“Tess isn’t feeling well. She wants to go home.”
“Does she have a fever?”
“No. She says she has a sore throat and her tummy hurts.”
I was on my way back from a tennis match (lets not discuss it!) with my team.
“Tummy ache and sore throat – sounds like a bullshit sickness to me,” I said to my teammate.
“It does,” she laughed. Lumping together the wrong symptoms is such a tell. (“My head hurts, my foot feels funny, I coughed –twice).
But then I remembered: “You know, Tess does always throw up when she has strep.”
As soon as I saw her slumped over in the office chair, I knew she had strep. She gets it. I got it as a kid and now I get it because I’m around kids. My mother always got it, too. Fun times.
“She has a fever,” I said, as soon as I felt her head.
“She didn’t when I took it,” the receptionist said.
Tess usually runs warm, but she was hot. I felt her belly. It was like a steamed dumpling.
“Do you have a flashlight?” I asked the receptionist.
“Say ahhh,” I said to Tess.
Tess has enormous tonsils. I didn’t have a light or a tongue depressor and she wasn’t saying ahhh right, but it didn’t matter – her tonsils were like red golf balls.
I filled out a form and went to fetch her things.
“She has strep,” I said to her teacher who was eating lunch in the teachers lounge.
“Keep her away from me,” another teacher said.
Then I remembered my eye. It’s red, too. It’s burning and has been for over a day
“What’s wrong with your eye?” Joe said when he saw me last night.
“I dunno,” I said, “I’m tired.”
“There’s something wrong with my eye,” I said to another teammate in the car.
“I can see that,” she said.
Of course, I was blinded ten times this morning, going for lobs on the sunny side.
(I promise you, readers, that I will impose some better tennis on my opponents soon)
“I think Tess has strep,” I said to the nurse when she was showing us to the “pink” exam room.
The doctor looked at Tess’s giant tonsils and we ran through the conversation we always have about getting them removed. I almost did it last summer, then pulled the plug at the last minute. Ronan had his out because he was sickly. He had sleep apnea at 2. He was on antibiotics 6 times in 6 months. On a scale of 1-4, his tonsils were “Way off the charts.” He was a kid who really needed them out and even then, it was horrific. Tess has big tonsils when she’s sick, but they do shrink back down to a 2. It doesn’t yet seem worth putting her under the knife.
“What’s wrong with your eye?” the doctor asked.
“The last time I had strep, I had red eyes.”
She shrugged. “If she has it, we’ll give you the test.”
As we waited for the results, Tess and I searched for all the faces we know in last year’s holiday cards, still taped to the wall. The rapid strep test is just like a pregnancy test – there’s a control line and second line that appears if you’re positive.
So I submitted to the swab.
“Your throat doesn’t look red,” the nurse said.
Once when I was little, my mother had strep, but she quit the penilcilian on day 9. A few days later, her eye swelled closed in a most unpleasant way. It was totally gross looking. Strep in her eye.
“Call in a prescription for the mother,” the nurse said when my red line appeared next to the blue. Mother and daughter matching sicknesses — a Lilly Pulitzer of pain.
Here is what makes me feel good about this, while I’m home sick with two kids, one who is now really suffering, crying, unable to swallow — poor thing! — the other who needs my help with his math homework and his dinner: today I could see that my child was ill from across the room. Sometimes, my kids con me. I let them stay home then find them watching tv, gorging themselves on cookies, asking if they can go skateboarding or have a playdate. I doubted Tess at first, but then I saw it in her face. She didn’t have a fever even at the doctor’s, but she was sick and I could feel it in her skin. I am also thankful that her doctor didn’t think I was a nut job when I claimed to have strep eye. And I promise to take my medicine for all 10 days!