06 February 2007

Taking My Medicine


I was sick. My throat hurt, or I had a fever, or a stuffed-up nose. Or all three. That’s not what I remember. Mom must have taken me to the doctor, a pale woman with cold, limp hands and a whispery voice.

When we got home, there were pills. Those I remember clearly. Capsules, maroon on one end and speckled maroon and ivory on the other end. They were huge. As soon as I saw them, coldness washed over me. Deep in my gut, I knew: I could not swallow them. I didn’t decide not to. I just knew I couldn’t. They would choke me, and I would throw up. Or they would choke me, and would stay lodged somewhere in my throat. My stomach clenched. Dread seeped from my gut to my limbs, my lungs, my tear-filled eyes. I couldn’t figure out how anyone swallowed pills without chewing. I had to chew them, or they wouldn’t go down. I knew it.

My mother didn’t seem to understand. She told me I had to take them. It would be easy. All I had to do was put one in my mouth and swallow some water.

Maybe other people could do this thing, but I could not. It was impossible. I wished I could do it easily, nonchalantly, like other people could. Didn’t she see, it was impossible?

I cried, sobs of panic and bleak inadequacy. The capsules grew larger. My throat grew smaller. I pictured it, a small thread, constricted and tight.

I think my mom yelled. I may have yelled back, trying to make her understand. I know I cried some more. Then, shaking, I stuck that maroon capsule in my mouth. It felt smooth and slippery and alien in my mouth. I was afraid it would slip down too soon, or I would accidentally bite it, and a foul taste would fill my mouth. I was afraid of losing control.

I tried, really I did. I took a gulp of water, and the thing moved, and I panicked. And I choked, and tears blinded me, and I couldn’t swallow, and water and the pill came out into the sink. And my tears were tears of fear and panic and a hollow certainty that I had failed. And I knew trying again wouldn’t matter. This thing was impossible for me.

Finally my mother gave up, and I got to walk out of the kitchen, drained and shaking. The rest of the day, I waited with awful anticipation for the next round. I knew the prescription was for twice a day.

When the time came, with no further comment, my mother handed me liquid medicine. I almost cried with relief.


Last Tuesday, Katrina said her ear hurt again. I took her to the doctor, a fast-speaking, business-like German man with exam rooms that look like a children’s wonderland. He prescribed Augmentin, a powder that you mix with water to produce a thick white liquid that smells like rotten oranges.

Bribed with candy and praise, Katrina took it faithfully for nearly a week, holding her nose and nearly gagging a time or two. But by Monday morning, she had had enough. She refused to take it. She wrinkled her nose and pulled away at a mere whiff. I could hardly blame her. But she had to take it. I had to persuade her. And quick. We needed to leave for school in 10 minutes.

I calmly told her she couldn’t go to school until she drank it. She said, “I don’t want to go to school.”

I told her if she didn’t go to school, she’d have to stay in her room all day. No TV, no computer, no games.“I know it’s yucky, but if you don’t take it your ear will start hurting again. You can do it. You are brave!”

“OK, OK, OK,” she said. She took the medicine cup in her hand. She took several deep breaths. I tensed in anticipation. She put the cup back on the table. “I just can’t do it!” she whined emphatically (you may have never heard anyone whine emphatically, but believe me, Katrina does).

After about 20 minutes of this, I lost patience. I yelled, she cried. I walked away to try to keep from yelling, and she cried. “MAMA! Don’t go! I need HELP!”

I tried to calm us both down. I made her laugh. I tried to make it a game. I tried, and she did too. She still couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Finally, I just sat in my chair at the kitchen table, with my arms crossed and my head down, mentally replanning my day if I had to follow through with keeping her home from school. I didn’t know what else to do.

She slowly picked up the medicine cup and drained it. I almost cried with relief.

She was a half-hour late to school, but I took her anyway. And as I was driving away, I thought of that giant maroon capsule.


Sorry, Mom.

3 comments:

Dave said...

Good post! But if your mom's anything like mine (and that's distinctly possible), you'll never hear the end of this now.

Momoe said...

Momoe says, "You were very ill with a strep throat that time and the doctor had told me how bad a strep throat can be for the heart if let go too long. Mmm..enough said?"

Jennifer said...

Yay, Mom figured out how to post comments!

I thought it was probably strep, since that was the sickest I remember being (barring the occasional stomach flu). But I wasn't sure exactly.

All of us are on the mend now.