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  • The $1500 M&M

    December 21, 2010

    This is the story of how one M&M cost $1500 and wrecked an entire day.

    Several weeks ago, Sean had the day off of school (reason unknown) and it was a beautiful fall day so we got together with a friend for a play date in the park.

    Before we left to go to the park, he asked if he could have something from his Halloween candy stash.  I said yes and let him pick out something.

    He chose a little package of M&M’s.  I noticed that the package was red, but I figured that someone had pawned off their leftover Valentine candy on unsuspecting little trick-or-treater’s and I did not think much of it.

    Sean bit into one of the M&Ms and immediately ran to the sink and began spitting it out.

    It was a peanut butter M&M.

    Sean is allergic to peanuts.

    I was baffled because as soon as he got home from trick-or-treating, I immediately culled through his candy and pulled out all the known peanut products like Snickers, Butterfingers, Reese’s and the blindingly obvious yellow packages of Peanut M&Ms, all of which I set aside for me who is quite happily not allergic to peanuts.

    Unbeknownst to me, they now make peanut butter M&Ms and they are in a red package and they look exactly like the regular M&M’s. Except they are not.  This you should know.

    I got out my magnifying glass and took a closer look at the package and sure enough “peanut butter” is stamped on the front of the package in itsy bitsy teeny tiny print nearly invisible to 50-year-old eyes.

    If we watched TV which advertises the latest in candy packaging fashion, we might have known better.  But we do not.

    Sidebar: It would be nice if all peanut-containing candies were packaged in the same blindingly obvious YELLOW (or some other universally agreed upon bright color).

    Heretofore when Sean has ingested a peanut bearing product, his reaction has been fairly brief and mild.  Since he hadn’t actually swallowed the M&M I figured that we could rinse his mouth out really well and be on our merry way.  He seemed to be okay so we went on to our play date.

    Thirty minutes later I noticed that he wasn’t himself.  He was lethargic and would stop running to lay down on the ground, but not in a playful way.   When he said he felt really tired and queasy, we ended the play date and went home.  By the time I got him home, five minutes later, he was wheezing badly and seemed a little loopy, so we drove straight to the local children’s hospital ER.

    They admitted him immediately and gave him an Epi-Pen shot in the thigh. Within seconds, the wheezing stopped and his lungs were clear and he felt better.  It was really just that fast.  It is astonishing how quickly that works.  They put him on an IV drip and administered some other antidotal meds and he spent the next four or five hours drifting in and out of sleep.

    The doctor told us that these kinds of allergic reactions can spontaneously reoccur anytime with the next 6-8 hours so we would have to stay in the ER for rest of the day for observation.  And let me tell you this, you have not had a fantastic day until you’ve spent an entire day behind the curtain in a children’s ER room sitting in a hard straight-back chair, listening to the other patients wail and puke while you keep busy mentally flogging yourself for being the worst and most irresponsible parent ever.

    The first time we suspected Sean was allergic to peanuts was when he was about two. After I had eaten some peanut butter I kissed him on the cheek and the place where I kissed him turned crimson red, like he had a rash or had been scalded.  And then when he was about three, unbeknownst to me, he had helped himself to a peanut butter cookie at a family get-together.  He came to me very distraught, clawing at his tongue, trying to indicate to me that his mouth and throat were itchy and on fire.

    In both cases, after a short time the symptoms subsided, so while it was a little scary, these incidents never seemed life threatening and we wondered if he might eventually outgrow it.  So far, his allergy is mild comparatively — he is fine on airplanes that serve peanuts, he can sit at a table with others who are eating peanut butter, although he doesn’t like it because he hates the smell, and he can eat chicken strips that have been fried in peanut oil.  He just can’t eat peanut products, and luckily, he has no desire.

    So I was surprised that this time, the reaction was much much worse.  I knew that I had to get him to the ER.  I’ve since learned that typically, each subsequent exposure will increase in severity.  It will only get worse from here on out.

