August 19, 2008

Making the mental shift from being irresponsible DINKs to responsible parents is much more difficult in some respects than I’d ever imagined.

As irresponsible DINKs, we never had much of a medicine cabinet at home. Perhaps a couple of ancient band-aids, some disinfectant, maybe some Crocin/Disprin (basically paracetamol) tablets and that was about it. We rarely fell ill, and when we did, we had the luxury of waiting it out, or of rushing off to the doctor or hospital at any time whatsoever. If one of us was out, the other could go alone, but we usually went along with each other. It wasn’t anything we had to think about or plan for.

With kids, it’s different. I learnt long ago to keep painkiller, fever, cough, diarrhea, and vomiting medicines handy, along with copious quantities of disinfectant and a good stock of band-aids. (Laxatives and suppositories were recently added to this stock.) Once a doctor recommends a general medicine for one of the girls, it goes into their medicine cabinet and remains part of my stock, as long as I know the dosage.

On the numerous occasions that Amit and I have had to visit a doctor since the advent of the kids, we have almost always gone alone. It’s the only practical way to do it. The other person stays home and holds fort. It requires a bit of coordination – specially if I’m the one visiting the doc – but it still doesn’t require too much thought.

Last night, I realized that we can’t go on this way at all.

It was 1.30 at night, it was raining, the kids were blissfully asleep, and I had an earache.

Rather, I had the mother of all earaches.

I’ve suffered a couple of really bad migraines in my life, some terrible menstrual cramps in my adolescent years, and a fractured leg which I walked on for a week (without painkillers) before going to a doctor. I’d love to say that the earache beat all of those prior pain experiences hands-down, but, because the memory of pain is always so much less than the pain itself, I’ll say just this much – it was way up there along with the worst of them. I had no idea that an ear could even hurt that much. It felt like the whole left side of my face was swollen and heavy and red and ready to burst, but, much to my mystification, there was absolutely no external manifestation of the pain. I remember that the evening I broke my leg, I kept it still and straight in bed, and I actually slept. Soundly, albeit with interruptions of sudden pain. But with the earache, not only did I not sleep, I couldn’t even let Amit sleep, poor fellow.

He raided the medical kit. But he found no painkillers! I’m generally against taking pills, especially painkillers, but if we’d had a brufen I’d have swallowed it and begged for more, it was that bad. I have no idea whether painkillers work with earaches, but if he had even offered me a digestive tablet and told me it was a painkiller, I’d have swallowed it. In the end, all we had was Crocin, so I swallowed that and waited. At that point, the pain was so bad, especially if I tried to lie down, that I was convinced I should go to hospital right away, even if I had to go alone. Or worse, even if I had to lug Amit and the kids along. The thought of waiting it out till morning, still a good 7 hours away, was completely intolerable.

There was nothing else I could do, so I tried steam inhalation. It must have helped, or the Crocin must have kicked in, because the pain abated enough that I could stop moaning. I could even carry on a sane conversation. A while later, it was bearable enough so that I could lie down, and when I did, thankfully, I slept.

So after all that, when I finally went to the doctor in the afternoon, do you know what he said? “There’s too much wax in your ear, I can’t see anything, use these drops three times a day and come back after five days.”

Five days!? No treatment for five whole days!?

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