"Your card was declined."
My bowels loosened at the receptionist's words. I burbled a response. "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. I'm not sure what to do."
It was just past eight on Wednesday. Philip stood beside me at the counter examining the display of Children's Advil coupons. He was in a surprisingly good mood. I had expected tears when we woke him forty minutes earlier, but he greeted us with smiles. And coughs. That's why we were at the pediatrician's office.
The receptionist offered to bill me for the copay. I led Philip to the waiting room, grateful I had a gift card for our pharmacy in case we left with a prescription. Philip began to play while I watched rain pound against the window. My fingers shook as I dialed the toll-free number on the back of my bank card.
"Philip?" the nurse called. I shoved the card and phone into my purse. "To the right," I prompted when he headed toward the exit; he turned without protest. I guess multiple visits this winter have alleviated anxiety about going to the doctor.
I chose this practice because it offers a walk-in clinic for established patients. The convenience is great, but you can't request a specific pediatrician. We have our favorite, the one who understands Philip best, but there was no guarantee he would be on duty. Imagine my relief when I saw Dr. M inside. I crossed my fingers that he would be the one to examine Philip.
Philip plopped on the chair beside the scale to remove his shoes. He unzipped then dropped his coat on the floor. He hopped on the scale then stood still. Usually, the hopping continues so he can watch the digital numbers change.
Weight recorded, we were escorted to an exam room. The nurse asked about symptoms. "Is the drainage yellow or green?" she inquired. A well-timed sneeze from Philip allowed me to confirm yellow. A slow grab for the tissues allowed Philip to wipe yellow snot on his sleeves.
Philip sat without complaint to have his temperature taken, but I had to smile when he scrunched his shoulders as the nurse put the thermometer under his armpit. I've always hated having people touching my neck and shoulders, too.
"No fever," the nurse announced. "Someone from the clinic will be with you shortly," she said before closing the door.
Ignoring the "NO CELL PHONES" sign, I called my bank. Philip pulled a toy truck from the diaper bag to entertain himself. Cursing under my breath that I couldn't reach a human in the automated phone system, I jumped when there was a knock on the door. I snapped my phone shut.
"It's just me," the receptionist said. "Your card went through." I 'fessed up to having been on the phone. "I thought you might try to call," she said, "so I wanted to let you know everything is okay. You can pick up your copy on the way out."
Philip and his more relaxed mom were alone again. Philip exchanged the truck for a notebook. He drew and flipped pages until there was another knock on the door. I smiled when a familiar voice called, "Hello?" and Dr. M entered.
"Say 'hello,'" I prompted. Philip said "hello" on his iPad.
"Hello," Dr. M responded without a condescending "good job" or "how cute." Things just got better from there.
First, we ruled out flu as a cause for his symptoms. Knowing that a student at his preschool was recently diagnosed with H1N1, I thought this was cause for celebration. Second, Philip sat by himself as Dr. M listened to his chest with the stethoscope. He's done this before, but you never know. I then prepared to hold Philip for the rest of the exam. Unable to tell if rubbing his right ear was a stim or a sign of an infection, I knew I would need to hold his head so Dr. M could peer into the ear canals.
Dr. M had other plans.
"Watch this, Philip." Dr. M pressed his index finger over the end of the otoscope before turning on its light. Dr. M's finger glowed red.
"Your turn," he said to Philip. Philip placed his finger on the end of the otoscope, but light leaked from the side. Philip adjusted his finger until it glowed red, too.
"Okay, I'm going to look in your ears," Dr. M announced.
Philip cringed when Dr. M moved the otoscope to his left side. I hovered nearby. "One, two, three!" Dr. M counted.
And Philip giggled.
The process, complete with giggles, repeated on the right side. I stood by in amazement as Philip smiled. Dr. M declared his ears free of infection. I refrained from doing a fist pump.
There were more smiles when the otoscope was aimed toward Philip's nostrils. But there was one more hurdle to overcome: examining Philip's throat.
"Let's see how this goes," Dr. M said to me. "Even the bigger kids hate this." During a previous visit, Dr. M got a look at Philip's throat by making him gag. That strategy wasn't his first choice.
"Look," Dr. M said before opening his own mouth and pointing the light toward it. "Okay, your turn."
Philip clamped his mouth shut.
"Say, 'aah'" I added. Philip didn't respond, but Dr. M included "aah" in his next demonstration.
And Philip opened his mouth and said, "aah."
He opened his mouth!
Dr. M diagnosed Philip with bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic. Philip and I said "thank you" and "goodbye" in our own ways. Considering the circumstances, you'd think I wouldn't have a silly grin on my face as we dodged raindrops on the way to the car. But look at all the things for which I could be thankful? Plus, it didn't stop there. I had a short wait at the pharmacy, so we made it back home before the rain turned to sleet and then into snow.
There are at least ten things of thankful in this post.
More from parenting