So much has transpired in the past twelve hours I haven’t really had a moment to catch my breath. It is now after midnight, my children and wife are asleep, and I am trying to slowly exhale all of the excitement onto this page so as to let it all out. Stick with me, though, this is going to be good.
Today was my first full day of summer vacation. Our plan was (for me) to sleep in a little then watch the kids while Karla did some work, go to lunch with our friend Crista, and head out for the beginning of our month long road trip. We were supposed to finish the day in Harrisburg at my sister Mary Ann’s house where might even get in some time at the pool before the sun set over the western horizon. Our son had other plans. Upon returning from our lunch date at Chick-Fil-A I noticed the boy was exhibiting signs of fatigue. It was just after 1PM and time for his nap. Something seemed a little odd though. He didn’t want his bottle of milk. In fact, come to think of it, he hadn’t had much of an appetite since dinner last night. No worries, though. I’d just lay him on the couch with his favorite show on TV and let him rest. When I put him down I went to make the sign of the cross on his forehead with my thumb and that’s when I noticed that his head was hot. We got out the temporal scan thermometer and, sure enough, it read somewhere in the neighborhood of 101. Having lived through the nightmare of a febrile seizure with him once we knew to start him on Tylenol right away. The problem was that he spit most of it out. This was strange. He showed no other signs of a viral infection. Karla called the doctor and they agreed to take us in at 4:45. So Ben rested as best he could and we kept an eye on him. The fever came down marginally and then started to creep back up…
By 4:00 we were getting really concerned so we just got in the car. Rita was with us, too, as she needed to get her eyes checked out. They had been looking a little red. Their normal pediatrician is a lovely woman named Dr. Thiede (pronounced Tee-Dee) who, Karla informed me, was unavailable. “The only problem” she said “was that we had to see the old guy.” I told her to stop being so negative and that he couldn’t be that bad just because he was older. “No” she said “he’s OLD”. Turns out that the last time she had seen this guy he took ten minutes to write the script for no other reason than that he wanted to be thorough. Again, I thought, this can’t be that bad.
We walked in and were taken into an exam room. I was really getting worried now because he was feeling very hot. A male nurse entered the room and took our information. He then proceeded to get a dose of Tylenol and give it to our son. Although he screamed bloody murder he took it better from the nurse than from us. Here is where it got really interesting…
The door swung open and the prunish, wrinkled visage of what had at one time been a human being crossed the threshold. My heart stopped. I have prayed for a happy death but wondered if this was it. A cross between Ernest Borgnine and Abe Vigoda in a lab coat was standing before me. Clearly, this was Dr. Evers — the “old man” of whom Karla spoke. I think they just shortened it from Everlasting because he clearly had been around since the dawn of time. “Let’s see… (looking at charts, flipping charts around to look at them right side up, flipping them back, putting on glasses) I’m going to be seeing Benedict and MargherRITA!” Literally, he said her name in such a way as to both emphasize the last two syllables like it was party time at Mardi Gras and simultaneously suck the joy out of life. “MargheRITA!” he said again. “You can just call her Rita” I said. “MargheRIIITTAAA” he said in reply. I guess those stylish Miracle Ear things he had shoved into his ears were either off or had been set to the Idiot setting. It’s just past Loud-as-Hell. “Marg…(voice trailing) What brings you here today?” In my mind I wanted to say “Well, doctor, we thought we’d show the children the dangers of drinking and driving by bringing them to the morgue but they were closed for repairs and you’re the closest thing to a corpse we could find.” However I begged off by saying something like “They’re sick”. “I’ll look at MargheRITAAAAA first.” “OKAAAAA” I said. She screamed like my good little girl. Turns out she does have pink eye. Well, that sounds so gross so we’ll call it by its rightful name: conjunctivitis. Good thing it’s the allergic kind and not bacterial. Some eye drops will clear it right up. “I’ll write her a prescription for drops” said Dr. Death. “Now let me see Benedict. What brings him in to me today?” Disregarding the fact that Karla had told him just moments earlier that he had a fever, has had a febrile seizure in the recent past, what we gave him, when we gave it to him, his height, weight, and ring finger size, Evers seemed to be completely unaware. I always love when a doctor asks why a patient is there. I want to say “You’re the doctor, figure it out. I’ll give you my copay if you get it right.” We walked him through the whole spiel again and he decided it would be an excellent time to get out the stethoscope. Ben did not like this. It was cold. He screamed like my good boy. “That’s it, Benny, hit him! Take him down! Show him who’s boss!” The screaming here, though, was nothing compared to what happened when Methuselah got out the otoscope (the thing you look in ears with). This paragraph is too long.
The whole time we were waiting for the doctor I couldn’t help but notice that this doctor’s office seemed empty. It seems to me that offices used to have models of the ear or something to play with. What happened to all that?
