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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Feed a Fever, Starve a Wallet

According to my experience, the only things children share without being threatened are asparagus, blame for painting the refrigerator, and the chicken pox.

I think my kids plan their sick days at the beginning of the school year according to when major projects and compositions are due or when there is a day I’ll have a schedule that’s tight enough to be shrink wrapped. On awards day, they tally up their doctor visits and the one who has the most sick days gets to hang on the refrigerator door and ask what’s for supper every ten seconds until I get that thumpy vein in my neck and we all go out for pizza.

My kids are so adept at trips to the doctor, the Olympic committee is considering accepting flu-spreading as a winter sport. Their record is six office visits in a week, but that takes conditioning and discipline, so they can’t do it every time. Besides, my two boys aim for less conventional fare than mere strains of bacteria can provide. The Adventure of the Invisible Glass Sliver and the Mistaken X-Ray comes to mind. When that doctor finally fished the dainty dagger of glass out of the swollen, bloody foot (no I can’t make him wear shoes in the house, not for all the Frosted Flakes in Battle Creek), the best part was being able to say “I Told You So” to a man whose car costs more than the yearly junk food bill for my teenagers. Twelve months of Twinkies and Yoo Hoos can add up.

I know a mother with three young daughters who runs a regular route to the doctor every Friday at closing time. She figures if nobody’s sick at that particular moment, strep throat will set in just as the clock strikes five and the doctor loads his briefcase full of communicable diseases into the Lexus sports car for the trip home. This same Mom qualified for the Employee of the Month parking spot at the doctor’s office and is in line for a punch card that will give her a free visit after ten minor emergencies. With her record, she’ll be cashing in a full ticket before grocery day rolls around. She’s wondering if she will qualify for a retirement package once her kids are grown.

And why can’t a family of children all come down with the flu or a nice case of mumps at the same time? Instead, they carefully plan a timeline of late nights and weekends at least two days apart. It’s not that they’re not all sick at the same time. At any given point during the winter months at least 50% of the kids in my carpool (with an incidence rate that escalates to 85% the day before a science project is due) are suffering from various forms of diseases that gives them an intestinal discrepancy, runny nose, and makes them sneeze on the baby.

But they don’t start out that way. By prearranged plan, they space out the onset of their illnesses over two day increments, thereby increasing the trips to the doctor and the chance to see Mommy make the “co-payment” face. I’m convinced the children have a betting pool with all wagered candy bars going to the kid that gets the best noises out of Mommy when they wander into the kitchen, teddy bear in tow, and announce forlornly “My tummy hurts.” They probably get bonus points if Mommy’s face changes color, she makes audible strangled retching sounds, or Daddy has to administer cold packs and CPR.

Now that it’s fall and sinus infections are just around the speed dial, Saturday mornings will inevitably find me with a thermometer in someone’s ear, dialing the doctor’s office during weekend emergency hours while checking furtively for swollen lymph nodes. Faster than you can say “Refinance the mortgage” his neck swells up like a jumbo marshmallow over an open flame, and the lining of his throat boasts enough spots for a dice game.

But I’m not a new face in the fever fighting lineup. I know that with time, tender care, and terrific insurance we’ll all make it through the flu season.

Just in time to start treating spring allergies.

These cold & flu germs first found a home in the Sept./Oct. issue of The Wham Magazine.


Anonymous said...

That's funny!!! I guess I was lucky, all 3 of mine caught everything together.

Blessed said...

oh so true... and funny! :)