Welcome to Erickson Pharmacy

Ever since I went on the hospital tour, I have been doing everything possible to avoid taking anyone to the doctor.  We have been fairly lucky—no emergencies, yet—and the illnesses around here have been minor.  The kids have had colds, of course, and Lucas had an asthma flare up that made me realize that we didn’t bring enough of his medicine.  That problem was solved with a few phone calls home, grandparent involvement, and a fortuitous trip to the US by one of Mark’s colleagues.

Our relative good health was bound to end, though.  It was only a matter of time before we would have to venture out and try one of the pediatricians here in Shanghai.  Our first incident occurred when Lucas came downstairs after his bath and announced that he had chicken pox.  All of the kids have been vaccinated so this would be highly improbable, but the bumps all over his chest did look suspiciously like the pox.  They were spreading, and a quick glance at Google images had me convinced that he might be right.  There had been a recent note from one of the schools about students coming down with chicken pox, so when Henry and Ava also had the red bumps, I panicked and called our pediatrician in Baltimore.  With the time difference, I was lucky enough to be able to reach him during his morning call time and catch him before he left for the office.  How great is that, by the way, that you can call him in the morning to chat before he goes to work?

Dr. Bodnar was extremely patient with me as he explained that there was no way we could have chicken pox.  Highly improbable.  When I pressed for a diagnosis he told me that he couldn’t say without seeing them and, obviously, that wasn’t going to happen.  We would need to see someone here.  Erg.  So off we went in the morning to a new pediatrician.

The office visit was uneventful, really.  The pediatrician was fine and the kids liked her though I missed home and the ease of our old routine.  They were able to fit all three kids in at the same time, for better or worse, and they ruled out chicken pox pretty quickly.  It turned out the kids had hot tub folliculitus.  In other words, we had caught something from bacteria in the clubhouse hot tub.  Gross!  Even worse, we had invited a friend to the pool and she had the same rash.  Who wants a play date with the Ericksons?  Our pool has bacteria!  Come on over!

They gave us some antibiotic cream which we never used since it all cleared up in a matter of days.  Even more exciting, the doctor told me that they keep Lucas’ asthma medicine in stock.  Hooray!  Would we like some?  Of course we would!  Here is where China is vastly different from home.  The pharmacy is located in the doctor’s office.  This is lucky because it is usually in the main part of the hospital and this would have been very hard to navigate without reasonable spoken Mandarin.  The doctor wrote the prescriptions and then they were filled one desk over.  You wait for them to check you out and to pay any fees and then you get your medicine.  Because few things are available over the counter, people will stock up whenever they go to the doctor on things like pain relievers and cold medicine.

Since we were stocking up, I had several boxes to pick up at the pharmacy counter.  Once I got there the pharmacist had a lengthy discussion with me about how to mix the medicine before Lucas used it.  What?  Mix it?  I didn’t understand.  He explained that none of it was mixed so I would need to measure the saline and then the medicine and then put it in the nebulizer.  Ok… I am not at all comfortable with that, but if this is the way things work then I can roll with it.  Apparently, I am the pharmacist’s assistant!  He has an awful lot of faith in me if he is just going to let me mix things at home, but apparently his job is only to hand me the boxes.  The doctor had made it seem so straightforward.  She hadn’t mentioned that I needed to do more than just open the package.

The same thing happened when Henry had to go back to the doctor the next week for a possible ear infection.  An ear infection that I didn’t believe he had because sometimes I am an awesome mother.  Honestly, he had no fever and he was skipping around and jumping in the air and only occasionally complaining that his ear sort of hurt.  So off we went again and once again I stood befuddled at the pharmacy counter.  I had heard that in China they preferred IV antibiotics and that had made me wary of taking the kids in for things like an ear infection.  The pediatrician thought this was funny.  Of course they had oral antibiotics!  We would start with our old friend amoxicillin!  She only had capsules, but that would work out fine!

Cut to the pharmacy again where I stood rereading the directions on the box of antibiotic capsules.  Lucky I had read them at all since I thought I was just going to be giving Henry a capsule or two every so often.  The directions told me to mix the contents of two capsules with 20 ml of water and to give Henry 14 ml twice a day.  What?  20 ml to mix but 14 ml per dose?  Why didn’t the pharmacist just mix the damn stuff for me?  The pediatrician had said we could mix it with juice or something to get him to take the capsules, but the box said I needed to mix it before I even tried to make it edible.  I asked the pharmacist and he blinked at me several times before answering.  Since Henry didn’t weigh enough to just take two full capsules, I needed to open the capsules and mix their contents with liquid and then take out the correct dosage for his weight.  His job really was just to hand me the boxes!  He even handed me a bottle with the label “simple syrup” on it and instructed me that I could use this to make the medicine taste better.  Sure thing, don’t worry about me!  No, no, you just sit there and finish your tea!  I can do all this “pharmacy” stuff when I get home!

So for the past few days I have been attempting to mix a stiff cocktail of antibiotic goodness for Mr. Doodle.  I have begun mixing it with chocolate syrup but I have no idea if the doses I am giving him are right.  I assume they are close enough because he has stopped complaining about his ear.  Just wait until I get a chance to work my magic on Lucas!  Who knew I was such a good pharmacist?

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