The son of two Viceroy guests was suffering a severe sore throat and fever.
I drove off in a good mood because it sounded like an easy visit. This combination often indicates “strep” which an antibiotic cures. Patients like that, so I like it, too.
In fact, sore throat and fever in a grown-up is usually a simple viral infection, my least favorite illness. Strep is overwhelmingly a disease of children and adolescents, but this patient was fourteen, so my hopes were high.
They were dashed when the boy admitted that he had a cough. Strep is strictly a throat infection; coughing is not part of the picture. Sure enough, his throat looked normal.
Rummaging thoughtfully in my bag, I pulled out a packet of acetaminophen (Tylenol), handed it to the parents, and explained that this would help his fever. I extracted a plastic bottle of Lidocaine, a gargle intended to relieve his throat pain. I gave them a cough medicine is similar to the popular Robitussin but in an immense eight-ounce bottle.
I assured them that bed rest would not help, so he should try to enjoy himself. He could eat whatever he wanted. But it was likely that he’d feel under the weather for a few days before recovering.
The parents seemed happy to receive the medicine. They expressed gratitude for my service, and thanked me effusively as I left, but I knew that this was mostly good manners. They were on vacation. The doctor had come, given some not-very-powerful medicine, and told them the child would continue to be sick. Did the doctor realize how important this trip was to them? Maybe if he had tried harder…. Or if they’d called a better one….