Collective Malaise

We’re a crock. Last week - between me, Little A and Mr Oh - we saw six separate doctors. Seven if you count my chiropractor. Jury’s still out on that one although her card says she’s a “Dr.”, it’s possible she just has a PhD in pre-Byzantine literature.

One of my previous bosses used the title “Dr.” on a regular basis and not-infrequently, when people asked me the subject area of his PhD thesis, I had to squirmingly inform them that his PhD was, in fact, honorary. This was usually followed by stunned silence as the outrageousness of the situation clanged loudly around the room. As for people with actual PhDs, I think it’s become uncool to put “Dr.” on your business cards, email signature etc. It might imply that you’re showing off. Why the hell not, I say? If I had the attention span to research and write more than 500 words on an obscure, niche (and let’s face it…frequently boring) topic, I’d have “PhD” tattooed on my knuckles. I would sign my text messages “Dr B” and I would give my mother a handful of business cards to pass to loose acquaintances she bumped into at the local supermarket (my mother tends to baulk at such boastful behavior but perhaps she would be less reticent if my academic achievements were more impressive).

I have to take a break from this ramble to note that I am sitting in a coffee shop (while Little A screams in a nearby kindergarten) and the man beside me has just stood up and departed from his companions with the farewell greeting “Namaste”. I think it’s time to change neighborhoods - clearly, once again, I am not alternative enough to live here.

Anyway, back to the plague. So about a week and a half ago, I watched in horror as a dark red rash of spots and blisters began to spread across the beautiful skin of my precious toddler. Mr Oh thought he looked a lot like Viktor Yushchenko. I am deeply ashamed to admit that my first thought was not, “Is he in danger or pain!?” but rather “Can he still go to kindergarten?!”. I love Little A very much but I’m 8 months pregnant and he’s a 16kg human tornado of destruction and mayhem. My two great fears were that he had either Chicken Pox or the dreaded Hand, Foot and Mouth. Incidentally, Hand, Foot and Mouth has nothing to do with the Foot and Mouth disease that commonly affects cattle…and not just because cows don’t have hands…apparently it’s totally different. Anyway, Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) is an incredibly mild illness but incredibly contagious and is infectious for about ten days which would mean….that’s right…ten days at home with the toddler equivalent of WWF Summer Slam.

The first pediatrician we saw decided that it ‘probably’ wasn’t chicken pox and it ‘probably’ wasn’t HFM. I was like “Probably doesn’t cut it for me, lady, I need to send this child to school”. She held firm though and her final verdict was that she didn’t have the first clue what was wrong with Little A. After the first 72 hours at home with Little A, I took a taxi across the Huang Pu River (something I try to avoid doing whenever possible) to get a second opinion. Doctor #2 told me that it definitely wasn’t chicken pox (encouraging) and that it was probably a non-contagious auto-immune disease with a long and frightening sounding name. For the first time during this whole affair, I was confronted with the possibility that Little A’s condition was a threat to something other than my mental health. I found, for the first time, wishing that it was HFM and silently promised to keep him home with me forever and ever. One blood test and one urine test later (do you know how hard it is to collect urine from an almost 2 year old?) the doctor said he had no conclusive evidence that it either was or was not above mentioned freaky disease but said that he could not rule out the possibility that it was contagious so I should keep Little A away from all children for a further week, after which point, he cheerfully told me, everything would be fine even though he didn’t have a notion what was wrong with Little A. He charged me €300 for his lack of information and sent us back into quarantine with a friendly wave.

Last week was also the week that Mr Oh partially and inexplicably lost the hearing in his right ear (falling asleep in front of a fan didn't help). In his case, it took three doctors and substantially more money before the "yes, you appear to have partially lost hearing in your right ear and we have no idea what's wrong with you" verdict was delivered. Although one of his doctors did note that foreigners in Shanghai lose part of their hearing quite commonly (?!).

As for my contribution to the general familial medical collapse, I pulled a muscle in my bump which means that I could not lift, control or play with Little A during our ten day confinement. The only one bucking the trend was the Unbornicle who had happily swung round into an upside-down position in preparation for The Long March. It was refreshing not to hear the Chinese ultrasound doctor alarmingly shout “BREEEEECH” during my bi-monthly scan. She looked a bit downcast that she couldn’t find anything wrong. I think I saw the Unbornicle making a rude gesture at her.

So, it was a week best forgotten, but at least Mr Oh couldn't hear me very well when he arrived home each evening to my weeping and wailing. His temporary hearing loss may have saved his own mental health and happily a dose of "suck 'em, and see" steroids opened his auditory faculties to the domestic racket again.

Thankfully, it’s now Monday again and Little A is back in his new kindergarten although his week at home with me has totally undone all the good we did settling him into school and there were many, many tears and much leg-clinging when I dropped him off this morning. I can still hear his plaintiff screams of “Mommy…please….” reverberating round my head as I sit here in this café waiting to pick him up again. It’s now time to go. Cheerio!

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