Column: Whether Horse or Zebra, I Ended Up Trampled | Opinion

Aug 22, 2021

In medical school, the common tool taught young doctors is, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” That is, don’t go off looking for the exotic diagnosis when it’s more likely to be something commonplace.

I never entertained the thought of taking a chemistry class in college, much less study for pre-med, but I fancy myself as knowing a little something about medicine — or thinking I do.

When Ayden came home from football practice complaining of what looked like bug bites on his arms and hands and neck, the first horse I rode was bed bugs. All the bedding got washed and sanitized.

The “bites” then grew more numerous on his hands and turned into what appeared to be a rash.

“Maybe you’re reacting to a fertilizer or some other chemical on the field when you put your hands down,” I said. Another reasonable “horse,” right?

Nay. The rash broke out around his mouth and feet. Enough of my Witchdoctor for Dummies diagnoses. Time for a real medical intervention. Off to the doctor we went.

“You’ve got hand-foot-mouth disease,” said the pediatrician within two seconds of looking.

“We don’t see too many cases of that in someone this old,” said the doctor. “They’re usually much younger.”

So much for the horses. The hoofbeats I had heard, after all, were those of a zebra. Lesson learned, right?

Nay. The next day, I started getting sick: muscle aches, chills and high fever, wickedly sore throat.

The circle of self diagnosis began anew. Did I even think maybe I had hopped a ride on Ayden’s zebra, since it is wildly contagious?

Of course not. I went looking for more horses. Since COVID is “the thing,” I was sure I had a vaccination-

breakthrough case of COVID. Or the flu. Or strep throat. So I told the nurse practitioner, who obligingly ordered up tests for all three. I got my nostrils reamed out not once but twice, then they stuck a two-by-four down my throat for the strep swab. By the time I was done, I thought I’d been trampled by my horses.

I was a bit unhappy a few hours later to get negative results for all three. You’ve got to be really sick to be rooting for a strep or COVID diagnosis.

It all became clear the next morning when rashes began popping up on my palms, fingers, wrists, bottoms of my feet, thighs, head — you name it, it was breaking out. I’d been trampled by Ayden’s zebra. Maybe I needed a veterinarian?

Since it was the weekend, my fiancee drove me to a FirstHealth Convenient Care clinic, where we waited in the car for a nurse to come out.

As she pulled up to the car, I rolled down my window and said the first thing that came to mind: “I’d like a cheeseburger with fries.” Hey, it looked like I was at a Sonic.

When I asked how often she heard that line, she paid me a high compliment: “Oh, you’re the first.” To her credit, she was the one who said she’s surprised she’s not on roller skates in going from car to car.

The doctor came out a few minutes later. I saved the joke and got to business.

“I think I have hand-foot-mouth disease,” I said, flashing my palms.

“Yeah, you do,” he said.

“Wanna see my feet too?”

“Uh, no. You’re good.”

I did not ask him what size roller skates he wears. He looked busy. I appreciated the quick diagnosis and the prescription of an antiviral to help alleviate symptoms.

It’s taken a few days, but Ayden and I are solidly on the mend. Oddly, for something so contagious, neither of the women in the house — my daughter, Loreleigh, or fiancee, Catherine — came down with anything.

We still have no clue where Ayden landed this rather exotic medical trot. I’ve put my foot in my mouth plenty of times with no ill effects, other than mild embarrassment and sheepishness.

Now, apparently, I’ve got a little zebra running through me.

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