Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Medicine Mom

Medicine Mom

By Allison Adams 01-22-07, Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 01-23-07

Resubmitted 11-14-10

One look at my son when he walked in the front door from school this afternoon and I knew he was out of kilter.

Like all moms I can correctly diagnose most common childhood ailments after completing a basic exam.

We don’t need a white coat, expensive equipment, or malpractice insurance. We don’t need an antiseptic office either.

We’ve been known to conduct a basic exam in the kitchen, the grocery store, the car, or on the sidelines of the ball field.

“Come close to me so I can get a good look at you.” I ordered.

He complied.

I looked deep into his eyes. As in any case – medical, criminal, or psychological – if something is amiss, the eyes are a dead give away.

His eyes told me he was a sick puppy.

“How do you feel?” I inquired.

“I dunno.”

My patients are not often forthcoming with useful information.

I swept his curly hair away from his forehead and planted my palm there. I left it there momentarily before swiftly moving it to one side of his face – then the other, then to the back of his neck, then back to his forehead.

No fever present.

I placed one hand on the back of his neck and I used the fingers of my free hand to check for lumps and bumps beneath his jaw line and along his neck. As I do this, I always find it helpful if I look up toward the ceiling or down at the floor, as if I might find the results of my examination written there. And if it were, today it would certainly read “lumpy”.

“Does your throat hurt?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

With his chin firmly cradled in the crux of my hand, I took him with me as I set off to seek a bright light source, which happened to be in the kitchen junk drawer where the flashlight lives.

I pulled his chin downward to open his mouth, tipped his forehead back, held the flashlight up, and after a series of repositioning movements I finally got a good look into the back of his throat.

“Stick out your tongue and say ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.” I demanded.

Even though we’ve done this routine a million times I still feel the need to demonstrate so there is no question about what I expect to see and hear. I’m so adept that I can continue to issue directives to during my demonstration.

Its Maternal Multitasking at its finest.

Anyway, I saw red and white stuff way back there and that is capital N-O-T good.

“Do you have a headache?”


“Does your tummy hurt?”


Next for me was the ultimate sacrifice.

“Okay, son” I directed, “breathe on me.”

I moved my face in close proximity to his, and braced myself for what was coming. Breath that smells like it could peel paint would be the final piece of the diagnostic puzzle.

The test result was positive.

“You have Strep throat.” I declared.

“Oh. Okay. Does this mean you’ll take me to TCBY?”

Now – if I’m in a public place when I conduct a medical exam and there are other moms around, I may solicit a second opinion. I know the value of consultation.

I’ve felt up many an unfamiliar noggin and neck belonging to another mother’s child. It’s a professional courtesy.

This time, however, I didn’t need to confer with another Medicine Mom.

What I needed the expertise of someone with a white coat, expensive equipment, an antiseptic office, and malpractice insurance.

Although its 99 percent accurate, the strep test I administer is not yet recognized as such by the American Medical Association – and I am not trained or licensed to wield The Wicked Q-tip, cook a culture in a Petri dish, and scribble an Rx for an appropriate antibiotic.

Perhaps someday all that stuff will come pre-packaged and be available over-the-counter. Until then I’ll continue to practice my own brand of medicine and offer my findings to the pros in the form of a “strong suspicion”.

It’s a professional courtesy.