Mom has scabies! To give context — Mom is one month shy of 97. Six weeks ago she fell and fractured her pelvis. In a so-called skilled nursing facility, she suffered mean and neglectful nursing. Also she itched terribly. It wasn’t investigated or diagnosed. Probably designated “old person with an itchy rash”. Different creams were used — to no effect. Then she got a really bad bronchitis. And the terribly itchy rash? Scabies.
The pic on the left is of mom laughing at lunch (after several failed attempts to take a pic with my iPhone camera. Maybe you had to have been there, but it was pretty hilarious).. In the pic on the right, she is waiting for me next to the car in the parking lot, sitting on her walker, after she walked to the car faster than me! I know, huh? She doesn’t look like she’s got scabies, or like she’s suffering. This is one hour before the Dermatology appointment and the diagnosis. That’s how she rolls. A trouper! (was she also suffering? Indeed, she was.)
You might ask, how’d she get scabies? I’ll tell you. Scabies happen. Just like polycystic kidney disease happens (and happened to my friend Lisa). Just like polio happened to me as a kid. Just like all kinds of things… happen. Life. The whole megillah.
Whenever I get a cold, Mom asks me how’d you get that? Usually followed with speculation on the many possible causes. Like I didn’t dress warmly enough, or I’ve been working too hard, or not getting enough rest, or hanging out with the wrong people. Sometimes I get annoyed with her because her concern feels like an accusation. Like it’s my fault. I should know better. Mom’s worries and unsolicited advice happen. Probably an elder female-of-the- species thing. Maybe intensified by the other worried moms she hangs out with (whose children have also long ago flown the coop).
Because I’m a nurse and know the gazillions of organisms that thrive on damp faucet knobs and the door handle you grab on your way out of a public restroom, I’m uber-meticulous about my hand-washing and drying technique. Of course, it’s super important in hospitals, especially for patients whose immune systems might be compromised. Also hospitals are notorious for super-bugs (super-resistant to treatment) so it’s important to be careful not to spread them around.
I once tried to teach my sister proper hand-washing technique when we were sharing the multi-stall restroom at the Senior Living place where mom resides. I noticed the numerous steps she did wrong in her hand-washing and drying. I corrected her. She took one correction willingly, graciously. With my second suggestion, I sensed some resistance. By the third or fourth, she was done with me and my ways.
My sister works full time, is on a rowing team, bicycles long distances, is on the Board of Los Padres Forest Watch, and often goes camping with her husband and kids. She’s an entirely clean person, but she’s not finicky, and because she hasn’t seen the scary videos nurses get taught from, she’s cool with a little campground dirt (which is of course far less risky than what’s on the handles of public bathrooms). My sister occasionally gets sick, but probably not as often as me (the professional hand washer).
What I’m saying is Yes, try to figure out what happened (to maybe avoid it next time), take some precautions, but don’t get carried away. Cause… stuff happens… to the best, the most careful, the most reasonable of us. There’s only so much of the downside of life one can avoid.
Even, given all the odds and all the hand washing in the world, Trump happened. Sh*t happens. (LOL, you knew I wasn’t going to stay personal for ever).
Mom is now on the right medications and hopefully the infection will clear up. I need to call the senior living place and discuss their upholstered dining room chairs with them. Warn them of a possible outbreak (because another guy who sits at Mom’s table every night has had the same symptoms for 3 months! — as yet undiagnosed). My Mom had wanted to keep mum about her scabies. You know… embarrassment and fear of shunning. But when I explained to her friends why we wouldn’t be joining them for dinner, two (of the loveliest and most “together’) said they’d also gotten scabies since moving in to the place. (This also happens. Scabies in senior living centers, nursery schools, college dorms. You get the picture).
I’m doing what I can to help remedy the situation. But still I know “sh*t happens”. In the meantime, I’m en route back to San Francisco where my dermatologist has already called in a scabies prescription medication for me. I didn’t hug my mom good-bye this morning. We threw kisses to each other standing two feet apart. (Scabies don’t jump.) I also didn’t hug my friend Raul when he picked me up at the airport. Sure, I’m longing for welcome home hugs, but fortunately (unlike our Lying-thief-in-Chief) I’ve learned as part of growing up about delayed gratification, and taking care not to harm others.
I’ll take my western medicine, then return to the important medicine of life — hugs.
the pic mom took of me with my iPhone as we were saying good-bye yesterday morning. She was proud of this pic. I was proud of her.