My head is spinning. Seriously spinning.
Let me see. A combined twelve years of elementary school and high school. Four years of college. Four years of medical school. One year of internship. And three years of residency. Oh yeah, don't forget about the thirteen years of "life" I've had since all of this formal schooling and training has finished.
Yet, for all of this experience and hard work, I felt abandoned. Confused. Wayward. Standing in the middle of a store aisle. I ended up looking to my left, ready to plead for a stranger's help. I looked to my right, hopeful that some angelic vision enveloped in a bright, shining aura would proclaim the answer to my question. And I looked ahead of me, acutely aware of all of my options.
Which cough and cold medicine should I buy?
You might laugh but, seriously, how does the common person do this? Here I am, with all of this medical knowledge and ER experience in my back pocket, and even I can't make a decision to what I should buy in this endless cough and cold medicine aisle.
It started out simple enough. Traveling down the fourteen hours to Hilton Head these past few days, staying in a hotel room halfway through the trip, lots of car time with some lingering kid-coughs, closed continuous car circulating air, and, before I could blink, my wife has a runny nose, sinus congestion, and headache. And is feeling rundown. And is achy everywhere. And has a sore throat. And a fever, "well, maybe I don't have a fever but I feel warm." I'm sure it was brewing before we left but, unfortunately, presented itself at the start of our vacation.
The thing is, my wife never gets sick. Seriously. She takes her vitamins, she exercises, she eats her vegetables, and not from a can, mind you (that would be me and my love-affair with young, tender peas). She consistently partakes in all the things that I only do on a sporadic basis. But, here we are, on vacation, and she's the one whose ass is dragging. I would take one for the team, in a heartbeat, if I could spare her this misery. But, I have to admit, for once, it's nice to not be the adult in the house getting the kids' spill-off illnesses.
She's not a complainer (of the two of us, that would be me), so when she asked me if there were any medications she could take to feel better, I knew she was not feeling well.
We went out as a family to WalMart to buy her some medication for her symptoms. The irony of it--driving fourteen hours to go to a store that exists five minutes from our home--was not lost on me. But to our credit, we did try the local grocery store first.
I walked into the store, very clear about what kind of medicines she needed to get back on track. How hard could this be, really? She and the kids grabbed a cart to fill-up on our needed supplies for a week of condo-living. I searched out the pharmacy section. "I'll meet up with you in a few minutes," I had said. On hindsight, a stupid statement.
I found the cough and cold medication aisle quickly. I started picking up the boxes to read the active ingredients. Cough suppressant? Cough expectorant? Nasal decongestant? Antihistamine? After sorting through all of those options, then, I had to decide if I wanted acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). Okay Jim, I comforted myself, just take your time and start over.
I decided a different approach--let's go with the proclamations on the front of the box. Cold Multi-Symptom (regular or severe), Sinus Congestion, Headache and Sinus, Cough and Headache, Sore Throat and Cough, Sore Throat, Cough, and Sinus...you get the picture. If nothing else, I appreciated the selling of every single variable you could squeeze out of the common cold.
So picture it, you are at the store shopping and you see a guy scratching his head, rubbing his chin, pacing back and forth, picking up a box off the shelf just to replace it back in seconds, and that would be me. With all of my infinite medical wisdom.
I finally sorted through all of these options before realizing, "Wait, she'll need both a daytime and a nighttime medication." I sure didn't want my wife to get tired in the daytime during our time at Hilton Head, right? Possibly risk sleepwalking through our vacation? So, guess what? She'd need the nighttime version, too. Unfortunately, though, the daytime formula I had decided on didn't have an alternate nighttime version (it's usually just an addition of some form of antihistamine). So what did I do? Well, of course, I started over.
The minutes dragged, the active ingredients blurred, and the box-front symptoms united to form one big blob of an illness. Finally, after much frustration, I picked out what I thought was the best option for my wife's illness.
"Daddy," I heard my youngest call, just as I was wrapping up my choice. Looking down the aisle, I saw my smiling family approach me. "What took you so long?"
I held up the boxes I chose for my wife to see. I must have looked like the village idiot, extreme pride radiating from my pathetic face, eagerly anticipating my wife's approval of the two $2.68 boxes of miracles. Please, please, I remember thinking, tell me how good I did.
What she asked next was like fingernails on my brain's chalkboard. "What about the liquid, Jim? How's that?" I think I stomped my feet, my mind screaming "No, no, no" while my voice remained silent. "Or," she continued, walking down the aisle, scanning the options, "maybe I'll just do gel-caps." She looked at several boxes quickly, scanning each's front and back in just short of ten seconds. "Yeah," she said, "I think these will do." She had found a combo-box of both daytime and nighttime medication with, evidently, just the right active ingredients to treat her symptoms.
I think I'll just place this whole experience in the "knows too much," category, thank you very much. I might just be giving myself too much credit, though, on that one.
Now, if you don't mind, I have to go take a couple Tylenol for my headache. Or maybe Motrin. Oops, I mean Aleve...
As usual, big thanks for reading. Next post follows on Wednesday, March 17. Hope everyone is well...see you then...