    Before they would allow us to check out of the ER, I had to go to the pharmacy and buy two sets of Epi-Pens, one for home and one for school, which thanks to our cruddy insurance was $300.  And then in Saturday’s mail I saw that the ER had sent me a $1200 “thank you for stopping by” note.  If the geologic law of uniformitarianism is really true, and that which has happened in the past will happen again in the future, I know I have another big fat juicy bill coming in from some invisible medical professional whose face I never saw.

    And that is how one M&M cost $1500 and ruined an entire day.

    When I put my little boy to bed that night, in his own bed, and I sat beside him in the rocker I’ve sat in for seven years, none of that mattered.  Not one bit.

    As I sat there and rocked and watched him drift off to sleep, safe and well, I thought about how I would have sat in a hard straight back chair in the ER for seven days and spent seven times seven times seven times $1500 to have him safe and well.

    But I’d rather not.

    Excellence In Nursing

    May 14, 2009

    When I was little, I was in and out of the hospital a lot.  My kidneys never seemed to work right until I was about nine or ten.

    I remember one time when I was about five, I was there by myself, sitting in the hallway in a wheelchair and my neighbor who was a young nurse in her 20s at the time, sought me out and sat beside me. She patted my arm and looked me in the eye and made me feel safe.

    I remember sitting in that wheel chair, feeling the warmth of her hand on my forearm and looking at her white hose and nurse cap.  Even at five, I was overly self-reliant and a stubbornly brave soldier, but I remember the feeling of relief wash over me at seeing her familiar face.  I think from that day, I’ve always had a respect and admiration for nurses. They represent something to me that feels like security.

    This afternoon, I had the honor of attending a program at my hospital recognizing excellence in nursing.  I call it “my” hospital because there are many hospitals in my area but this is the one I choose even though it is in a terribly inconvenient location for me.  Ergo, it is “my” hospital.

    I have had the privilege of having a number of my spare parts removed at this hospital over multiple occasions and each time the care I received from the nursing staff and the patient care technicians was beyond excellent.  And each time I wrote a letter to the hospital president to bring this to his attention, naming names as I am prone to do. And each time he responded promptly and personally with a note of appreciation which told me that the culture of excellence in patient care starts at the top in this hospital.  This is an organization that prizes the human-to-human dynamic.  And that’s the kind of hospital you want to be in should the occasion arise.

    As I sat in the auditorium, I watched different nurses come to the front to receive recognition awards in various categories.  I thought about how being a nurse is one of the very few careers where you can really make a difference in the life of another human being;  the rest of us are just pushing paper from here to there.  Nursing is one of the few jobs where you put your hands on another human and you look them in the eye. Not everyone can do that.  There is nothing impersonal about nursing.

    I thought about the nurses who cared for me after each of my surgeries, who did things for me that only my mother should have to do, and did so with respect and dignity, who when they came to my room to attend to me, made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, who were terribly concerned that my pain was manageable, who would explain everything and empower me with information, who knew when to give sympathy, when to cheerlead and when to prod – who would look me in the eye and pat my arm and make me feel safe.   Nurses who cared not just for me but about me, a human,  rendered vulnerable and helpless by circumstances beyond her control.

    If you know a nurse, remember to tell them from time to time how much you appreciate what they do to make the world a better place.  And if you’ve been cared for by an excellent nurse, take the time to write a letter and let someone know.

    The Shruncho

    April 6, 2009

    Every time I go to visit a doctor, I am handed a three-page statement detailing their privacy policy which I then have to sign and initial to give the impression that I actually read it.  I am often tempted to hand the unsigned forms back to the receptionist saying, “No thank you. I don’t care for any of your privacy.  I have a blog.”  Perhaps I should give them a copy of my privacy policy wherein I pinky swear that I won’t use their real name, while reserving the right to caricaturize and embellish upon the character of anyone working in or near their office.

    I find the lengths to which my dentist goes to in the name of privacy especially amusing.  When I get there, I sign in and then the receptionist swoops in like a Sharpie wielding vulture using a super industrial strength espionage-proof permanent BLACK marker to blot out all evidence that I signed in to get my teeth cleaned. And good thing, because how embarrassing would that be if the world found out that I had my teeth cleaned?

