Saturday, August 18, 2012

Manic Monday

It's a running joke among mothers that things go wrong on special and/or important days. When a child has a birthday, the child falls sick. He breaks his arm the day before the first football practice. She has an accident in her pants en route to a playdate an hour away.

Murphy's Law, many people would call it. But for mothers -- already overworked and harried -- it is Murphy's Law Magnified.

Every mother has stories to tell, and I am certainly no exception. Example #1: My older son, Christopher, had a fever on his first Halloween (technically, his second since he was born the day before the holiday the year before). Not to be dissuaded from my first opportunity to take my first baby trick or treating, I slipped him into his adorable fleece (read: hot) Tigger costume. Example #2: My son vomited in the car on the way to day care the last day I had been given to clean out my old Cambridge apartment before returning it to the landlord. Christopher was upset, not sick. In any event, I needed to hide "the crime" because his teachers would turn him away if they found out. So I stopped at a children's clothing store to buy him a new outfit and, to mask his rancid breath, a lollipop. The teachers suspected nothing was amiss on account of our lateness as a fierce snowstorm was in progress at the time. Example #3: Charlie, my second son, tripped on a concrete step right after we arrived for his brother's Little League game. He screamed bloody murder for a full forty minutes and uncharacteristically begged me to take him to the hospital. I did because I feared my six year old might have cracked a rib just like I had seventeen years earlier. One X-ray later: no broken bones, thankfully.

These are just a few experiences that come readily to mind when I think about Murphy's Law Magnified. I have plenty more locked away in my brain vault.

A new one just got added this past Monday. After waiting (mostly patiently) for four and a half months, Charlie was finally getting his sixth-year birthday party. (Yep, his birthday was in March.) He changed his mind a few times about where he wanted to hold it but eventually settled on a candlepin bowling alley in the city next door. We have been to several pizza parties there in the past couple of years since Christopher was in kindergarten. Kids love the venue, and the party is a no-brainer for parents: pay one price per guest and provide nothing or pay less per guest and provide cake and goodie bags/takeaway presents. Other food can be brought in to supplement the pizza, but that is up to the hostess.

I chose the lower-priced option, dubbed "The Spare." Either way -- easy, easy, easy! Just what many parents (non-Martha Stewart types like myself, especially) want.

This kind of a children's birthday party, though not particularly creative, gives Mom the chance to relax and enjoy the social aspects of the gathering. And when you are a mother, especially a full-time single mother like me, chances are good that you crave positive social interactions with other parents because solitary caregiving can feeling isolating at times. So the day was shaping up to be a fun one for my entire three-person family.

However (isn't there always a however?) -- hello, Murphy's Law! -- something always seems to be looming that could potentially derail said enjoyable day. So, yes, something was very much looming. Four days earlier, the boys attended yet another pizza party at their day camp. (If you don't already know, kids and parents eat a tremendous amount of pizza.) The next day Charlie's right eye was swollen. What had happened? As there had been no napkins or paper towels with which to wipe off his hands, he had stuck his pizza-greasy finger in his eye to remove a piece of dirt. I gave Charlie an ice pack. By Saturday, the following day, his eyelid was reddish purple, as if someone had punched him. On Sunday, I noticed the swelling had gone down, but the discoloration had not. That afternoon we went to a pool party for my single mother's support group. A woman at the party asked about Charlie's eye.

Of course, I considered taking Charlie to the doctor, but I decided to wait to see if it improved on its own. My son's temperature had not changed, and Charlie reported no irritation to the eye. Plus, I was annoyed to be dealing with yet another Charlie Issue so soon after the rib incident, which took place in the late spring and cost me $50. Not to mention one more awaited us just days away: a pulpotomy, a baby-tooth root canal, that would set me back another $150 because we don't have dental insurance.

It's always something with Charlie. He's just that kind of boy.

Seeing as the eye problem had just been commented on -- the first time from anyone outside of my family -- AND the hostess of the party was a doctor (a pediatrician, in fact), I decided to get some free medical advice. That could potentially save me from having to make the seventy-minute round trip drive from my home to our pediatrician's office or the thirty-minute round trip drive to the emergency room. Her verdict: possibly cellulitis, a skin condition. She recommended going to our pediatrician in the morning if the eye was still red.