Dr. Evers began to insert the otoscope into my son’s left ear. I have never seen this part of the exam take so painfully long. Five minutes elapsed before he called for a nurse to help us hold Ben down. I’m no expert but I really don’t think you need to hold the kid down to do this. Take a glance. Is it red or not? I’m not kidding when I say this part took more than ten minutes. Well, part of that is that when he had finished both ears he couldn’t remember having looked at the first ear and tried to start the whole thing over again before Karla politely reminded him that he had already checked. “Let me look at his throat now” said the old one. “Oh… Here’s the problem. It’s very red. I mean, it’s like a bright pink, that’s how bad it is. Yes, a bad throat.” “Um, Doctor, I don’t want to be a pain but your nurse gave him a dose of a bright pink Tylenol suspension just a few moments ago.” “Oh. Well then, his throat’s fine. I can’t figure this out.” It turns out that a number of kids have come in with fevers and no other signs of virus or infection in the past week. OK, give the old devil his dues… If that’s what going on, then that’s what’s going on. I guess I just would have figured that a man who predates bacteria might be able to recognize infection more easily than others. “Doctor, we really just wanted to make sure he was OK from the seizure perspective.” “This child has had a seizure!? WHEN?” He actually yelled at his nurse at this point and that’s something I just don’t tolerate. I was about to take him down (in my mind) when the nurse looked at me with that “it’s OK” stare. Continuing: “About six months ago, remember?” “We’ll need to talk about this” he said. Back it up buddy. WE don’t need to talk about anything other than where I can find the state medical licensing board to report your antediluvian ass for censure. “Listen, you’ll want to give him Tylenol right away. Have you done that?” Even MargheRITAAA was growing frustrated with this guy. “Yes, Doctor, we’ve given him Tylenol.” “OK, then you want to alternate with Motrin, got that?” “Yes, got that.” Again, we “got that” the first time this happened SIX F*&@ING MONTHS AGO!
This is the moment where things got really weird…
Dare I bring it up with this whacko… “Doctor, can we get a prescription for the Tylenol suppositories because they never seem to be in stock. Do you have any samples? At this point, the doctor gave me a look I don’t think I ever want to see again. It was kind of a strange mixture of intrigue and bewilderment. He honestly looked like someone who had been trying not to think of suppositories and was making good progress until I brought it up and forced him to think about them. “They make Tylenol suppositories?” Karla shot me a look that read as follows: “Don’t speak. Don’t laugh. Don’t jump headlong through the window behind me.” She answered for me: “Yes.” Fifteen minutes later, Dr. Dicko had figured out the dosage. This apparently involves heavy math and the use of a sliderule. Look, he’s between 35-40 lbs. and it’s Tylenol. It’s just not that complicated. For the third time he asked where he could phone our prescriptions for Rita’s drops (which he still had not written) and Ben’s antibiotic. Then his nurse came in and told us where we could find the suppositories. There is a pharmacy two blocks from the office called The Medicine Chest. I swear I heard her say Medicine Breast. In any event Dr. Eternity looked at his watch and said excitedly “They close at 6! It’s almost 6 now! Let me call them!” He then mechanically stood up and left the room as fast as someone of his age can. After a few minutes he came back into the room and announced that he had saved the day and that the Medicine Cabinet would be staying open just for us. “Get in there and get as many of those things as you can get your hands on! Go! Go!!!” “Doctor, can we have our other prescriptions?” “Oh yes, those…”
We got out of there as fast as we could. A moment later I spotted the Medicine Hut. This place was, no joke, a two-room Cape Cod house that had been converted to a shop. At this point our son’s fever had not gone down one degree and I was 1)frantic, 2)anxious 3)in need of a cigarette 4)out of my freaking mind. I jumped out of the car before I had put it in park, ran across the parking lot, threw the doors open, and yelled “Gimme’ all your suppositories!!!” Then I felt compelled to explain myself to the clerk who looked very puzzled. All this for something I hope not even to have to use. “You’re the guy the Dr. Evers called about?” he said. I acknowledged him. “It’s odd because we’re open for another half-hour. His watch is always fast.” The good doctor took so much time with everything else that he forgot the reason we brought them up in the first place is because the last time we had the same trouble getting Ben to take the liquid and so we just wanted them for back-up. I bought the three boxes they had on the shelf mostly so that I’d never have to ask the doctor about them again. They don’t expire for another three years.
The rest of our evening was just as strange. Rita went to sleep when we got in. Ben stayed up watching TV and whining. At one point his fever actually went up into dangerous territory. That’s when we checked with Maureen (my sister, an RN) for some reassurance. Gave Ben some Motrin, gave him a cool shower, and he spent the next three hours playing with his trains, back to his old self, his fever gone (hopefully for good). Now I get the joy of staying up through the night to insure he gets his medicine at regular intervals.
Our son is going to be OK.
As for the elderly physician, somewhere, in a thatched-roof hut in the northern reaches of England is a portrait of a zygote in a white lab coat.