    So in complete violation of my doctor’s privacy policy, I’m going to tell you that last week I had my annual mammogram.

    After Granny Clampett escorted me to the waiting area, she directed me to disrobe from the waist up and ordered me to store my things in a locker which was approximately the size of a coin slot.  And then I was given what she called a “cape” to wear while I waited for my turn in the panini press. This cape could probably be best described as the love child between a shrug and a poncho – a shruncho.

    I made my way out into the ladies lounge with as much dignity as one can muster when one is wearing a Bazooka pink one-size-fits-all shruncho and facing the high likelihood of a wardrobe malfunction.

    I then found myself a chair and sat down being very careful keep my arms in the folded, upright and locked position at all times. And to not make eye contact with any of the other shruncho-wearing ladies.  Back when I had a dog, if I wanted her to do something she didn’t want to do or if she got in trouble, she would close her eyes real tight and shiver a little and pretend to be invisible. If her eyes were closed, no one could see her.  So I tried that for a while.

    And then I got bored with looking at the inside of my eyeballs and got the idea that maybe, like all the other ladies who were also pretending to be invisible, I could read a magazine.

    In the center of the room was a big low coffee table that had magazines strewn all over it, so I stood carefully, making sure to keep the shruncho in place and then I nonchalantly slid over to the coffee table.  With my arms wrapped around my mid-section and clutching my ribs, I leaned over the coffee table just a little to see what my choices were. Jackpot! A recent issue of InStyle!  But you know what? It’s almost impossible to pick up a magazine without using your hands.

    So I did a deep knee bend and swayed my back a little, as though maybe I was setting down a round of drinks.  And then by flexing my wrist, sort of like a penguin,  I was able to ever so carefully pluck the magazine off the table with a lobster-like grasp.

    I made my way back to my chair and looked forward to numbing my mind with a little Hollywood fashion, but the second I sat down, the magazine slid off my lap and onto the floor.

    Being a person whose motto is Safety First! I stretched out my leg and kicked the magazine under the chair.  And then I sat very still with my eyes closed tight and shivering a little until my name was called.

    * * * *

    And now for a public service announcement.

    Mammograms are no big deal and nothing to be feared or dreaded. It’s not terribly comfortable, but it’s not terribly painful either – or at least it shouldn’t be. Usually, they take two pictures of each breast which takes about 7-10 seconds each and it’s done.   However mammograms are not the be all, end all for breast cancer detection. Do your monthly self-breast exam be aware of any changes.

    A number of my younger readers  reported they won’t need their first mammogram for several years but you still need to do self-exams and be aware of your breast health as breast cancer happens to women of all ages.  I lost a friend to breast cancer when she was only 28.

    The Hospital Volunteer

    February 24, 2009

    Last week I had to go see one of my many doctors for a yearly check up so that he would continue to prescribe the pharmaceuticals of which I am so fond.

    He has an office in one of the large local hospitals and as I walked through the maze of halls that snake through a small city of professional buildings, I was struck by the fact that everyone I passed was dealing with some sort of medical drama, either for themselves or someone they love.  And as I looked into the faces of the people I passed, I recognized in them that expression of fear that comes with an uncertain future.  And once you’ve been down that road yourself, you become attuned to the look and smell of that brand of fear.

    When I got into the elevator, there was already an older gentleman standing in the back. I pushed the button for my floor and then turned to acknowledge him with a smile.

    The doors hushed shut and the elevator began to hum as it moved us upwards, just the two of us.  He pulled his collar back to show me where had just had a biopsy of some sort on his neck.  “Glad that’s over,” he said to me.  I leaned slightly forward to look at his neck, not because I wanted to, but because I knew he needed me to look at it.  He needed to show someone and I was there.

