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The Tamiflu Scare: A Mother's Close Encounter

Author: Ellen Taleon, Issue: April 2007, Topic: Medical

I was awakened from the monotony of my daily office routine when my son's homeroom teacher called me up in the middle of a busy Thursday morning while I was literally in the middle of work. Since my cell phone does not usually ring during office hours unless in emergencies, the ring had an ominous tone to it. And sure enough, the teacher was reporting that my 11-year old son was having 38.6 Celsius fever and had to go home in the middle of the day. Since kids usually have this fever from colds or coughs, I just attributed it to a simple fever from some minor respiratory illnesses.

Never did I think that it could be worse than that until I spent two consecutive sleepless nights with my son and him having to toss and turn because of his steadily increasing temperatures from 38 to 39 until the really, really scary 40 degree mark was breached. And that was when we realized that he had the flu or something worse than that, which needed more than paracetamol or over-the-counter medications to control. So we bundled our son off to the doctor, who was very kind as usual. He made us wait for only a short while, while he attended to another patient, and then our turn came.

After letting my son be comfortably seated, he inserted a cotton swab into my son's nostrils and mouth, which my little boy patiently endured much to his credit. My son is known for not crying out in pain despite having his forehead stitched 5 times when he was just 6 years old because he is too shy to show emotions in front of other people. But he is known to cry like a baby for the merest of pinch from his two ever tease-ready sisters. Just to call our attention.

Anyway, after a waiting time of a mere 15 minutes the doctor had his verdict. My son had Influenza A and he promptly dispensed some medication for him. One for fever, another for runny nose, another for coughs, until he came to the anti-flu medication. Hmmmm, the very notorious Tamiflu (Oseltamivir phosphate) which sounded so familiar that my husband and I glanced at each other surreptitiously. In Japan, people have been known to jump out of buildings after having taken Tamiflu, but only in Japan.

And so the doctor said with so much flourish to watch out for our son, not so much because of his high fever but to prevent him from jumping out of our window while he is taking the Tamiflu drug. For a moment, I had sickening visions of watching my precious little boy take a dive out of our bedroom window except that I can not sustain the horror for a long time since there are only maybe 6 inches from our French door window to the pavement. To my sweet relief, I realized that we are staying in the ground floor of our apartment building after all.

Still, I had some bad moments imagining what hallucinations will come out of my young son's mind while he will be in the grip of this hallucinogenic drug, masquerading as an anti-flu medication. This was confirmed when an Internet search confirmed that at least 100 people taking Tamiflu had taken flying leaps from windows, or balconies, into the paths of trains, etc, especially in Japan.

For a while, I was really watching out for my son, trying to notice any slight change in his personality, any Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde manifestation, only sleeping very barely because he was of course in the grip of a series of very, very high 40 degree fevers. Even for a seasoned mother of three, it was almost too much for me. Until finally, the fever broke and subsided and my son was finally able to sleep without me having to force him to drink something to rehydrate him or without me having to continuously wipe his brows and neck with some washcloth soaked in tepid water, every 30 minutes at least, to keep him refreshed lest the fever fried his brain, or so I thought.

And today, I am so happy to let my son go to school again, almost back to his old self. Having survived the near fatal fate of jumping from the window of our ground floor apartment. Oops. What a relief it is. Now I can confidently say that Tamiflu as the Number 1 doctor-prescribed flu medicine or vaccine is not the worst of the options between jumping into the fire and the deep blue sea because I have seen how it works, up close and personal. Just follow the doctor’s advice and of course keep trailing behind the sick person wherever he goes. I even followed my son to the toilet during the entire course of his sickness while he had diarrhea and vomiting, keeping my fingers crossed all the time. Who knows? You know I was thinking that the toilet window might possibly serve as a launching pad for a feverish budding Superman. And so Wonderwoman was right behind all the time. Tamiflu anyone?

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