, not one single person was called back.
Every time the door opened, everyone in the waiting area looked up expectantly, hopefully. But invariably, it was someone exiting the examination area with a paper in their hand and a weary look on their face.
If all these people were being discharged, why was no one being admitted?
The girls at the desk bantered good naturedly. I started to get very annoyed with them for being so cheerful when all these people were miserable. Yes, it was irrational and unfair, but I was developing a migraine, I was worried about my child, and my ass was falling asleep from the torturous chair I had been sitting in for 90 minutes.
Finally, one name was called. I thought the woman who was admitted was going to dance a jig, so great was her relief.
The nurse who was ushering her back glanced at Diminutive One lying so deathly still in his makeshift little bed. His cheeks were bright red, his lips were cracked and his eyes were dull. The pulse that beat in his neck was disconcertingly rapid. I saw a flicker of concern on her face, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, she would go back and suggest to the people in charge that Diminutive One needed to be seen right away.
No such luck, however. We waited another hour before his name was finally called. I consoled him with sips of water and fresh paper towels.
When finally we were ushered back into the secret realm of all things medical, the nurse who attended us was very difficult not to laugh at.
He was short, blonde and constantly said things such as, "like", "totally" and "dude". His speech had that curious half questioning cadence that you hear from adolescents and valley girls.
Example: "I think you totally got the flu Dude. Like, what color is your snot?"
To me: "Like, you know when he coughs? Is it like, loose and pleghmy or all like....hacking and tight?"
I swear he couldn't have been more than 15.
But it was fine. He seemed to know how to use a blood pressure cuff and he was nice to Diminutive One.
"I know you totally don't feel good, little Dude. But we'll get you fixed up."
He made Diminutive One snot on a big q-tip. That was interesting. Then he peered at it closely, getting his face way closer to my son's sputum than I would ever have dared, and declared, "Dude. I need some real snot. Really snork it on there, k?"
Finally we had enough sputum to suit Valley Nurse, and he disappeared with the q-tip, which was now liberally dripping with my son's nasal effluvium.
There was more waiting of course, but not as long as I'd anticipated. The doctor came in, and told us Diminutive One had tested positive for the dreaded flu.
"It's really brutal this year." he said cheerfully.
After some discussion, Diminutive One agreed to a shot. I doubt we would have secured his cooperation quite so easily had he known that it would be given in his gluteal region. The doctor promised to send in his best shot giver, and left.
Several moments later, the shot giver entered. I was a little taken aback. He was well over six feet tall, as round as an egg and had bright red hair in a ring around his otherwise bald head. Across the top of his shiny pate, several fine fiery strands had been coaxed into standing straight up. He wore thick rimmed rectangular glasses the same color as his hair. His scrubs were nearly as flamboyant as his hair. He was truly something to behold.
"Heeeeey ya'all, I'm Kevin. You know what I'm here to do, right?"
Dimintuive One nodded morosely.
"Alright. Well, I promise, I am real good at this, so I'm going to make it as quick as possible. Do you want some cold spray or are you going to tough it out without it?"
"Cold Spray" said Diminitive One emphatically. His tough guy veneer would take him only so far. He did not scruple to ambivalence when it came to shots.
"Alright big man, give me some bum then."
Diminutive looked at him blankly, but then, realization dawned on his face.
"Uh-uh, no way. I'm not getting a shot in my butt!"
"Two actually. But I really just need your hip-ish. Kind of near your butt, but not really your butt. All you have to do is unbutton your pants and pull them down a little. I don't need the full moon over Miami."
Diminutive One sighed and rolled over.
The man was fast, I'll give him that. And Diminutive One was clearly pained, but did his best not to show it. He simply said "AAaaaahhhhhhh!" and clenched his teeth.
It was over quickly and Kevin gave us our discharge papers, a prescription for Tamiflu, and exhorted us to practice dilligent hand-washing, because, he said ominously, he's already contaminated your entire house and you've all been exposed.
When we left the clinic it was 8:30. I knew that most Walgreen's pharmacies stayed open until 9:00, so I drove like a bat out of hell to the nearest one, which was a good 20 minutes away. It was closed. I said some very bad words. I bought some more Motrin for Diminutive One and dragged his poor flu ridden and now, sore in the posterior self, back to the van.
I had promised Diminutive One a green apple slushie from Sonic to secure his acqueisence to the shot, so we started over that way while I called husband.
"Find me a 24 hour pharmacy. He's got to get some of this stuff into him tonight and I don't know how much further I can drive."