    “Wow,” I said. “Did it hurt?” I asked.  “Nah. Not too much,” he said bravely if not convincingly.   “Well you know what?” I said, “These docs here, they’re good. They’ll fix you up,” I encouraged.  It’s true. These docs here, they fixed me up a couple of times.  He pulled his collar together with both hands as though he were suddenly cold and stared at the floor.

    The elevator doors parted and he stepped off into his uncertain future.  I watched him walk away as the doors shut and I hoped that he had someone waiting at home who would look at his neck and ask if it hurt.

    When I got to my doctor’s office, I sat in the waiting room waiting to be called.  An older couple came in. The gentleman took a seat and the woman left with a nurse.  He sat down across from me and drummed his foot like a rabbit. I could see the worry etched deeply in his forehead.  He stood and walked to the window. And then sat down again.  And then stood again, turning one way and then the other but not going anywhere.  He literally didn’t know which way to turn.

    He finally turned to me and said, “I think she’s going to be okay. I think so… I hope so.” He looked at me for confirmation, for hope. I leaned forward in my chair to indicate interest.  He needed to speak those words and he needed me to hear them.  “Well you know what?” I said to him, “You’re in the right place. These docs here, they’re good. They’ll fix you up.”  He nodded and sighed deeply.

    Before I left the hospital that day, I had encountered several people who needed to express their fears, to release them to another human being, even a complete stranger.  Why me, I don’t know.  I don’t know if I had a particular openness to me that day or if in me they saw a kindred spirit, someone familiar with their brand of fear. Or maybe I was wearing a sign on my back that read, “Please. Tell me about your medical condition. I want to know.”

    As I was driving home I thought about how hospitals have volunteers to tell you how to get from one part of the medical maze to another or to validate your parking ticket, but I think what they really need are people to wander the halls and ride the elevators to look at necks and accept released fear and offer words of encouragement, people who would wear a sign on their back that says, “Please. Tell me about your medical condition. I want to know.”

    The Med Student

    February 18, 2009

    So then, last week I had a doctor’s appointment.  I always take a little extra time getting ready for the doctor and dab a little Dr. Pepper behind each knee, don’t you?

    It was a mostly uneventful doctor’s visit except for the fact that the good doctor had a medical student helping him.   The nurse was kind enough to ask me first if I minded if the med student was in the room observing.  I said, “Sure, why not? The more the merrier!” Which made her laugh. Tip:  If you can make the nurse laugh, you can get more samples.

    The intern was 12-years-old.  Or maybe he just looked to be 12-years-old.   Doogie Howser comes to mind.

    With the real doc at one end and the boy doc at the other, I turned to see him not observing at all, but looking at his manicure. And a little green around the gills. I tried not to take it personally.

    To distract him from the unspeakable horror of seeing an aging woman in what can only be described as an awkward position, I asked this young child what kind of doctor he wanted to be when he grew up. No, not really. I didn’t say that last part out loud. I don’t think I did anyway.

    He told me he wanted to be a gas doctor.  I wasn’t sure if he meant he was studying to be a gastroenterologist or an anesthesiologist.  When no one said anything, he quickly clarified that he wanted to be an anesthesiologist.

    I wanted to tell him that if you are going to be a gas doctor, be a big gas doctor. Just to see if I could get more samples out of the nurse.

    But I didn’t say it. Out loud.   I restrained my inner 4th grade boy.  Until now.

    And now Antique Mommy is chuckling inappropriately and putting herself in time out.

    Easter Eggs

    March 28, 2008

    Since we learned last month that our child is peeing pancake syrup, we have made heroic efforts to cut the sugar out of our diets.  And the person who has been most compliant and most faithful to this lifestyle change is Sean.  He has simply accepted it and goes along with little complaint. 

    The other day, his teacher told me that when he was offered candy at school, he politely declined.  He pointed to his arm where his blood was drawn and said the doctor told him no candy until his blood was better.  It kind of breaks my heart that he is so mature about it because I personally want to throw myself down on the ground and pound my fists and rail about the unfairness of it all.

    Not being able to have candy or sweets is really hard on kids because every occasion is a candy occasion and every holiday is candy-centric — and Easter is perhaps the worst of all.

