Friday, March 17, 2006

Better or Worse

If you read the Canadian comic strip Better or Worse, then you know that the focus for the past several days has been on teenager April's sullen resistance to her adult's neighbor's willingness to lend a hand while her parents are out of town and her dawning awareness that adult assistance is perhaps of value after all.
Our most recent version features the following characters: college son (CS), age 21, previously blase about when he might come home over spring break, Dad, Mom, and various medical and dental professionals.
Thursday 1:00 am ~ Blissfully sleeping Mom is awakened by telephone. CS, who has been struggling against some kind of dental pain for a week or so, is clammy and sweaty and throwing up repeatedly and wondering if he might have taken too many painkillers (yes) and whether he should go to ER (yes).
1:00 am - 6:00 am ~ Formerly blissfully sleeping Mom talks to son and rommmate every 30-45 minutes as son moves though usual lengthy ER process, gets some fluids and morphine, and is finally sent home with no attention having been paid to underlying problem of dental pain.
7:00 am ~ Mom showers and crawls back into bed in a desperate and unsuccessful last-ditch attempt to grab some sleep.
8:00 am ~ Mom leaves message for roommate's father complimenting his son's willingness to hang out at the ER all night.
9:00 am ~ Mom is in charge of state testing at the high school where she teaches so is in action at work.
10:00 am ~ CS calls to report unmanageable pain.
10:00 am - Noon ~ Mom proctors test and manages collection of materials with cell phone glued to her ear as she tries to navigate university hospital system three hours away. CS goes to dental school clinic, back to ER, and back to dental school clinic. Dad gets in car and starts driving south.
3-5 pm ~ CS has numerous x-rays and exams. Dental resident says she has no idea what the problem is and sends him off with antibiotics and painkillers. Dad and CS start home.
10 pm ~ Everyone collapses.
Friday 7 am ~ Mom is up (those damn state tests await) and so is CS, unable to sleep and with jaw so swollen he can barely speak.
10 am - Family dentist takes about 10 seconds to diagnose what is later described as "an incredibly aggressive infection" and sends CS and Dad off to endodontist (new vocabulary word) who finishes Root Canal Part One by noon. Says he removed a TEASPOONFUL of pus from CS's jaw. How disgusting is that? Not to mention excruciating, which we already knew.
2 pm ~ Mom and Dad trade places. Mom makes trip to empty local pharmacy of heavy-duty antibiotics and painkillers. Mom herself found after surgery a few years ago that, despite universal claims to the contrary, Oxycontin was virtually useless. CS is mercifully having the opposite experience, since. . . .
6:00 pm ~ CS has been asleep on couch for four hours. We won't be completely out of the woods for another month or so, but at least he got taken care of by two terrific docs today.
Parental involvement ~ a terrible thing.


Carol said...

Glad that CS is on the mend and that he was close enough that you were able to retrieve him and get "good" care at home. I wonder what he'll say when he comes out of the painkiller induced fog about how helpful parents are.

Kathryn said...

At one point, I foolishly believed that it would get easier when they moved out. I'm glad he is doing well enough to sleep!

LightYears2Venus said...

I'm an avid Better or Worse fan. Hope your son recovers soon. I'm all too familiar with the word endodontist myself and am trying to get my twentysomethings to floss and learn from my mistakes.

V said...

Aww, CS is so lucky to have you.

sunflowerkat said...

My heart goes out to him. I have had a couple of those horrendous dental infections and there's nothing like it. I'd rather deliver an 11 lb. baby drug free!

Unfortunate that the university dental clinic didn't pick up on it. I knew immediately as I was reading. But, if they can't even diagnose it you certainly don't want them working on it. I'm so glad you are close enough that you could bring him home to medical professionals you trust.

Globetrotter said...

Good grief! What a frightening story! I'm wondering if all medical personal at colleges are as inept as this group was.

Having been through a similar situation myself with a tooth I can only say that CS is quite lucky that parent's were close enough to be able to take control of the situation before something really horrible had happened.

tess said...

Hope he learned and happy to know that he will be alright. Let's hope he'll mind the advice for the next month. Most people do not realize that dental infections can settle into endocarditis. I hope I spelled that right.

betty said...

I love this; they still need us even though they don't want to admit it. I've been following that cartoon "For Better for Worse" even before April was born.


Lisa :-] said...

I have to sympathize with "CS" on this one, having just come off a month of dental nightmares (January, 2006.) There is NOTHING in the world as hideous as unrelenting tooth pain. At one point, I would have gladly taken a shotgun and blown my own head off, just to stop the suffering. Courage and maturity all fly right out the window when one is visited with such pain. I would have called MY mother, if I thought she could have helped...'re a good mom, Robin.

Vicky said...

It's been a while since I checked in - oh, Robin, this mothering thing never ends, does it? I am so sorry you had to go through all of this, but happy you could help and happy that things have eventually been righted. What a nightmare. But he is home with you. Mine comes home tomorrow. And the working-for-a-living son comes home for a week in April.

You deserve a fabulous Mother's Day - don't let 'em forget it!