That small children do not like to take medication is common enough. It does surprise me when they object to amoxicillin. To me the pink goo is sweet and bubble-gum like. But we had a four year old who just fought and spit out every dose. I only succeeded in getting the stuff in him easily once. This was at the parent's request. I had an irrigation syringe in my toolkit, and managed to get the dose far enough back in his mouth he couldn't do anything but swallow. Part of my success was that I was a new face for him, so he wasn't expecting it. After that, it was back to taking four adults to give him his meds. My one success, however, meant that I got to be the designated medical contact for the family.
One afternoon I was making my rounds of the room, and the mother called me over to "look at something." The something, it turned out, was a bunch of small, hard centered bumps on his stomach and upper arms. OK. First, breathe slowly and don't show any concern. Second, examine the child carefully without touching him. (already too late for me, I've spent days in close contact with this one-and I've never had chickenpox.) Mustering every bit of calm I can, I suggest that we head over to the small room we use as a nursing station. I have the family wait outside while I whisper to the nurse that there is someone I need her to see as soon as she can clear everybody else out. She does so, and I usher in the family, closing the door behind me, determined to act as a guard. A few minutes later the nurse dashes out of the room, and goes past me muttering "shit, shit, shit" under her breath.
The best we can do is move the whole family to the shelter at the Baptist Church, where there is an area we can use as an isolation ward with its own entrance. Then we wait to see what comes of it. We get lucky. Within a few days, the rash goes away-probably a reaction to the antibiotics we've been trying to get the kid to take all week. The nurse and I, however, had nearly identical visions of chickenpox sweeping through that already stressed population.
Note: my medical role in this situation was a flat-out violation of Red Cross regulations. Did I mention that training was rushed and that we were short-handed in the nursing area?
Dale Austin 2006
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008