Rubbing alcohol and ‘Little House’

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Everywhere we turn these days, someone is getting sick. It’s either a sinus infection, a plain old bad cold, or the swine flu. Wait. Let me correct that–the H1N1 virus. And I’ve seen more bottles of Germ-X and hand sanitizer everywhere I go than I could ever count.

There’s nothing worse than being sick, especially if you’re a kid. It does have its upside though–you get to stay home from school, watch the soap operas and “Oprah”, or whatever it is they watch today, and eat chicken soup. However, if it’s the real thing, the actual “flu”, it’s no fun whatsoever. You’d rather somebody just dig a hole and go ahead and put you in it.

“Little House on the Prairie” came on every Monday night at 7 o’clock when I was growing up, and I never missed an episode. I had read the entire “Little House” collection of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so naturally I was glued to the TV set every Monday night so I could see what mean thing Nellie Olsen would do and then see how Laura would pay her back.

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One particular Monday night, I was unusually tired, so I just got into bed and turned on “Little House” and snuggled under the covers. Well, by the first set of commercials, I noticed that at some point someone had hit me in the head with an ax, and my eyes were burning. But I remained faithful to my show. By the second set of commercials, I was getting cold, achy, and my teeth were starting to chatter. Yet, I wasn’t about to miss any of my show. But by 7:30, I was freezing to death and pure shaking under the covers. I dragged myself out of bed and went straight to my personal home healthcare—my mama.

“You are burning up!” she said, as she headed for the thermometer and the rubbing alcohol.

The thermometer read 102 degrees. Mama began “rubbing me down” with rubbing alcohol—I don’t even think they do that anymore. Probably against the law now.

The thermometer read 103 degrees. She kept on with the alcohol; all the while I could hear her whispering prayers.

104 degrees. She picked me up and put me in the bathtub filled with cool water and kept splashing it all over me. I always hated that because you’re freezing to death, but your skin is hot and you can’t figure out if it makes you feel better or not.

105 degrees. By now, Mama had called Daddy and he scooped me up and put me in the car and off we went to the emergency room. By that time, I had forgotten all about Laura Ingalls and Nellie Olsen.

“She’s got pneumonia,” Dr. Vernon Stabler, Jr. told my shocked parents.

I felt too bad to even care what I had—I just wanted to feel better.

“That was the worst thing you could do bathing her in rubbing alcohol,” he said.

Mama was flabbergasted. Everyone knew you used rubbing alcohol to bring down a fever.

Dr. Vernon gave me a shot and prescriptions for lots of horse pills. I was supposed to stay in bed and be still. At this point, I had no problem with those instructions.

For the next two weeks, I had to stay at home. I played the snare drum in the marching band, so I missed two football games, and my mama almost made me miss a third one—actually, it wasn’t all her fault. I was so physically weak from the pneumonia, it was hard to stand for a long time, much less play the drums and march on the field.

Today, everybody is scared to death of getting the flu—be it the piggy kind or not. Every time someone so much as sneezes, heads turn and cans of Lysol get sprayed from 15 feet away. Let’s face it-it’s just no fun to be sick.

And I sure wish I could remember which episode of “Little House” I missed that night.