My mother is a wise woman, when I choose to give her credit. She taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. She can complete math calculations quickly in her head. Her belief about weight loss? “Eat less.”
She also once told me that the world is made up of complicators and simplifiers. Then she told me I was a complicator. (Takes one to know one, Mom.) She’s right, but YOU ARE NOT TO TELL HER I AGREE WITH HER.
Dr. Skeeter, so named for his work in infectious diseases, would likely side with my mother. This kind doctor offered guidance on the appropriate antibiotics for my infection while I was in hospital. I complicated matters (surprise, surprise) because, for the past 15 years or so, I believed I had an allergy to a class of antibiotics that are often first prescribed for infections like the one I had. I had been administered these drugs once, only to develop six weeks of severe hives all over my face and body and to require two weeks off work because I looked so frightening. Doctors have asked me about this drug reaction many times over the years but noone has ever questioned that the drug caused the hives.
Then came Dr. Skeeter. He is an older fellow and as sharp as a mosquito bite. When I relayed my drug reaction to him, he said (thankfully not quite in these words): “Balderdash.” He told me indeed I’d had an allergic reaction to something, but it wasn’t the medication, especially since I’d stopped taking it as soon as I’d noticed the hive outbreak. The antibiotic would have been out of my system within 12 hours and its ill effects would have subsided soon thereafter.
Furthermore, he said, your having this allergy listed on file is like having a stone tablet around your neck. (I’d never heard this saying before but I assume “albatross” could be substituted for “stone tablet” here.) The documented allergy makes doctors unsure which drugs to administer, and the other options aren’t as good. Dr. Skeeter then suggested an experiment with a sample size of me: “Let’s try you on a relative of that drug. If you don’t react to it, you likely won’t react to the drug you think you’re allergic to.” I was a bit nervous, human subject and all, but I trusted this guy. He was confident yet reasonable, he explained himself well, and he told me this question was worth answering for my immunocompromised future. He assured me the hospital was the perfect study setting in case anything went wrong.
So I took the drug. No reaction. Nothing. Nada. I was absolutely fine. Sure, I’ve had a few side effects, including loss of appetite (yay!), but I trust they will end with the course of drugs. Because I didn’t show the feared reaction, I left the hospital the next day with a 7-day prescription.
I know that if my leukemia doesn’t kill me, an opportunistic infection might. But now, thanks to Dr. Skeeter, I’ve got a new critical tool in my infection-fighting toolbox. Now if someone would just convince my mother I’m no longer a complicator….