Our son had a doctor’s appointment this morning at 8:45. It was a follow-up from last week after they diagnosed him with strep throat. In the week since our last visit, the reaction to coronavirus here in Athens had gone from “Hey, I wonder if they’re going to close down the university” to “Don’t leave your house unless it’s absolutely necessary.” My wife is still working from home, so it was just me and the kid. We were both looking forward to getting out of the house and seeing the world. For anyone who’s curious, a nurse took both our temperatures before we were allowed back to see the doctor.
As part of our son’s strep recovery, he had been prescribed a ‘penguin neublizer,’ a portable breathing machine that looks like this:
Cute. But it prompted all kinds of questions and concerns on my end. I had severe asthma as a child–oxygen tents, breathing machines that were closer to H.R. Giger Than Chilly Willy, psychological addictions to my inhaler, and all kinds of terror and fear. Whatever problems our son was having, he didn’t have any of that. My asthma didn’t really start to go away until I was 13 and went to live my dad. Unlike my mom (and other various relatives I lived with), he didn’t smoke. I also rode my bike everywhere, and played high school basketball, until my senior year when I discovered weird music & books. During my adult life, as long as I’ve been able to avoid a room filled with long-haired cats, my asthma has barely existed.
So I couldn’t help wondering why the fuck my son needed a breathing machine in the house? (My out-loud question was way more diplomatic–our son’s doctor is wonderful, and she helped save his life when he was two weeks old). I also wanted to know why she was prescribing him more medicine, to be taken daily for a year, now that he was better.
His doctor told me that his asthma the week before had been one of the five worst cases she had seen. This stunned me. He had been able to walk, and talk. During my asthma attacks, I couldn’t do any of those things. I also added that my home life back then was a psychic & environmental minefield, and I’m sure that probably exacerbated the situation. Still, I had gotten past it with exercise and meditation. So why did he need to be put on regular medicine now?
The doctor had his thing that you blow into called a spirometer that can measure ventilation and the flow of air through the lungs. She told me that our son scored an 80 last week (100 is average; 80 is real bad). But if he was sick, I asked, wouldn’t that cause him to have a low score. “Maybe,” she said. She also asked if I wanted to do it too. I said sure.
We don’t usually bet on things in our family, but I thought in order to make it fun for the kid we’d make a bet on who had the better lungs. If he won, he could have as much cheese as he wanted at dinner time–cheese on everything. If I won, no cheese at all. There had been some arguments the week before about cheesy pasta at dinner time–I didn’t want it adding to his congestion.
The nurses brought in the spirometer. I blew three times. I got a 78. Two lower than my son had got the week before. He blew three times and got an 85. We will be eating a lot of cheese tonight, which will probably taste better than the shit I had to eat (metaphorically) at the doctor’s office.¹ I was dumbfounded. I had ridden my bike six miles the day before. I rode over 20 miles on a warm day last month. I swim and exercise regularly, as much as to cope with my moods as anything else. And my breathing was worse than my kid’s, whose breathing had been so bad a week earlier the doctor considered hospitalizing him?
After telling his doctor some more about my childhood, she told me that I should feel really good that the only thing I’ve passed on to him was asthma. She added that his symptoms seemed less severe to me because they weren’t accompanied by all the psychological stuff that accompanied my attacks.
That made me feel pretty good, until remembered the incurable disease going around right now that primarily attacks the respiratory system.
As luck would have it, I had already scheduled a doctor’s appointment to get a new inhaler after reading about the Rona. After being on Medicaid for several years, the job my wife got last November meant legitimate (as in huge co-pays & deductibles and limited doctor choices) health insurance for all of us. I told our son’s doctor that I’d be happy to give him this medicine, which, after a year of daily use, should eliminate his asthma going forward. She assured me it would help him fight off some affects of the Rona as well, should he get it.
That question seems a lot more important that it did yesterday. As the pandemic has unfolded, I’ve consoled myself that no one in my family (son/wife/me–that’s it on my end) was in a high-risk group. Today I found out it’s not that simple. Not for me, anyway.
Actually, I like it when I’m wrong about things, but it was too good (or bad) of a joke to pass up.