Opinion: Beware the monsters in your medicine cabinet

By Sam Oberholtzer, Ranchos de Taos.
Posted 5/2/19

I don't know if you all noticed, but two of the brightest lights in the universe threatened to go out. I was at work, getting ready to call it a day when my mom called. She informed me that my two …

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Opinion: Beware the monsters in your medicine cabinet

Posted

I don't know if you all noticed, but two of the brightest lights in the universe threatened to go out. I was at work, getting ready to call it a day when my mom called. She informed me that my two girls (ages 4 and 6) had just taken an unknown amount of some of her medications and asked what she should do. After thinking about it, I looked up the number for Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222, and told her to call.

I didn't hear from her again until the steady stream of nightmare scenarios playing through my head forced me to drive directly to the emergency room. I just had the time to put my hands on the girls' shoulders, to feel the life in them, before we were called. It turns out the beta blockers they took can stop their hearts. Crying acceptance of IV ports, stoic ingestion of a greater than stomach-sized dose of activated charcoal, comically black lips - meet the helicopter crew.

"She goes first, she's smaller and potentially took more." On the gurney, pat her shoulder, catch her eye - I said, "Be strong," and off she went. While prepping the second one, I finally realized the stupidity of my plan to drive and meet them down there. I had to fly with her. It's an hour to Albuquerque in an aircraft smaller than an SUV inside. No wonder they needed two.

At UNM, observe ... wait … observe. "They seem fine now, but it can turn ugly really fast." At about 12:30 a.m., a nurse informed me that Poison Control and the doctors had determined that, since they had been without symptoms for six hours, they could be released. We caught it in time. It took a while for it to sink in. The machines would never beep frantically; neither of my girls were going to be spirited off to another room, leaving me to despair and worry. Their inventive, playful minds wouldn't be deprived of oxygen. Their bright eyes won't turn dull and unfocused as their body betrayed them. It was going to be OK.

I write this as a cautionary tale. It's not just the prescription pain meds and cherry-flavored Tylenol that can cause harm, but any medication. Keep them out of reach. Even though they are above the age where they randomly stick things in their mouth, that doesn't mean that the allure of something forbidden won't tempt them to try it. Talk to them about it again and again. I'm not sure that my kids fully understand the severity of what happened, even now. If something does happen, Poison Control (did I say 1-800-222-1222) is your greatest ally. I hope you never have to experience this. Thanks to all the medical professionals who made this right. Please be safe.

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