SATURDAY, JANUARY 1, 2011Sickboy, Redux"Hey, come here a minute. Look at this," Will says. Fresh out of the shower, he stands in front of me.
"Um..." I say, frowning. His entire body seems to be glowing, like he just performed some serious exfoliation. "Come into the light."
He stands in front of the floor lamp, and in a sharper light I see that his entire body is red, bad sunburn red.
"Any chance that's from golfing?"
A quick check of WebM.D. (never, never look at this site) convinces Will that he's come down with a vicious case of scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever? This rings a bell, but in my mind it's in the same category as the plague - as in, something that died out years ago. "I think that's what the little boy in The Velveteen Rabbit had," I tell Will.
"What happened to him?"
I grin. "They had to burn all his toys."
Fifteen minutes later we're at the urgent care center, signing in. I've packed a bag of goodies - sudoku, two books, some knitting and a journal, the basic necessities for a minimum two-hour wait. We settle into chairs in the reception area, trying to gauge the various complaints and syndromes of our fellow occupants. Safer to sit by the person with an ice pack on his head than the woman with a ferocious cough, for instance.
In the triage center, Will fails to impress the nurse with stories of a rash that went away and an unwarranted sunburn. "So, other than the rash, you have basically no symptoms?" she says, her pen poised over an NCR form. It's possible she has just a hint of a smirk in her voice. Can she not see Lobster Boy??
With nothing better to do, I tag along when Will is called in to see the doctor. Dressed in a paper-thin smock, his "sun"burn is shocking -- his skin blotched red and purple. When he puts his hands on his knees, he leaves white palm prints that linger for several seconds.
We get Dr. M -- our lucky day, the nurse proclaims, since Dr. M. is an expert on rashes -- and several possible diagnoses. One possibility is scarletina, which results from strep. (This is not -- Dr. M stresses -- scarlet fever, although he does chuckle at my Velveteen Rabbit anecdote.) Another is erythema infectiosum (aka Fifth Disease or "slapface syndrome"), although this is most commonly found in children. Or it could be a case of roseola - another disease more common to infants. Is it possible this is related to a person's level of maturity?
Dr. M runs the tests, and Will is cleared for strep. Unfortunately, if it's Fifth Disease it's simply viral, and will just have to run its course. There's no telling how long Will is going to look like a burn victim. Dr. M orders a blood draw, just in case, and tells us he'll call with the results.
Sometime during this conversation, my sister in Washington calls, frantic for news of Will's scarlet fever. Sigh. My mother -- who has no cell phone and has forgotten her Facebook password -- still finds ways to communicate.
At home, we order a pizza. I'm thinking of Will, sure, and the fact that he hasn't eaten anything more than two pieces of toast in the last 24 hours, but also, frankly, of me. It's been seven hours since breakfast at this point, and I'm ready to nibble on my pinky finger.
Dr. M calls with good news -- the bloodwork was normal, meaning he found nothing bacterial like scarletina and Will's kidneys appear to be functioning. His official diagnosis: slapface syndrome. He'll be contagious for a couple of days and it's possible that if his temperature rises, he'll break out in a rash again. Will grins, pocketing this get-out-of-all-physical-labor-free card. In other news, he does have a "basically harmless" genetic condition called Gilbert's syndrome (French: gil-bears), which means his body doesn't process bilirubin.
This wait-and-it-will-get-better approach is somewhat comforting, but also somewhat of a drain on Will's sole caregiver, I must admit. When the pizza comes, I almost cry from its comfort. I even convince Will to eat a bite or two.
Paula Treick DeBoard