    To make matters worse, when it came time to fill the Easter eggs last week, not only did I not fill them with candy, but I filled them with money from his own piggy bank.  Why not just fill them with broccoli or tofu?  What kind of mother would do such a thing?  He didn’t seem to notice.  After he found all the eggs, he simply wanted to hide them and hunt them again because unlike the adults, he gets that it’s not about the candy. 

    So then, earlier this week we visited with a pediatric nephrologist, a doctor who deals with all things kidney to see if we could figure out once and for all why Sean has so much sugar in his urine and if we should continue with our regimen of no candy, obsessive hand wringing and asking him 30 times a day if he feels okay and is he sure he feels okay. 

    After reviewing the bloodwork, the doctor said his best guess is that Sean has inherited a genetic mutation which causes his kidneys not to filter out the sugar properly.  The doctor said in his 20 years of practice, this is only the second case of this he has come across.  Two in 20 years.  See? My child is super special, it’s not just me saying that now, it’s been medically proven.

    The good doctor assured us that we have no cause to worry — Sean’s condition is totally benign.  Unlike those dimples of his that are lethal and cause his mother’s heart to beat apace. 

    Wow

    February 15, 2008

    Y’all are amazing.  And oddly enough, given to violence. I had no idea so many of my gentle readers would be willing to break someone’s legs on my behalf.  I am honored.  And little fightened.  I’m kidding as I know y’all are too.  You ARE kidding, right?

    I do want to thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts.  Your prayers were the currents under my wings that kept me aloft these past few days.

    Anyway, clarifications and updates are in order.

    First for clarification — and this is all newly learned information for me.  Blood sugar and urine sugar are not the same.  You should have sugar in your blood, something around 70-110. You should not have sugar in your urine.  If you do (from what I understand at this point and I am NOT an expert) the sugar is spilling over from your kidneys or pancreas which could indicate diabetes or something else.

    So then, the first urine test Sean took was accurate.  A sugar count of 2000 is extreeeemly high and a reason to be concerned.  However, his blood sugar was at 85, which you can’t get any more normal than that.  And none of the other markers for diabetes were present in his blood. 

    And now for the update:  We went back to the “real” doctor on Thursday and he still had sugar in his urine, but it was down to 250 from 2000, which is elevated but not insane.  But the doctor was stumped. He said he had no idea what was going on and that it was probably one of those one-time mystery medical events for which we will never have an explanation. 

    The doctor suggested that we cut all additional sugars out of his diet — sodas, candy, pastries — and then come back in for another urine test this coming week.  The upside to this event is that it was the kick in the pants we needed here at the House of Antique to get the refined sugar out of our diet, something we are all going to do.  In the meantime, I am going to test his urine myself at home and hopefully see that number decline.

    Now here’s a tip: Do NOT go on WebMD and start researching all the reasons you might have sugar in your urine because it will not make you feel better.  I did, and I learned that Sean could either be pregnant or have a brain tumor. 

    Seasick

    February 14, 2008

    Tuesday, I had my boat rocked.

    In my life, I’ve had my boat rocked many a time. I’m a tough gal. I’m a high-cope person. I am good in a crisis. But yesterday was different. Yesterday it wasn’t about me, it was about my child. And it sent me overboard.

    Tuesday morning, Antique Daddy and I took Sean in for his four-year check-up, which unfortunately includes four vaccinations. I was dreading having to put him through the four shots, but as a family that embraces pharmacology, it had to be done. (Your philosophy on vaccinations may be different than mine, feel free to discuss it on your blog.)

    Since it was just shots, I agreed to see the nurse-practitioner. Go ahead and judge me now, I prefer the doctor. I’m a doctor snob. One reason I prefer the doctor to the nurse practitioner is because the doctor is not 6’4 and 85 pounds. He does not wear pointy-toed stiletto heels and expensive dry-clean only sweaters to see children who might puke without notice. Her clothing choices do not say “I love children!” Her clothing choices send a mixed message and confuse me. Therefore I am wary of her.

