10 March 2005

Doctor Fever

Just because I'm a little flushed and a little sore, I suddenly have rheumatic fever? People, please.

Anyway, I'm still sick from this strep-ish thing, even though I feel a million miles better than I did Sunday morning, but just because I looked a little flushed at work today they sent me home early (must be the first time I ever got reluctantly sent home from work) and this evening my mother and father call me to tell me I have to go to the doctor post haste and get my hands on some antibiotics because what our family does when they get strep as adults is they get rheumatic fever.

Why wasn't I told this before?

You gotta understand, my family's sense of handing down the old oral tradition is less than robust. Filling out medical histories has always been like throwing darts at a medical chart for me, because conversations with my parents about the deaths of their parents usually go something like:

Me: So Aunt E died of a stroke, right?

Mom: Or cancer. I'm not really sure.

Me: But Granny died of emphysema.

Mom: It was really the diabetes that did her in.

Me: Gran had diabetes?

Mom: Or was it a stroke?

...

Me: So Grandad died of a heart attack, right?

Dad: Well, a stroke. He might have thrown in a heart attack there, too. He always overdid things. Anyway, it killed him.

Me: Yes, I noticed. But did he have a heart condition?

Dad: Well, he drank a lot.

Me: Yes, but...

Dad: Or was it diabetes?

...

And so the lore is passed down to the next generation.

But they're sure about the rheumatic fever, and I'm all tell me another one. Isn't that what sweet little Beth died from in Little Women? And don't we have laws against that sort of thing now? Or at least vaccines? Isn't it a vestige of a bygone day, like trenchmouth, or pleurisy?

It kept Dad in bed for six weeks when he was in the navy. It causes permanent heart damage. It is probably why all my joints are aching, my mother insists.

My instinct is that they're all crying wolf, that they've finally gotten their story straight so they're sticking with it, no matter how brightly the commissioner shines that bare bulb into their faces in the interrogation room, but I'm throwing my hands up.

I'll go. I'll go to the doctor tomorrow and take antibiotics.

Do I want permanent heart damage, my mother asks?

No, Mom, of course not. I'll go to the doctor. She'll fix it.

Mom says little Beth died of scarlet fever, not rheumatic fever, but what does she know? Maybe it was the diabetes that really did her in.

1 comment:

leigh said...

You are both correct! Beth March contracts scarlet fever initially, which often leads to rhuematic fever, which can damage the heart. This is probably what happened. At the time the novel was written, there wasn't a good understanding of how diseases were transmitted or how they developed.