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I’m relatively new to the grandma scene, so although I’ve heard horror stories about how even the most delightful dimpled tyke is actually a full-fledged Petri dish filled with toxic germs, all I could see were chubby little hands and drool-drenched smiles. When my daughter-in-law cautioned me that the kids were sick, and apologized because this coincided with my recent visit, instead of acting like I was well-versed in all things grandma – I should have run for the hills!
I distinctly remember motioning to Fiona to hand me the baby, as I cooed and murmured words of comfort to the little guy because he was obviously feeling so lousy. And then there was my granddaughter’s cough. I found myself wondering how such a horrific noise could come out of such a small person. Bless her heart, she always managed to cough into her elbow, but being the doting grandma, I usually had my face planted somewhere close by either giving her reassuring kisses, or at the very least telling her I was sorry she didn’t feel good.
Throughout the duration of my visit I remarked frequently how lucky I was not to have caught their colds. In retrospect I think I should have shouted to myself SHUT UP and stop tempting fate! And as fate would have it, on the second day of my drive home I began to feel that sort of itchy, burning, scratching sensation in the back of my throat that so often heralds the beginning of a cold. If only that had been the case!
By the time we pulled into the driveway at our house, I had turned into one of those cranky starting-to-get-sick sorts of people. I was still living with the false hope that maybe this was just an allergy acting up. We had, after all, driven through Stockton where I’d remarked the air here makes my eyes water! Had I realized what little germy guests I was harboring, I would have given Stockton a break!
I’m having a hard time understanding how I could have been so brave while going through chemo and be such a big baby when I really catch something. Actually, the first day or so wasn’t too awful. I just felt irritable and achy. I had already been off work for a few days for my vacation, so I didn’t have any paid time off remaining. I managed to make it to the office a couple of times before the full force of what ailed me struck. And strike it did!
By the third day my throat was so sore it felt like fire ants were doing a war dance on my tonsils. I remember telling anyone who would listen that I hadn’t been this sick since I was in high school. I spent much of my pre-teen and teenage years exiled to the family room in the basement because I somehow managed to have strep throat a couple of times each winter. Since strep is contagious, my already beleaguered mother would quickly send me packing to this netherworld in the hope it would keep my five siblings strep-free.
I don’t know if it’s still the case, but back in those days when you had strep throat you were supposed to keep your activity level to a minimum because it was believed you could get heart damaging rheumatic fever if you didn’t. What this meant to me was endless days of boredom. Cable TV was years in the future, so even the idea of a second television was unheard of. My mother, bless her heart, felt I should spend the time studying since I was missing so much school. I didn’t mind telling her what an awful mother she was for punishing someone who was obviously not long for this world!
In my current situation, by the fourth day I was having difficulty swallowing. I distinctly remember telling my husband to tell the neighbors to make that awful baby stop sniveling and whining – to which he responded, “Honey, I think you’re hallucinating because there isn’t any baby – it’s you.”
I finally mustered up the energy to head to urgent care. I only wish I could have remembered (or cared) to take a shower and wear some nice clothes. My feverish brain told me it didn’t matter. What’s more, it convinced me I looked just fine – and besides – I would never see any of the people in that waiting room again.
You know you must look pretty bad when sane folks get a glimpse and politely pick up their magazine and move elsewhere. When an entire room of people head in another direction, you’ve definitely got a problem. No one even smiled politely; they just avoided any possibility of contact.
I don’t know about other parts of the world, but out here, urgent care means someone will eventually see you, and if you’re lucky, they may even have a medical degree. The kindly young P.A. who eventually called my name did manage to ask me a couple of questions that might shed some light on my illness. He rolled a thermometer across my forehead (how cool are those?) and took a look at my throat. Then he said, “You definitely have quite an infection there young lady!” Even in my stupor, I realized he was probably trying to make me feel better, but since he was only about 30, calling me young lady made me wonder if he was hallucinating too!
When I mentioned my ears had been bothering me, he took a quick look and confirmed they didn’t look good either. He never listened to my lungs or heart. (My husband pointed out later that meant he was definitely practicing medicine.) After about three minutes he took a throat swab, wrote me a script for a broad range antibiotic, and when I asked what I could do about the cough, wrote another for Vicodin. When I laughingly (okay, it was more of a croak) said,”Isn’t that sort of like shooting a rabbit with a canon?” He quickly reassured me that it would help to ease the pain and calm my cough. Hopefully, I won’t need to check into Betty Ford once my infection is gone!
It was nearly another week before I began to feel somewhat normal again. Since I hadn’t heard anything, I finally called the folks at urgent care to see what the results of my throat swab were, and was told it came back negative for strep. What this meant was I’d been taking an antibiotic for nothing (and would continue to do so for several days since it’s not a good idea to stop until the dose has been depleted.)
I’m sure you will be glad to learn that I didn’t let this experience go to waste! While I was recuperating I decided to design something that would help grandmas everywhere spend time with their grandkids without worrying about getting sick. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have – but you have my mother to thank for this. After all, she’s the one who insisted I do something productive while I was on death’s door! Let me know what you think.