My migraine, which had been mild when we set out, had roared into full blown prominence and my night vision, which since Lasik, is questionable, was made worse by the fact that each little pinprick of light was driving a tiny, brilliant shard of pain through my right eyeball into my cowering, quivering skull.
He called me back while I was in the Sonic drive through and told me that the Walgreen's on the corner of CityStreet and MetroHighway has a 24 hour pharmacy. We were, fortuitously, mere feet from it and I sighed with relief.
My relief was short lived, however, when I arrived at the pharmacy to find that everone else in the world was there too. The line stretched from the Pharmacy clear into cosmetics. There was one person working the drive-up window, and one taking care of everybody else.
I eased Diminutive One into a chair and took my place in line. I mused, as I waited, that having a sick kid does have some advantages. Normally, if we have to wait for anything, Diminutive One bounces off the walls with impatience. He pesters, he fidgets, he makes me crazy. But tonight, he simply sat slumped in the chair sipping his slushie and generally looking pitiful. Several grandmotherly types clucked at him sympathetically as they passed.
I turned in my prescription and was informed I would be called in 20-30 minutes. More waiting. SIGH.
I sat there people watching and people listening and marvelled at how we are all so much the same. All of us get sick, we all need comfort, we all need someone to care. Most everyone waiting was kind and considerate to one another, recognizing their own misery in each other.
But there is always the random jerk-off isn't there?
Next to us was seated a tatooed gentleman who was entirely bald and sported several wicked looking facial piercings. He joked continually with his companion, a thin girl whose low slung pants barely concealed her pubic hair, about the staff, the people in line, and the muzak.
I couldn't help thinking that under his jocular veneer, which was so at odds with his menacing appearance, there was a real darkness of spirit. Where everyone else seemed genuinely compassionate and sorry for the woes of their line buddy, he seemed to harbor a contempt that his jokes could not conceal.
He began to irritate me.
A family came in with a little boy who was obviously very sick. He cough was harsh and strained. His little face reddened with the effort to clear his congested lungs. He could be heard coughing all over the store and I felt myself tensing each time, waiting for him to stop coughing and take an easy breath.
The jerk sitting next to me said, "Jesus, give that kid some Robitussin or something. He sounds like a friggin seal, hahaha!"
I don't know what posessed me. I guess that I had been patient, and reasonable and civil for SIX hours when all I wanted to do was scream for somebody to get off their asses and take care of my son. And my head hurt. Badly.
So that's when I felt compelled to say,
"Why don't you just shut your mouth?"
He looked at me, clearly stunned.
"What's your problem lady?" he growled.
"My problem is that everyone here is sick, and tired and miserable. And idiots like you make waiting torture. So why don't you just do us all a favor and shut. the fuck. UP?"
A man standing up adjacent to us gave a snort of laughter and clapped. The woman seated behind me said "Mmmmmhmmmmm." in agreement. The rest of the people in line looked amused, but clearly did not want to get involved.
"Go to hell, bitch."
"If it meant getting away from you, I would be happy to. Unfortunately, I have to wait here for medicine for my son." I motioned to Diminutive One behind me, who was, at this point, nearly done for.
He got up and stalked off. His pallid girlfriend looked at me apologetically and muttered "Sorry." before rushing to join him.
"Mom, you said the f word." croaked Diminutive One.
"Yes, I know."
"That was awesome."
Okay, none of that happened. But I did sit there and fantasize about it for quite some time. I did mutter "asshole" under my breath when finally he collected his prescription (is it wrong that I hoped it was a very painful and persistend std?) and left.
Finally our name was called. I paid an exorbitant amount of money for the Tamiflu and left.
When at last we reached home, it was 9:45 and I recalled the words I had spoken flippantly to Husband as we left. Unbelievable.
The next day, Husband went to urgent care himself, since it became clear that the terrible cough and body aches he had been nursing for several days were probably the result of the flu.
And I was lucky enough to pick up some sort of stomach thing whilst sitting in the germ riddled waiting room for three hours.
We are all very hunkered. Except Pre-Pubescent One, who said to me morosely, as I lay there trying not to jostle my aching head and/or spew the meagre contents of my stomach into the wastebasket next to the bed, "So, I guess we aren't going shopping for new shoes today, huh?"
Infanticide. Is it any wonder?
So there is the story of my Saturday night Odyssey. Well, it beats dancing the night away with carefree abandon and ending up in the bed of some strange guy wondering how you got there, but knowing, somehow, that it was worth it, eh?
As Jess would say...Oh, the joys.