After a few weeks of listening to my nine-year-old son’s cough, I decided it was time for Noah to see a doctor. I no longer rush to the doctor’s office the moment I notice a sniffle. I’m the mother of three boys, and I’ve seen my share of illness. When I decide to make an appointment, it’s the real deal.
I called our pediatrician’s office, but due to cold and flu season, she was booked the rest of the week. Our only option was to go to the Convenient Care Clinic after hours. No appointment is necessary.
Snow fell as we drove to the clinic. We were bundled in our heaviest winter gear. As we wiped off our boots after getting inside, I heard the coughing, wheezing, and sneezing coming from the waiting room. It was a full house, packed with kids and adults, all who seemed to have a similar fate.
“Don’t touch anything!” I said to Noah, as we checked in. I pulled out my disinfectant wipes from my purse. “I think my son might have bronchitis. How long can we expect to wait?”
“I really have no idea,” the receptionist said. Her eyes were warm and kind. She pointed to the few open chairs in the waiting area.
Noah, who has autism, couldn’t understand that we had no appointment and therefore no idea how long we might be there.
“It’s called Convenient Care because we come here when we are ill, without an appointment, when it’s convenient for us,” I explained. He wasn’t convinced.
It wasn’t long until Noah was absorbed in his books. As we waited, he read Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Big Blast of Science. Between coughing spells, he talked to me about gravity, protons, and electrons. He also read through much of The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Creatures.
As we sat and waited, I thought about how far Noah has come in the past seven years since his autism diagnosis. When he was younger, he had few play skills. Change was difficult. Strangers frightened him. He loved books but only because his eyes preferred the sight of the turning pages as they swept across his field of vision. His speech was scripted and repetitive. He entered Kindergarten wearing diapers.
Now he is a 4th grader who excels academically with minimal special education support. He’s potty trained. He tells jokes every year at the school variety show. He plays flag football and enjoys horseback riding. His memory is remarkable. He sings with the sweetest voice. He’s polite and sensitive. He is a creative thinker who has a positive attitude. He understands adversity.
“Do you care if I go to the bathroom, Mom?” Noah’s words interrupted my thoughts.
“Just be sure to lock the door, and wash your hands with soap.”
After a few minutes, Noah sat down beside me. “It felt like absolute zero in there, which is -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit or -273 degrees Celsius!” He shivered and walked over to look at the sports section of the local newspaper.
When Noah’s name was called, we marched into an exam room. A nurse spoke with us about our concerns, and we waited a few more minutes.
The doctor walked in. She had never before met Noah and didn’t have his medical records. As far as I knew, we would never see her again. I didn’t feel the need to mention his autism diagnosis. Although he knows about his diagnosis, sometimes I don’t like to talk to professionals about it while he is present. During this appointment, there were no explanations. For once, I wanted a doctor to see him as a “typical” kid.
“What seems to be the trouble?” asked the doctor.
“Well, I’ll give you a hint,” Noah explained. “I think this problem is in my respiratory system.”
She looked at the notes the nurse had left for her. “How long have you had this horrible cough?” the doctor asked.
“Two weeks plus the hour I was in the waiting room,” Noah replied.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I said nothing.
“I am the only doctor here treating all of these patients, you know,” she snapped.
I mumbled something about it being a long day, as she listened to Noah’s lungs. The doctor concluded Noah had a respiratory infection and prescribed the antibiotic Azithromycin.
"That's one I'm not familiar with . . ." I said.
"Well, Mom,” Noah interrupted, “that's because you're not a doctor AND you didn't research this like you did the bronchitis that I don’t have."
My face turned bright red.
The doctor handed me the prescription, and we all stood up. I gathered our coats and other winter gear. On the way out, Noah noticed two huge anatomy posters that covered most of the wall.
"Wow, look at those charts of the muscular system! I'd like to ask for those for my birthday coming up!" Noah shouted. “Do you know that your blood pumps through 60,000 miles of your veins every day?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the doctor in the hallway, watching us leave. She was shaking her head.
“Well, Noah,” I said, “we got the answer we were looking for today. Once you get some medicine, you’ll feel much better.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Noah said. We held hands and walked outside to the winter wonderland.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.