"In the morning." That was the day of Charlie's party! Nevertheless, what needs to be done must be done. So bright and early we headed out and got an official diagnosis of cellulitis. The prescription for Cephalexin was to be faxed to a pharmacy, but when we got there some forty minutes later we were told the prescription had not been filled. I was becoming agitated because the party time was rapidly approaching. We had to choose between waiting fifteen minutes for the Rx to be ready or coming back to pick it up. I elected the latter, having spilled a coffee drink all over my shirt while driving, necessitating a sudden change of clothing. Back at home I discovered that several people had been trying to reach me about the party. One mother had lost the invitation and needed directions. A second asked if her son could still come since she had earlier been unsure about their schedule. And a third canceled because her son was being taken care of by her sister that day.

We finally returned to the pharmacy and picked up the prescription. The pharmacist raced through the instructions in a perfunctory manner. I thanked him, though I didn't really understand the dosage. I was in a hurry, but it was printed on the bottle and I vaguely remembered what the pediatrician had told me. I said I would give Charlie the first dose after the party. "No, no, no," said the pharmacist, suggesting I give it to him right there in the pharmacy. He fetched a measuring cup, poured in the pink Pepto Bismol-like liquid, handed me the cup, and walked away. Charlie drank the substance. I poured the same amount into the cup, and he drank that down, too. Suddenly, the bored pharmacist reappeared with a concerned look on his face. "You didn't just give him another 10 mls., did you?"

"Yes, I did," I said. "It's two doses two times a day."

The pharmacist explained that he had poured the two doses together into the measuring cup. OH, SHIT! I thought as the realization that Charlie had taken twice the dosage amount sunk in. "WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? OH, MY GOD! I AM SO ANGRY RIGHT NOW!" I said to the pharmacist, who seemed flustered. The overdosing occurred because he failed to properly monitor Charlie's intake. He walked away while Charlie was drinking the liquid; he did not stay to make sure I capped the bottle afterward, which would have proven that I understood the instructions. Obviously, I had not because I certainly would not have given my slender son too much medicine! I was pissed and doubly so because it was Charlie's birthday-party day. Speaking of which, the party would be starting shortly, and we still hadn't picked up the veggie and fruit platters, candles, cake cutter, and Batman cake!


The pharmacist said he really didn't think the overdose would harm Charlie. Um, "really didn't think?" You mean, maybe it would? Charlie had taken TWICE the dosage! "Really didn't think" didn't give me a lot of peace of mind! Maybe I'm just naive when it comes to medicinal matters -- this is a very real possibility, considering I grew up a Christian Scientist, for Pete's sake -- but double the Rx seems to me to be something legitimate to worry about! The pharmacist asked Charlie's weight. I told him fifty-two pounds (or was it forty-eight? I wondered to myself). He read from a paper: "If eighty-eight pounds. . . ."

"He's not eight-eight pounds!" I interrupted. "He's FIFTY-TWO pounds!" (Or forty-eight.)

"Would you like me to call the Poison Control Center?" Duh. Other customers had appeared by then, causing me to wonder how it would feel to listen to our frenzied conversation right before placing their own orders. As the pharmacist and his assistants began tending to these customers who arrived AFTER us, it took a while to get through to the hotline. Apparently, accidentally overdosing your six-year-old child under the negligent eye of a pharmacist was not reason enough to make us the top priority at that moment!

Needless to say, I was growing increasingly frustrated and furious on this Manic Monday. Finally, when I was able to speak to a woman on the hotline, she echoed the words of the pharmacist: the administered dosage wouldn't cause Charlie any harm. Phew! But he might experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, she added. Wonderful. While I was grateful he wasn't in any danger, I was going to have to watch him like a hawk at his own party in case he upchucked into the gutter or pooped into his pants. As I repeated the side effects back into the phone, someone handed me a bottle of cold water.

I hung up and handed the pharmacist the antibiotic to refrigerate. So much time had now passed that I couldn't stop at home. We needed to make a beeline for Market Basket. Amazingly, we found all the items on my list, purchased them, and were ready to go by the time guests arrived. I diligently fed Charlie water for the duration of the party. He had a great time (as did everyone else, from what I could tell) and experienced no ill effects whatsoever from the double dosage. We returned to the pharmacy after the party ended to pick up the Cephalexin. The pharmacist acted unnaturally nice, as though apologetic for what had happened (or nervous to hear my updated report on Charlie). Nevertheless, the ordeal was over. Charlie was safe and not inconvenienced by any discomfort.

Now it was time to relax.

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