Herbs and antibiotics: can’t we all get along?
*This post is sponsored by penicillin*
I wish this post was sponsored by my big jar of osha root tincture—our beloved mountain anti-viral—which the whole family pried out of the ground last fall when cold and flu season loomed heavily like gray clouds on an outdoor wedding.
But alas, by the time my right tonsil morphed into a gargantuan labyrinth of fire-red folds coated with what the doctor later called “schmutz,” I knew this was no goofy spring virus. (My tonsil was so inflamed, the doctor got really excited in that white-coatish way: “Let me have another look at that mushrooming monstrosity!” she actually said while lunging at me with her tongue depressor). Incidentally, complications from strep throat killed my father’s sister, five years before he was born and eight years before penicillin was readily available. Can you imagine? Of course not. To go there would be like creaking a dull knife into your chest cavity and tossing your heart to the nearest pack of hungry dogs. Needless to say, I’m grateful for the drugs.
And honestly, mothering Col—my 25-week preemie—has kicked me off my soapbox of Alternative Medicine Cures All. Our family will always smooth some golden arnica salve on a nasty bruise, or steam up the kitchen while brewing Col’s herbal lung syrup, and we will also stand at the pharmacy each winter and slip a doctor’s Rx across the germy counter with relief and sadness tangled like a braid in our hearts.
When Col was not quite two and a mess of barky coughs—his ribs superimposed on his baby chest with each wheezy breath—I hopped on my soapbox and told a doctor I’d rather not give him antibiotics, citing overuse, superbugs, and the annihilation of beneficial bacteria.
The doctor sat me down with her stare. In diplomatic doctor-speak she told me I didn’t get to be a pharmaceutical-skeptic, herb-loving hippie in regards to Col. Because of Col’s prematurity, and consequent lung weakness, viruses quickly turn to secondary lung infections requiring antibiotics.
And damn, she was absolutely right.
And Col, who got diagnosed with strep throat and put on antibiotics one day after me, really is the picture of health for a boy born three and a half months early. In fact, just this morning at Col’s annual eye exam (preemies are at high risk for all sorts of vision problems), I choked back grateful tears while the ophthalmologist declared his eyes “amazingly perfect.”
Meanwhile Rose, who would love to get her paws on some syrupy, pink antibiotics, has never been the recipient of an illegibly scrawled doctor’s script. This is Col’s fourth round with antibiotics this winter (though I choose to focus on these times) while miraculously, Rose hasn’t missed one day of play. The girl has not been sick this winter. And I know uttering that is akin to ribbing airport security about the bomb in your diaper bag; why ask for trouble? But the funny thing is, the girl pines for these bugs that routinely knock her brother down. When my parents call to check on poor sick Col, Rose inserts: “I will pwobly start coughing soon.” While I’m blinking back the not-so-grateful variety of tears in the ER, Rose snatches Col’s oxygen mask, suctioning it to her own face. She’d down a shot of children’s tylenol with breakfast if I let her and I could bribe her every day with a single, Ricola cough drop.
Despite feeling like a small, spiked object was lodged in my throat all weekend, I did enjoy ducking out of chicken chores and sundry parenting duties. When I saw Rose sneaking off to the bathroom with a contraband bowl, muttering about getting her Ducky some tea, I tried to stop her but decided to save my voice and let Dan deal with the fall out. Mostly I lay around requesting (with my nice words) miso soup and my hot water bottle refilled (which Rose called my hot air balloon). I also finished this book and totally loved it (locals – come borrow it!). And though I’m the last of humanity to do so, I watched March of the Penguins, which was breathtakingly beautiful and sad all at once. And now that the tonsil has deflated and the fever burned away, I am truly looking forward to getting back to the lovely, lucky monotony that is parenthood.
Thanks for all your well wishes.