It’s a Viral Thing 

To bring your kid to the pediatrician or not to bring your kid to the pediatrician? That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the sling of arrows of outrageous MISfortune…

Ok, now I’m just sort of showing off because I had to memorize that for a high school drama class and it came flooding back to me through my sleep deprivation. Shakespeare aside my point is, when your kid is sick how do you know when to call the pediatrician? How can you discern whether your kid has a doctor visit-worthy illness or is battling a particularly vicious cold that only time will take care of?

It hits all at once as these things tend to do. A fever, a cough, snot pouring out of your kid’s nostrils faster than a boogie wipe can handle. They’re up so frequently at night that you’re having horrific flashbacks to the sleepless newborn days as you go in AGAIN to rock them back to a restless sleep. Your kid is suffering and you can’t figure out why. So you give in and call the pediatrician first thing in the morning, optimistic that this will be the time you get a definitive over-the-phone diagnosis. It is a fool’s hope, but you hope regardless because you are exhausted from caring for a patient who is usually an 8 on a 1-10 scale of neediness  when they’re not sick.

You pour your heart out and paint the bleakest picture of a child suffering. The pediatrician waits patiently before uttering the words I knew they would say anyway: “We can’t be sure until we take a look at her. What’s the earliest you can come in?”

Noooooooo!! Damn you and your ethical medical practices! Damn you for wanting to do what’s best for my kid even if it means inconveniencing me! Now I have to roll into the office with both kids – one of which is cranky from being sick, the other amped up from too much screen-time after being neglected while I care for their sick sibling. In the examination room, I ineffectually try to keep both of them from messing with the trashcan before I give up and put YouTube Kids on my phone and breathe a sigh of temporarily relief. Then I listen carefully for the sound of the pediatrician turning the door knob so I can frantically shut my phone off. Entertain my kids with surprise egg videos? How can you suggest such things, Doctor?? I would never allow my children to entertain themselves with anything other than the finest developmentally appropriate toys.

And why is it as soon as the pediatrician comes in your kid instantly looks about 50x healthier. They’re a whirling dervish and that cough that you were pretty sure was walking pneumonia is suddenly the equivalent of Zoolander’s “I’ve got the black lung, pop” cough. Which is to say it’s barely a cough at all.

The pediatrician indulges me on my 24-48 hour dramatic tale of symptoms galore before diving in and listening to her chest.

“Lungs look good.”

Checks throat.

“Good there too.”

Onto the ears. My last hope.

“Ears are absolutely perfect!” 

I smile at the pediatrician contorting my defeated grimace into something that I’m hoping resembles “relief” but internally I am just like this:

Doc, I beg you. Give me antibiotics and some hope!

Okay, so what do you think it is?” I ask, willing her to diagnose some awful disease that I only know from playing Oregon Trail because how else can you explain the misery my kid is in?

Then the pediatrician turns slowly to me, pausing for dramatic effect. “Well, IT’S PROBABLY JUST VIRAL.”

It’s just viral. The weight of that diagnosis was like a dagger to my heart. This phrase literally translates to “you are SOL. Stock up on Motrin and wine because you’re going to have to ride this one out.” I start shuffling my feet and looking towards the floor, my head hung in defeat. I knew before even stepping into the doctor’s office that this was going to be the outcome. I’ve been burned many a time before. In fact, it was only a short two weeks ago that they were saying the same thing to me.

Perhaps it sounds cruel, but I was at the point where I was crossing my fingers hoping for an ear infection. Something. Anything to explain why she’s in pain along with a way to make her better. Instantaneously if possible.  Alas, that is not the case. Now I look like the crazy helicopter mom that brings in her little snowflake at the slightest appearance of a runny nose.

I sighed. Thank the doctor for her time. Cried a little on the inside. Before walking out the pediatrician paused and turned towards me. My heart soared – she was going to have an answer! Some miracle drug that she doesn’t tell all of her patients about but is letting me in on because she can sense the desperation oozing out of my pores.

“However, if things don’t get better in 48 hours you should bring her back in.”

You’re killing me, doc.




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