Today, I am grateful for a great many things: our close-knit community, divine-timing, and that my child doesn’t need an amputation.
Last week, one of my boys asked if I had anything in my pharmacopoeia which would ease the itch of poison ivy. It seems he’d tangled with some weeds while helping a friend’s family clear their backyard of debris. I brought forth a handful of supplements and salves, explaining to him how to use them.
Over the next few days, I noticed that he was showering more often, presumably to cool the inflamed tissues. He asked for another bottle of Calamine lotion. And yesterday, his discomfort prevented him from walking around the store with me.
But he’s an older teenage boy, and in trying to be respectful of his body, his desire for privacy and independence, I maintained a hands-off attitude.
Last night, I dreamed that it had worsened, had spread and was infected. I asked him about it over breakfast, and he laughed: “I’m fine, Mom. That was just a dream.”
This afternoon, wearing shorts, he flopped down on the couch across from me. For the first time, I saw his leg:
“Holy-fucking-shit, what the hell is THAT?!”
“That’s my poison ivy,” he replied.
“Oh fuck. OMG.” I put my head in my hands, trying to think clearly. “I should have been more vigilant. I am the worst parent ever.”
I sent a text and a photo to a nurse-friend: “I need help triaging this. Do I cancel my evening schedule and take him straight to the ER? Is Urgent Care enough? Can this wait till after work? What do I do here?”
She called as soon as she saw the swollen, blackened, infected limb. “Yes, that looks bad. Yes, he needs to go now. But he’s old enough to sign for himself…you don’t have to clear your caseload.”
Clear-headed advice from the Village.
We arrived at the clinic together, and the staff knew me from my practice. “Don’t you have patients?” they asked.
“Not until 3,” I replied.
It was 2:25.
He was promptly ushered in, evaluated, debrided, injected, and prescribed a handful of pills (all in time for me to see my own patients). “It’s not in the joint…yet. But if that gets ANY worse, or if it isn’t improving in 48 hours, get back in here stat.”
Parenting teens is tough: letting go, checking-in, detaching, remaining present. We walk a tight-wire act together.
“I’m so sorry, Mom. I was just trying to take care of it myself. I didn’t know…”
“It’s OK. I know. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Sometimes we fall off the tight-wire. Sometimes they do. Maybe most important is that we help each other get back on it and find our balance again.
Grateful for subconscious nudges to take a closer look at his limb, for the clear-headedness of community, for the perfect timing in which my boy was able to be cared for.