Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dr. Mom and Mr. Infectious

I was feeling pretty good about my child-health-care ability this morning. I kept my son home from school yesterday, having guessed just on the basis of a slight fever and exposure to a sick cousin that he had strep throat. His climbing temperature throughout the day and careful swallowing strengthened my belief, and the doctor this morning confirmed it: positive for strep. I have to do so much through observation and instinct with this kid, since he doesn't feel pain much and makes no big deal when something hurts, that it's a major self-esteem boost when I get such a positive sign that I was right. I've learned to believe him when he says he's sick and doesn't feel like going to school; to believe his body language as much as verbal complaints when he's ailing; and to not feel silly about calling the doctor when it might all turn out to be nothing. And this time, anyway, it paid off.

So as I say, I was feeling pretty good about myself, pretty secure in my mom-ness, and then I went and made a bush-league mistake. I forgot the rule about never saying "Don't do it" to my son, because the "don't" falls off somewhere between his ear and his brain and all that gets to his trigger-happy impulse center is "Do it!" So, for example, when we were walking out through the doctor's crowded waiting room, and I said, lightly, "Okay, let's get out of here. Don't breathe on anybody," my boy immediately turned to a nearby child and exhaled strep germs right in his face. The mother looked appalled, and for a moment dire consequences flashed before me: Is there such a thing as "assault with intent to infect"? Is it written up in the Homeland Security Act somewhere in the "biological warfare" section? They're executing people in China for spreading SARS; what do we do here for deliberate strep spreaders? Can we be sued for loss of school days? What if this kid was visiting the doctor because he's medically fragile or immune deficient? Can germs be considered a deadly weapon?

But the other mom, God bless her, finally shrugged and asked, wearily, what my son had. When I mentioned strep, she said her son would probably be getting antibiotics anyway, because she thought he had an ear infection. Sure hope her guess was as good as mine.

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