A young latino couple came to the Emergency Department one day this summer. He looked to be in his early twenties, and she seemed too young to be the mother of the two small boys sitting next to her.
The doctor sighed when he looked at the younger boy’s chart. His parents had brought him into the ER five times in as many months. Runny noses, diarrhea, aches, chills, fevers. It seemed like they rushed to the hospital any time their boys were feeling sub-par, and they probably wouldn’t pay their bill; they were young and uninsured, and visits to the ER are expensive.
This visit was for vomiting and a fever. It had started the day before, and his mother was worried, so we gave him fluids and something for nausea.
An hour later, he still seemed tired and lackluster. But when I offered him a popsicle, a smile flashed across his face and his eyes widened.
“Popsicle?” He asked.
I fished through the freezer next to the nurses’ station. We kept a few different flavors on hand for our younger patients. Finally finding four unique colors, I threaded the short handles through my fingers, brandishing all four in my left hand like so many claws extending from my knuckles.
I knocked at the open door, pushed past the curtain, and swept into the room, popsicles raised in front of me.
“Which one?” I asked.
The younger boy chose, and then the older boy. They both ripped off the wrappers and began eating in quiet contentment, the younger boy seeming to forget his former discomfort. The parents just smiled and refused politely.
I laughed, waved, and left to put the remaining popsicles back in the freezer and find the doctor so we could see our next patient. As we walked into the next room, I tried to remember the last time I’d been cured by a popsicle.