Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Big Thing

Well, that was manageable!

Scarlet fever sounds like a big freaking deal, especially when you've read a lot of books set in the 19th century, but it really wasn't.  We treated the itching with Benadryl (orally) and Calamine lotion (externally), the fever with Tylenol and Motrin, and the infection with antibiotics.  Two days later, and she's fine.  We didn't even have to take all her toys out back and burn them. 

I think we tend to forget how lucky we are to live in a time of abundant and accessible medicine.  We get so caught up in the health care crisis (and believe me, with as much as our health insurance costs - more than our mortgage - there's no doubt that it's a crisis!) that we forget how very very lucky we are that we don't have to sit and wait for our children to die of simple infections.  100 years ago, they didn't even have Tylenol.  The best you could do for your sick kid was to liquor (or coke!) 'em up and hope for the best.  There was no FDA to make sure that whatever snake oil you were giving your kids was even safe.  But I can easily imagine that trying something would've been preferable to doing nothing.

Parents then didn't love their children any less than we love our kids now.  They weren't less attached to them.  The only insulation they may have had against the heartbreak that would come from losing a child was that it was such a common experience back then.  Walk through any old cemetery and you'll see dozens and dozens of tiny headstones with a single date on them, or with a horribly short span between two dates. 

And here we are, a century later, and parents can and do elect to refuse vaccinations that our great-grandparents couldn't have imagined, and would have given anything to have for their kids.  We've never seen an iron lung, and if we see a kid with leg braces or in a wheelchair, it's unusual.  Few people walk around with scarred skin or rotten teeth.  And while children still die young, it's a rare and unexpected tragedy.  I've heard so many people say, "Parents shouldn't outlive their kids," when someone dies young, but the truth is that up until quite recently in human history, it was actually more common for parents to lose a kid or two (or several) than not.

Geez, for a post that started off with "everything's fine!" this has gotten awfully maudlin.  But this is what I'm thinking about today.  I'm thinking about how lucky we are that we can run out to the store and grab a bottle of Tylenol or an antibiotic for a couple bucks.  I'm thinking about how sad it is that not everyone in our modern world enjoys the same access to medicine that we do.  And I'm wondering what kinds of advancements the next 100 years will bring.  That will really be something...


morganna said...

Even in the 1940s scarlet fever was dangerous -- my mother nearly died of it when she was a baby -- saved by Coca-Cola! (She couldn't eat and my grandfather dripped it down her throat -- at least that's the story.)

I'm so glad it wasn't too bad for MG. Hope the rest of you are staying well.

Denna said...

So true Amy, we take so many miracles for granted. I will never forget standing in front of the display about polio at the Museum of Science and Industry when you all were in grade school and you asked me "Mom, what is polio?" It still chokes me up to think about it. When I was a kid my mom put me in a pilot program to develop the polio vaccine because she was so deeply scared I would get it. When Jim was a kid you couldn't go to public pools in the summer because they were afraid you would catch polio. Any public gathering was a potential threat.
We had all the childhood diseases--measles (3 day and 2 week), mumps, chicken pox. Our classrooms would be down to 3 or 4 kids sometimes when one of these ripped through the school. So different now.

Thank goodness the Velveteen Rabbits are all safe, along with the children that love them!

Elizabeth said...

smaaaall. World. I took your beautiful girls' pics at school.. and today, Miss R mentioned that your little MG had SF.. I then just saw your post on a friends' wall.. and turns out I have actually read your blog before- not sure how I ever found it in the first place.. but I do read from time to time. haven't in a long while though- what a small crazy.. connected world! lol- glad your sweetie is feeling better. your girls are the cutest!

Amy said...

@morganna - The rest of us have, so far (knock wood), managed to dodge the bullet. Your story about Coke is crazy!

@Mom - thank you for giving birth to me in a time of fever diseases!!

@Elizabeth - that's kind of spooky! I'm about to make you considerably more wealthy. I don't suppose you could give a volume discount for 5 x 7s! :) Hope you keep reading!

Amy said...

A time of FEWER diseases. Sheesh.