in which my kid gets a pioneer times plague and my faith in humanity is restored


Prior to last week, the last time I heard the words “Scarlet Fever” was when I got suckered into watching the film version of “Little Women” (I was quite a Samantha Mathis fan for a few years after I saw “Pump Up the Volume” at an impressionable age.)

Before that, I seem to remember Mary going blind from it on Little House on the Prairie  (yes, goddammit — I watched LHotP like any other central-Jersey kid in the early 80s with access to only a black-and-white TV set that only picked up UHF channels), but I am pretty sure that I had never heard of it outside the context of interminable 19th century dramatic fiction focused on female protagonists.

That is to say, I knew it was a real thing, but I assumed that like polio, or smallpox, or the Tudor dynasty, it was a thing in the historical sense, not in the “shit that actually still happens” sense.

So… a couple of weeks ago, after taking Oldest Son to the doctor, my wife calls me on the way to the pharmacy to tell me that he has Scarlet Fever.  At first, I thought she was just screwing with me.  Then, I tried to cover my entire body with that ethanol-based lightly-scented hand sanitizer and started googling hazmat suit wholesalers.

Of course, I subsequently learned that:

  • Mary Ingalls didn’t go blind from Scarlet Fever anyway, it was probably viral meningoencephalitis  (cold comfort though that may be to Beth from LIttle Women)
  • Scarlet Fever is just a strep infection, in which the strep bacteria are themselves infected with a specific bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria), which causes the bacteria to produce pyyrogenic exotoxins
  • If you frequent our nation’s healthcare/industrial complex for 37 or so years, you will eventually see an act or two of un-mitigated common-sense

Anyway, by the time we got Oldest Son to the doctor in the first place, the rest of us had just started making these “hhhckkk-hhhcckkk” noises every few minutes and saying things like “hey, I think I might be coming down with a sore throat….”, and when my wife told this to the pediatrician (who had just looked at Oldest Son for <10 seconds before jumping up and declaring “Scarlet Fever!”), he (without even blinking) wrote antibiotic prescriptions for the entire family (sight unseen for myself and youngest son.)

In doing so, Dr. Awesome saved us from scheduling three additional doctor’s appointments.  With one kid desperately sick, two working (also getting sick) parents, and a younger (soon to be sick) kid in the mix (and primary care physician’s that don’t generally have appointments less than a week out), getting that handled would have been what we like to call a “serious fucking hassle”, and Dr. Awesome sidestepped it with three quick scribbles on his prescription pad.

Having been a keen watcher of first-tier medical dramas like Chicago Hope, ER, and (barely) St. Elsewhere as well as a patron of the U.S.’s medical-industrial complex for thirty-plus years, I am fully confident that if Dr. Awesome is ever found out (for having written an antibiotic prescription for a patient that he hasn’t personally examined), that the last thing he ever hears will be the muted whirling of the AMA/CDC joint taskforce’s black helicopters and the swishing of the ziplines as their shock-troops swarm down from above render him to some backwoods hellhole where he will suffer indefinitely for his intransigent act of common sense.


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