Greg has had chronic eczema on his hands and feet for going on two years now. The Chinese Medicine person he has been seeing has given him an herbal soak and home-made salve. While it seems to work, it works VERY, VERY SLOWLY. He soaks about 2 hours a day and, over the past six months or so, it has gotten slowly better, IF he keeps up the soaking regimen. Off and on, when there are open wounds, it seems to get slightly infected and then he soaks it in warm, salty water for a few days and that tends to take care of it. Swollen lymph nodes come, swollen lymph nodes go. It has become a familiar pattern.
Last week a patch on his right foot was starting to get infected again, and in his zeal to nick it in the bud, he soaked his feet in hot water that was a little hotter than usual. The next day he noticed he feet were red from the water line down.
Had he scalded himself without knowing it? Two days later, the red marks turned into huge, painful burn blisters. He hobbled to his last week of teaching classes (actually I drove him and picked him up for most of the week) and made a big impression on the dermatologist he had previously decided to see when progress on the eczema was slow. Can’t hurt to get the dermatologist’s opinion, I thought.
The Chinese Medicine doctor also recommended a full blood work-up, which he did last fall. That turned up an irregularity with one of his parathyroid glands (parathyroids are four little glands that regulate blood chemistry and are found on your thyroid.) If he can just hang on another two weeks until he is scheduled to have the offending parathyroid removed, maybe his body will get all back to normal. Burns are shallow, they will, with time, heal…
Thursday morning, after a nice hike in the foothills, I come home and get the call: the nurse at school saying Rees is not feeling well and has a slight fever: 100.5. I always suspect that those school thermometers are set a little too high.
I bring him home and set him up on the couch. Is it stress, exhaustion, is he really sick? He is lucid, but uncomfortable with a very sore throat. He hasn’t eaten. He is really sick, I conclude, and he checks out and takes a nap. The problem is that tonight and tomorrow is the 5th grade’s big musical production of The Jungle Book. He has been working towards this for months, with early morning rehearsals. I have been helping with the sets, props, and costumes. Tonight he is scheduled to be in the chorus, tomorrow is the big night where he plays an elephant and a snake. He has to be better by tomorrow night.
I finish sewing snaps on the orangutan belly, mend some torn monkey pants, then, when it is time to pick up Kadin, I tell him I am leaving, ask if he wants to come with me, and when he says he doesn’t, I tell him I’ll be back in 15 minutes. When I return I can hear him from a block away screaming in the house at the top of his lungs, “Mom! Where are you? Mom! Mom! Mooooooooooom!.” Just the thing to heal a sore throat.
Guess he is not lucid. The last time he was this unreasonable, the day before Halloween, I took him to the clinic and he had strep throat. I am taking him in again. I know if it is strep, he will likely be feeling much better in about 24 hours, just in time to do the musical. It is worth a try.
We head off to the SmartCare clinic, a walk-in clinic at a Walmart where you don’t have to make an appointment and they charge about a third less than our regular doctor (who couldn’t see him until the next day anyway.) Sure enough, Rees tests positive for strep throat, again.
Does he have it all the time and do I just take him in when there is a big event like Halloween or a performance in a musical? Why is he so vulnerable? I ask around at school and some moms tell me they have heard similar tales where there are a-symptomatic people in the family who keep re-infecting each other. Maybe we should all get tested.
Greg goes to the dermatologist and gets a burn ointment and yet another, more powerful steroid cream. It’s the new plan.
We all try to go to the clinic on the weekend to get our strep tests, but it doesn’t work out. On Monday, Greg is not feeling so well and now the lymph nodes in his left leg start flaring up. Monday night he can’t sleep because of the pain. He calls his new dermatologist (he has already gone to his regular doctor a few times with complications from eczema, with ho-hum results). The dermatologists’ message says he’ll get back to him in 24–48 hours. So we decide today is the day to traipse over to the drop-in clinic and get tested for strep and maybe see about the leg as well.
It’s the Tuesday after daylight savings. Official “grump week.” Rees is home again, not well. After dropping Kadin at school, I drive Greg in to teach his class with plans to go to the walk-in clinic at 11 when he’s done. I have a conference call scheduled for work at 1pm, plenty of time. At the clinic, we ask for strep tests and Greg says he’d also like the nurse to take a look at his leg. We get swabbed, I pass, Greg doesn’t, he’s positive for strep. Then the nurse has a look at his leg. She tells us to go directly to the Emergency Room. Oh boy…from strep test to Emergency Room.
I didn’t think seeing the dermatologist would hurt, but it looks like it might well have landed Greg in the hospital. IV antibiotics for him. And one strong guy too. Eczema, burns, positive for strep, a raging leg infection worthy of emergency intervention, and not even a fever. Go Greg!
So we start the IV antibiotics and it’s a wait-and-see game. In 24 hours there should be good improvement, depending if they got the right drug for the right bug. He doesn’t have to stay overnight, but does have to return every 8 hours until he shows improvement and can graduate to oral antibiotics.
We finish at the hospital just in time to drop Greg and Rees at home so I can pick Kadin up from school and take him directly to the clinic for his turn. “I don’t have strep! I’m not having a throat culture! I can’t do it! I can’t swallow that big stick!” and so on. Kadin is thrilled about the plan. But it turns out our fears are not unfounded. He too tests positive. The nurse writes a prescription for me as well, as it is likely that I had a false negative and we should all be treated simultaneously just to be on the safe side. She doesn’t understand the lengths I go to to avoid antibiotics, but I figure for the good of my family, it’s the least I can do.
We now have the following schedule: Rees swallows one pill twice a day. Kadin chews one pill three times a day. I swallow one pill four times a day, and Greg goes back to the ER every eight hours for another IV drip.