My Thursday in My America

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My thirteen year old daughter woke up Thursday morning at 8:00 am. Cruel in the summer I know, but she was committed to volunteer work at 9:00.  For a couple of days she’d been complaining about a rash but just between us, I am not always clear on when a complaint is a complaint and when it’s a real problem.  (see: Eleven Year Old Girl Runs 20+ Miles on Broken Leg After Mom Tells Her To Suck It Up).

One look at her face, and I knew there was a problem. She had run through poison ivy the week before, as evidenced by the lines of blisters on her calf. Somehow she must have gotten the oil on her hands and rubbed her face. She was pale and swollen — with the hallmark brown angry rash around her mouth, on her cheek, and over one of her eyes. She was miserable and had barely slept the night before from the pain and itching.  At about 8:20, I called off her volunteer work. I checked the internet and found an article that advised a visit to the doctor for rashes encroaching on the mouth and eyes.

I called the pediatrician’s office and they said, yes, she needed to be seen and the first available appointment was at 1:00. I gave my daughter a Claritin and gave my husband who works from home specific instructions to watch her closely.  I left for work and was at my desk by 9:00.

I left work at noon, picked her up and took her to the doctor.  Sure enough, she was having a pretty serious reaction to poison ivy. Being on her face, the doc choose to prescribe Prednisone, an oral steroid.  We went to our local pharmacy, filled the prescription and were home by 2:00.  By the evening she was feeling better, albeit a bit hyper from the drugs. She slept well that night and woke up Friday much improved and more comfortable.

My kids don’t get sick often, but this is a pretty representative rundown of how it works when they do. I know that this is not universally true in this country. I am acutely aware of the variables, the “there but for the grace of God go I” circumstances.

  1. I recognized the rash as poison ivy and had immediate access to the internet for research.
  2. My daughter has a doctor, the same one we’ve had for years. Our previous pediatrician was inaccessible and condescending, so I took my business elsewhere. At the current office, we are all treated like partners in health care decisions.
  3. Their first appointment was in the middle of my work day, but my boss is flexible so I accepted the time without hesitation.
  4. While I knew I wouldn’t get paid for my time off, my husband is the primary bread-winner in the family, so the lost wages aren’t devastating.
  5. I have reliable transportation; my own car in fact.
  6. Since my husband works from home, I could leave her home with him, knowing that he could monitor for any sort to emergency reaction.
  7. We have health insurance. While I love to complain about rising costs and increased burden on the consumer, I pay $30 for an appointment. And that comes directly off a health benefit card linked to our Flexible Spending Account. It’s our money, but we are able to defer it pre-tax to pay for our medical expenses while enjoying a tax deduction.
Much improved 24 hours after treatment
Much improved 24 hours after treatment

None of these is a given. Say I’m a sole breadwinner who can’t afford to take off work. Or lack reliable transportation. Or live in a rural area without internet access. Or don’t have someone to monitor her until the appointment time. Or a crappy doctor who intimidates me. Or I’m lacking the confidence and education to speak as an equal to her doctor.

Or, of course the biggie. No health insurance like 49 million Americans.

This certainly wasn’t life threatening, but if we hadn’t addressed it, she would be miserable, tired, and more susceptible to an infection. And the cost of the prescription medicine? $1.38.

A few different circumstances in my life and this would have played out differently.

I believe it’s incumbent upon us who have the privilege of our birth and enjoy the fruits of our labor to remember that our experience is far from universal, and that is a crying shame.

4 thoughts on “My Thursday in My America”

  1. Katie – I think this exercise is something all of us who are privileged to live in middle class America should try on a regular basis. We are all so embedded in our own worlds that we forget to truly think about how life works for other who are not exactly like us. Bravo.

    p.s. I have several stories of telling my kids to suck it up and go to school or practice only to find out there was a broken bone, or that they vomited in the trash can in the lunch room…

  2. Thanks for the comments. I wanted to add a couple I got from Facebook:

    Lauren Rockwell (http://afterfiveyears.com/) “I see the other side every day. Kids coming to me with chronic yuck…bronchitis, dental caries, eczema and no ability on the part of the parent to any of these pieces to offer relief or a “bossman” who will give them time off to see a MD”

    A friend says, “I no longer can afford health insurance. After so much pain (neuropathy) I work part time and that did me in. I quit arimidex to work more since it was giving me severe side effects. Husband’s classes got cut due to low enrollment (students are broke). Disability hearing is a year away (been denied twice and have a lawyer) now I’m liquidating my belongings. We have gone through savings. People like me just fade away and are forgotten. It’s a lesson in futility. He’d be better of without me.”

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