Tuesday, September 1, 2009
SPF 100 = Super Parent Factor
My 12 year old son Ethan was blessed with his mother’s peaches and cream coloring. And while this pale palette of milky white skin and crystalline blue eyes might offer a vampire advantage, it doesn’t defend very well against the constant California sunshine.
So, with horrible childhood memories of my own sunburns, I looked over the cherry red skin on Ethan’s chest, shoulders, and back and felt horrible pangs of empathy pain. This was the kind of burn that makes anyone who has experienced it shudder. It hurt him too much for me to waste time discussing why he didn’t reapply sunscreen. I was certain that the pain would be his teacher. So, I was his sympathetic fair-skinned mom and doctor. I pulled out everything in my bag of tricks.
First line of defense: Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and white vinegar --a trick I learned from a wise Mexican waiter one painful summer when I fried the tops of my ears to a nacho crisp. The waiter tucked vinegar soaked cotton balls behind my ears and while I smelled like a salad, I could feel the heat being drawn away. Ethan felt it too. Mexican magic. But the affect didn’t last long. When he still complained of pain on day two, I brought out the big gun -- fresh aloe vera, which I scraped directly from an aloe vera plant.
Getting the aloe vera plant leaves, which house a well respected healing and moisturizing agent, entailed driving 25 minutes to the pediatrician’s office. Mind you, I didn’t actually see the pediatrician, but I did steal two huge aloe leaves from the plants that line his parking lot. People looked me sideways, and the kids were concerned I was breaking a law somewhere. But, I whipped out my knife with the confident entitlement of a ranger who knows the power of healing herbs and a patient who has invested enough co-pays to earn two aloe leaves. Heck, I’m a brazen east-coaster who believes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. And more than that, I am a mother whose son was in pain. So, with two precious leaves in tow, I headed home where I peeled the leaves, smashed the pulp and spread the gelatinous magical healing liquid across Ethan’s skin. He felt better and slept on day two.
Day three is where things went out of control. Ethan was still a glowing orb and he decided to smash another aloe leaf himself and spread it across his chest. A few minutes later he seemed to have some sudden allergic reaction. His chest was itching horribly and because of the urn he could not scratch it. This wasn’t annoying itch, this was tortuous, won’t let up itch. The kind of itch that causes you to draw blood. So, I practically threw him in the shower and lathered him up with a moisturizing wash. I told him he could use the tips of his fingers to ease the itchiness and let the water ease his discomfort. It didn’t. The itching seemed to get worse. Ethan was now crying in the shower. I gave him a dose of ibuprofen, an ice pack, and left him for a moment to call his dad, who happens to be a doctor. His dad advised me to give him a dose of Benadryl and wait a bit. The waiting was torture. Ethan was now inconsolable as the itchiness seemed to get worse and worse with each minute.
“Help me Mom,” he cried. “Please, make it stop!”
Nothing we did seemed to help. And as he rubbed his infernally itchy chest, it reddened with Dante’s inferno like pain. Scratching raw sunburn is never a good thing. After consulting again with Dad, I decided to take Ethan to the Emergency Room. It was after 5pm, the pediatrician’s office was closed and I had nothing left in my bag of tricks. So, I packed up the siblings and headed off to the ER.
If you’ve ever brought your car to the mechanic to finally have that troublesome clunking fixed, you know where this story is going. Deciding to go to the ER is never easy. ERs are filled with long lines, sick people, irritable/jaded/overworked staff and germs. They are a great place to get sick and not one of my favorite places to bring my three kids.
We got into the ER and as the triage nurse questioned Ethan, I realized he wasn’t crying any more. In fact, his eyes didn’t even look red. When she asked him to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10, he said about a 3. The nurse looked at me curiously.
“He was dying just 15 minutes ago,” I said.
Ethan was taken back and seen by the ER doctor who asked the same series of questions and gave me the same curious look. Now I was feeling defensive. I’m not a novice here. I am an experience mother of three. I don’t overreact as a rule. It takes a lot to get me shaken and even more to get me to the ER.
“He was hysterical in the shower,” I added.
The doctor didn’t even look back at me.
Do you think I came here because I wanted to? Do you think I enjoy having to keep my other two kids from using your cot as a skateboard? Do you think I wanted to shell out a $50 co-pay?!
All these thoughts raced through my head as I said calmly, “I’m not a histrionic mom.”
He stopped for a moment and looked at me as if to say “This is what I went to medical school for?” But he actually didn’t say anything, which was worse. He just asked the nurse to get Ethan another Benadryl and then explained to me very slowly like that reactions to things you put on your skin are never life-threatening. Ethan could not have gone into anaphylactic shock. If I had waited 15 more minutes, the Benedryl would have taken effect. Then Dr.Smartie Pants left. I felt like a total fool. And I was almost angry at Ethan for feeling better!
As I sat in the car ready to drive my three healthy monsters home, I texted a close friend who said, “Your son is ok and that is a happy ending. Don’t care what anyone else thinks. You are a great Mom.” I read that a few times and then thought to myself taking it to heart would protect me --almost as much as the SPF 100 sunscreen I would be buying Ethan would protect him from future burns.