A few weeks ago, our youngest daughter suddenly spiked a fever and went from her usual ornery self to lethargic. I whisked her off to the doctor’s office, thankful once again that our family has made it onto the “always work them in” list, where he pointed out the pale pink rash that covered her hands and belly. She had skipped straight over the usual Strep symptoms of sore throat and funky strep smell straight to Scarlet Fever.
We returned home, antibiotic in hand, only to have her smarty pants older sister say, “Isn’t Scarlet Fever what killed Beth in Little Women?” And my 5 year old melted down crying that she didn’t want to die. Death glare daggers at the 12 year old shut her up, but of course she was right. Scarlet Fever is what killed Beth in Little Women. And my grandmother’s younger brother. And I’m pretty sure that it killed a bunch of other people too.
Because infection used to be a big deal. A putrid sore throat and the following rash and fever were something that people feared. Because they killed people. So did a lot of things that we now think of as not worth worrying about. My great uncle died when he was 2 years old because he got a splinter in his toe. A splinter! It got infected, turned to blood poisoning, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I can’t imagine raising children in a world where they could be killed by a splinter, but not so long ago, that was normal.
It was so normal that when my husband’s grandparents’ bought their cemetery plots, they came surrounded by six smaller plots for the babies that were expected to die within their lifetimes.
As I gave my feverish girl a cocktail of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen to bring down her 103 fever that evening, I kept thinking about how amazing it was that we live in a time with life-saving drugs just sitting on the grocery store shelves. Fever reducers, antibiotic creams, and medicines for allergies aren’t even expensive, and we have learned to treat them as common place. And yet, they were the answer to prayer for our grandparents. These cheap drugs turn moms into unsing superheroes. And those prescription antibiotics? We are preserving generations yet to come when we chase our little ones down and force them to take their nasty medicine.
Babies and children used to die from things we don’t even think about at sickness any more. We don’t think about it that way when their hot little bodies are curled up in our arms and watching trash TV to pass the time has gotten old, but modern moms are committing breathtaking acts of heroism. We are really, truly saving the lives of our children.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that the work we do is unimportant and ordinary, but it’s so much more than that. So the next time that your wee one spikes a temp, cuts a finger, or has that nasty strep smell hanging around; remember that the work you are doing is heroic. You are saving lives with every dropper full of liquid or swipe of medicated ointment.
There is no one on Earth doing more important work than you are. So straighten your super hero cape, Mama, you have power at your fingertips that generations wished and prayed to have. You are a hero, and you’ve got this.
photo credit: By RyC – Behind The Lens from San Francisco, United States of America (dc sirens cosplay) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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