    The regular nurse takes his blood pressure and does all the regular stuff and then hands me a plastic cup and orders me to get a urine sample from the patient. So I dutifully take Sean to the restroom and he happily complies as if there is nothing more fun one could do than pee in a cup and put it in a little window. “Can we do this at home?” he asks.  No.

    We went back to the exam room and continued with an impromptu Tonka road rally and waited.  All was well and the seas were calm.  A little glint of sun peeked through the windows.

    The semi-doctor breezes into the room, stepping through the Tonka road rally in her stiletto pumps and plops down in a chair and announces with no warning that Sean has a sugar count of 2000 in his urine, that he’s an insulin-dependent diabetic, that we need to gather up our stuff and rush to the Children’s hospital emergency room and have him admitted where they can start doing tests and that he will need an insulin pump for the rest of his life and I will have to finger-stick him to check his blood sugar several times a day.

    As I’m trying to take in all this information, I’m watching Sean happily bouncing around the room, the picture of health in every way. And that’s when the room listed to one side. On another day, when I was feeling well, I would have put the brakes on. But I am at the tail end (I hope) of a nearly month-long bronchial infection and my reserves are low. In my weakened state, I just sat there with my mouth open and stared at her.

    With all the energy I could muster, which was none, I feebly offer that maybe it was the blueberry muffin he ate that morning or some Valentine candy from the day before.

    “No,” she dismisses me, “That might raise it to 200, but not 2000 blah blah blah the sky is falling blah…” After that I couldn’t hear anything other than that ch-ch-ch sound of my blood marching in my ears. And then she left the room to call her mother and proudly report the exciting diagnosis she just made. At that point, I felt like I was being burned at the stake. Heat started steadily rising from my torso to my head. The room started spinning and I had to decide whether to throw up or pass out. And so I knelt down on the floor to make either option more convenient. 

    The regular nurse came in and asked me if I was okay. I said, no, I did not think I was okay and that I needed to lie down. She suggested that I lay on the exam table, so I crawled up there and curled up in a little ball and willed the room to stop spinning. Sean, who is oblivious to all of the drama happening around him, stops sailing a Tonka truck across the floor and climbs up on the table and curls up beside me. He kisses my cheek and pats my side. “I will take care of you Mommy,” he offers. How ironic. I can’t think. I can’t feel anything except the sensation of fire.

    Twenty or thirty minutes or hours pass, I’m not sure which. I no longer have a grasp on time. The not-quite-a-doctor and the regular nurse have an argument discuss how to get blood work back STAT. The regular nurse, the one with some sense, sends us to another facility to have blood drawn before we go to Children’s. She hands me paperwork. This is good. I have something in my hands that I can do. I manage to pull myself together enough to check out and get to the car, but the sensation that I’m on fire and my legs are made of jello persists.

    We go to the next place and get blood drawn, which on a four-year-old, is almost as fun as four shots in the same day. And then we go home and wait for several hours for the phone to ring. We cherish the next several hours because we don’t know if they will be the last four hours of our previously normal life. We play, we pray. Priorities are reordered.

    Three hours later, the nurse-practitioner calls and reports that his blood sugar is as normal as can be. She tells us that she has talked to the endocrinologist at Children’s and that he suggests that the elevated sugar in the urine is a stress response to a recent ear infection.

    So then.  The semi-doctor yelled “Boo!” and is now calling to say “Just kidding!”  I feel slightly relieved, but not. I want to break her 85-pound frame in two just the same.  She wants us to come back in for a retest of his urine later in the week and another blood draw next week, but in the meantime to go on with life as normal.  I’m not sure how to do that as I don’t normally live in the shadow of a giant scary question mark.

    In the meantime, I remind myself that no matter the outcome, that we will cope. That if we have to, we will deal with this as families all over the world do and have.  In the meantime, I remind myself that my God is with me always, no matter how badly my boat is rocking. 

