Excerpted from Dr. Lance Fogan’s novel, DINGS
Chapter 20 (continued): Part II
That evening I stood in the doorway of the kids’ bathroom and watched Sam tell Conner about the anti-seizure medication. “Conner, the doctor said that you need to take these Dilantin capsules or you could start shaking again.” Sam forced a hesitant smile, gauged Conner’s response and his expectant face, and continued, “So you need to swallow these capsules. You have to take one of these smaller ones with a drink of water every morning. Then, you have to take this bigger one—this one with the red stripe—every night before bed. We’re going to start with the bigger one.”
“No! It’s too big, Daddy. I won’t! I can’t swallow that!” A vein throbbed in Conner’s neck and his eyes brimmed with tears. He kicked the lower cabinet door under the sink. “I won’t do it!”
“Conner, stop that right now! I am not going to argue with you about this! You’re going to take this medicine,” Sam ordered. “Here’s a glass of water. Put the capsule in your mouth and swallow it with some water. It will go right down. Open up.”
It was difficult to watch them, but I didn’t butt in.
I saw Sam’s hand tremble as he placed the capsule on our son’s swollen and discolored tongue. Conner wrinkled his nose and took a sip of water from the glass. He immediately started to gag.
“Here! Swallow, Conner! Hold your head over the sink!” Sam’s attempt at self-control was pathetic. He was about to lose it.
Conner retched a couple times and spit the capsule out with the water. He sobbed, “I can’t swallow it! I’ll choke!”
Sam grimaced. “Come on, Conner,” he said as he retrieved the capsule from the sink. “You can do it. Try again.” The boy began to cry even harder and kicked the cupboard again. “Stop it! Stop kicking!”
He grabbed Conner’s arm. Sam’s face blazed with fury.
I unfolded my arms and moved forward. “Hold on, Sam! Sam! Stop!” Conner’s screams muffled my protestations.
“Ahhhowwww! You’re hurting me! Stop it, Daddy! Stop it! You’re hurting me!”
“Sam! Sam, enough! Let me try. You wait downstairs. Conner and I will get it down. Go ahead. I’ll be down in a minute.”
Sam dropped Conner’s arm and shook his head. “Okay. Yeah, I’ll go downstairs. I’m sorry, Conner.” He handed me the capsule, turned on a military heel and left.
Conner sobbed, “Owww. Daddy hurt my arm, Mom!”
“He didn’t mean to, honey. He didn’t mean it. Come on. I’ll help you take it.”
“I won’t t-take it! It’s n-not fair!” He screamed between sobs. “Why do I have to t-take that pill? It’s too big! I’ll ch-choke!”
“I know, Conner. It’s hard to do new things sometimes. But it’s very, very important that you swallow this pill.” At that moment the tune from Mary Poppins, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” sprang into mind. “Do you think that if I put it in some ice cream, or maybe chocolate milk, you’d be able to swallow it? I think it would be a lot easier. Let’s try that, okay?”
Conner’s demeanor immediately softened. I flashed him a smile. I should have asked Dr. Choy to give us a liquid form of the Dilantin if there was one. Conner would have to swallow this tonight, but if he couldn’t get it down I would call Dr. Choy.
He sobbed a couple of times and wiped tears with his pajama sleeve.
“Let’s go to the kitchen and put the capsule in some chocolate ice cream.” I took his hand and we went downstairs.
“Did he take it?” Sam called. He was sitting on the couch in the den, holding a glass half-filled with an amber liquid. An open whiskey bottle was on the coffee table. “I’m sorry that I grabbed you, son. Forgive me, Conner?”
“Yeah, Daddy, but you squeezed my arm real hard,” he answered as he wiped his nose with the sleeve of his free hand.
“He’s going to take it with chocolate ice cream.” I said with a grin and began to sing, “A-spoonful-of-sugar-la-da-da-da-da-da.” Conner sat in his usual seat at the kitchen table. He had a sheepish grin. I got the ice cream out of the freezer and scooped some into a bowl. Sam walked in, the newspaper clenched in one hand and the glass in the other.
I put a large spoonful into his mouth as he mumbled, “Whipped cream?”
“Whipped cream! What a great idea, Conner! Sure.” I took the can of whipped cream out of the refrigerator and shook it. “Here’s what we’ll do: swallow that chocolate spoonful, and then we put the Dilantin capsule on your tongue. You open wide, I’ll squirt the whipped cream into your mouth and you swallow it right down. Okay?”
A broad grin appeared and he nodded.
“Open wide.” I put the capsule on his tongue, tilted the can and depressed the nozzle. A white mass hissed and billowed as it squirted into his mouth. His cheeks puffed out. He swallowed.
“Open.” I peered in. “It worked!” I looked at Sam. We all laughed.
“Hey, can I try that?”
“Open up, Daddy,” I said, as I squirted the whipped cream into his mouth.
Conner squealed with laughter.
“That’s a great technique, guys. Ice cream and whipped cream whenever you need it, Conner.”
Conner beamed. “Yeah, Daddy, that way I can eat the medicine.”
“Okay, honey. You did great. Now, floss and brush and get into bed. Daddy will come up to tuck you in after me. Let’s go.”
I turned and glared at the glass in my husband’s hand. “Put that away.” I mouthed the words and followed Conner upstairs.
Lance Fogan, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “DINGS” is his first novel. It is a mother’s dramatic story that teaches epilepsy, now available in eBook, audiobook and soft cover editions.