Alex will turn 21 in less than a month, and one would think after that much time, I’d pretty much have most things figured out in this task called mothering. However, from time to time, I find myself temporarily baffled, engaged in an internal conflict as to what is the best thing to do. In these situations, Ed usually defers to my judgment, which sometimes adds to my anxiety, wondering if he really agrees with my decision or if he just thinks he shouldn’t question my maternal instincts. Anyway, one of those moments arose yesterday.
As I have written in previous blog entries, since June, Alex has been dealing with yeast infections in and around his mouth, and we have relied upon six different doctors or nurse practitioners to have him assessed and treated. Three of the times, he became symptomatic on weekends, which meant taking him to a clinic open when doctors’ offices are not. Once we took him to urgent care when his regular doctor would not see him since he is now on Medicaid for his autism, and twice he has seen nurse practitioners at his new family doctor’s office. A couple of times, I have called the nurse practitioner who oversees his psychiatric medications on Friday afternoons to get prescriptions over the phone so that we would not have to take him to the off hours clinics. While all of these health care practitioners—all women, I might add—have been very sympathetic, compassionate, and helpful, I wish we had one consistent doctor or nurse practitioner who has seen him every time for consistency. Nonetheless, all have agreed upon the same medication for treatment, which is reassuring. This last round of the antifungal medicine, Diflucan, has spanned a month of daily doses, which Alex will finish on Monday.
A couple of days ago, I was thinking about this month of daily antifungals ending, hoping and praying that the medication had finally kicked out the yeast that has been invading Alex’s mouth. Ready for him to be healthy after all this time, I was encouraged that his mouth does look better. Then, this week I came down with a cold that was thankfully mild, which I attribute to taking Vitamin D drops. Even though my cold wasn’t that bad, I prayed that Ed and Alex wouldn’t catch the cold from me, and I faithfully washed my hands to try and keep the germs to a minimum. All week long, I have watched Alex for signs that—despite my best efforts—he has caught the cold, too. Fortunately, both Ed and Alex seem to have escaped getting the cold I’ve had.
With my cold gone, my guys remaining healthy, and the end of Alex’s yeast treatment hopefully in sight, I thought maybe things were finally on the right track health-wise. We were getting ready for a trip to Target, one of Alex’s favorite stores, to pick up a few things when I offered to help Alex comb his hair. Since he’s nine inches taller than me, the only way I can comb his hair properly is to have him sit while I stand over him. As I began combing his hair, which I had cut fairly short last weekend, I noticed a red splotch in his scalp that had not been there the previous day. Looking more closely and moving aside his hair, I saw that the red splotch was not just inflamed skin on his scalp but oozing fluid. This fiery red weeping sore was about an inch in diameter on the crown of his head. Having never seen anything like it, frankly, it scared me.
Not wanting to send Alex into panic mode, I knew better than to let him see my fears or let him know how bad the spot on his head looked. I told him he had some sticky stuff in his hair that I wanted to wipe with a washcloth, and he was agreeable. As I dabbed the sore spot, he never flinched or complained, which was a good sign. I asked him if his head hurt, and he said no, another positive. When Ed came to see why we were taking so long to get ready, I motioned him over and pointed to the sore on Alex’s head, and I suspect the facial reaction of shock he had was the same I had when I saw it for the first time. He mouthed, “What is it?” In response, I shrugged my shoulders. However, I suspected an infection, so trying not to alarm Alex, I suggested we take his temperature, which was only slightly above normal. Nonetheless, my mother’s instinct that didn’t quite know what the cause of this sore was made me think that we needed to have it checked, so we headed for the CVS Minute Clinic here in town, where we had been pleased to get Alex such good care several weeks ago when his yeast infection flared on a Saturday afternoon.
Grabbing Alex’s medical file that contains his list of medications, our legal papers granting Ed and I authority to make medical decisions for him, and a copy of his Social Security card, I followed Alex and Ed out the door to the local CVS Minute Clinic. On the way there, questioning my decision, I asked Ed if I was overreacting to have Alex checked, but he confirmed my decision by telling me he agreed with me that we needed to have him examined. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait at all, and the nurse practitioner was very sweet and kind to Alex and us. After taking his temperature, pulse oxygen, and blood pressure, which were in the normal range, and listening to his heart and lungs, which sounded fine, she took a closer look at the sore on his head, which she diagnosed as folliculitis, an infected hair follicle apparently common in teenage boys and young men. She said her own sons had even had the same thing, which was comforting, especially since she commented that it looks worse than it really is. To assess whether the infection had spread, she carefully checked the lymph nodes in his neck and head, all of which were fine. To treat this infection, she gave us a ten-day run of antibiotics twice a day, and she recommended that we put antibiotic cream on his head to help heal it. The only concern we had about the antibiotics is that they can cause yeast overgrowth, which we’ve been fighting for months. She said that since he’s been on antifungals, he should be fine. Nonetheless, I will double his dose of probiotics to keep his digestive tract in good order while he’s on the antibiotics and hopefully keep the yeast from repopulating his mouth again.
Satisfied that Alex’s newest ailment had been quickly, properly, and accurately diagnosed, Ed and I were content that we had a plan to treat the infection on Alex’s scalp. In the words of Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Roseannadanna, though, “It’s always something! If it’s not one thing; it’s another.” Last night as Alex was getting ready for bed, I noticed a small spot on his shoulder, and upon taking a closer look, I saw that it’s some type of fluid-filled blister. A closer inspection revealed a similar tiny blister just below his ear. Of course, that sent me to the Internet to see what these strange blisters could be. With no definitive diagnosis, I’m hoping that the antibiotic will take care of them, as well. If not, we’ll be headed back to the doctor yet again. In the meantime, I thank God for the compassionate doctors and nurse practitioners who have been taking care of Alex and for God’s healing that surpasses anything humans can do. As we wait, I’ll keep a close eye on that sore and those blisters, praying that they disappear quickly and making sure that I do all Alex needs for me to do as his mother and caretaker.
“For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” II Corinthians 4:17