    Dr. Snorffler

    January 16, 2008

    I had a doctor’s appointment recently, a doctor that I don’t see but about once a year, and since he probably doesn’t read my blog, he knows nothing of how fascinating I am other than what he reads on my chart.  I am just the next body on the medical production line.

    I understand that. He is a busy man. He’s a doctor. He’s got a lot to keep track of. Still. I just think that if someone is going to get to see you semi-naked they ought to at least make eye contact with you, they ought to at least pretend that you’re special.

    So I’m in the exam room, I’m in my paper party dress, I’m teetering precariously on the table with my arms crossed and my legs twisted up like a pretzel in an effort to keep the party dress on when the doctor breezes in.

    He, apparently, is already involved in a conversation, about me, but not with me. I’m not really sure if I’m in the conversation or if I’m in the audience. Kind of like Ron Paul at the Republican debate.

    “I see here that you’ve had a hysterectomy since the last time I saw you,” he reports without looking up from the chart.

    “Yes, well, I like to keep busy,” I say.

    He stopped with the chart and the flipping of the chart and the writing on the chart. And he looked up at me.  At my face.  In my eye.

    And after a momentary awkard silence when I thought he might lecture me or send me to the principal’s office, he sort of sniff snorted.  He snorffed.  And then he snorffed again.

    And then he went back to talking to my chart.

    Laughter is the best medicine, but a snorff might cure what ails you too.

    In My Previous Life I Used Big Words

    December 6, 2007

    Sean has had this chronic cough and wheeze for what seems like forever. We have made multiple trips to the doctor over the past year to see about this cough and we now own a pharmacy of failed and forgotten prescriptions. Singulair anyone? I got a tuckload. Albuterol? Syrup or inhaler, your choice. I’ll even throw in some Benedryl.

    Early on in our quest to cure the cough, the pediatrician suggested that it could be asthma. Being the medical expert that I am — what with all the ER I have watched over the past ten years, not to mention every episode of General Hospital back in the Luke and Laura days — I was quick to correct him. I told him no, it could not possibly be asthma because neither I nor my husband nor any of our ancestors dating back to second century BC were ever known to have asthma. We are not asthmatics. So, sorry no — it is definitely NOT asthma.

    On our 26th trip to the doctor, he suggested that it might be non-specific allergy induced respiratory irritant just-don’t-say-the-word-asthma syndrome or NSAIRIJDSWA. So I said, fine, what do you got for that? And he prescribed FloVent, which sounds like something you would use to eliminate bathroom odors but is actually a steroidal inhaler. And also used for asthma. Since Sean has been on this steroidal inhaler thing, the cough has gone away. Completely. And the quality of our life has quadrupled. And that gives me warm and fuzzy feelings for the doctor.

    So a month after the last doctor’s visit, I got around to making the two-week follow-up appointment, which we went to yesterday. I was happy to report to the good doctor that the inhaler was working, that the NSAIRIJDSWA was gone and that for the first time in about a year, Sean was asymptomatic.

    When I said the word “asymptomatic” the doctor stopped writing and looked at me pointedly.

    “What kind of work did you do in your previous life? Before you became a mother?” he asked tapping his pen on the desk.

    “What?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with that line of questioning.

    “Most of the people I see don’t use words like asymptomatic,” he said.

    I didn’t think that asymptomatic was such an unusual word. Once, during an art critique in college, I even used the words atypical and asymmetrical in the same sentence — isn’t that a-mazing? I can be real showy like that, just carelessly tossing around multiple syllabic words.

    “Well doctor,” I said, “Junior here, he ain’t got no cough no more.”

    After he cracked a smile, I told him that I like words. And that I’ve been sick with one thing or another my entire life, so I am more familiar with medical terms than I care to be.

    And then he said, “Oh yes, you have IBD, right?”

    “Yes,” I said, “But I’m asymptomatic.” (Oh how I crack myself up.)

    And then it was my turn to be impressed with him, because even MY doctors don’t remember what my health issues are without looking at my chart.

    Score one more warm and fuzzy for the good doctor.