“In their tent under the jacaranda, they hatched a plan…”
I heard this phrase, or something like it, a few times on Radio National advertising, and somehow it stuck. It came to revisit me in the wee hours of last night, and the following story came “from out of the Blue”…
“In their tent under the jacaranda, they hatched a plan…”
The next day, Lucas and his little sister Maisie waved goodbye as usual to their mum after she dropped them off at the school gate. They waited until she had driven off before surreptitiously making their way back through the neighbourhood and home again. There was no time to waste: the plan had to be carried out today, while their parents were both at work, allowing enough time to get back to the school gate that afternoon.
Soon, satisfied with the actor’s makeup job they had done, Lucas left the house again and waved to his sister standing at the front window and mouthing “good luck!” and a thumbs up. It wasn’t far to their family doctor’s surgery, and although he didn’t have an appointment, Lucas’ acting skills ensured he was squeezed in to see Dr Campbell by the sympathetic receptionist.
“Whew!” thought Lucas, “that’s the first stage of the plan got through”. He scratched and writhed in the waiting room, so realistically that other patients made sure they gave him a wide berth.
Finally, he was called in by Dr Campbell and ushered to sit on the chair across from the doctor’s desk.
“What can I do for you, young Lucas? It’s unusual for you to come without your mum today, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, Mum was going to come too but something urgent came up at work and so she dropped me off here and will pick me up when I call her,” said Lucas, convincingly.
“So, I can see you’re in a lot of discomfort with that rash of yours. Let me take a good look at it,” said Dr Campbell in his friendly parental tone of voice. Lucas crossed his fingers that the research he’d done on the internet had been sufficient.
“Hmmm, I’ve not seen anything quite like THIS before,” said Dr Campbell. “You’re a bit of a mystery today, Lucas. What do YOU think you have here?”
“Well,” said Lucas in a thoughtful voice, “I did do some looking up on the internet this morning to see if I could figure that out myself, and I THINK I might have “scabbies”?” Lucas deliberately mispronounced the word in a childish way.
“Oh, you mean “scabies”, yes, the marks on your head and neck do seem a bit LIKE scabies…” Dr Campbell intoned wisely. “Now tell me, Lucas, how are the rest of your family at the moment?”
“Well,” answered Lucas cautiously, “my sister Maisie seems to be scratching more than usual, but so far my parents seem OK. Maybe I got it at school?”
“Perhaps, perhaps…and tell me, how’s your grand-dad?”
At this point, Lucas didn’t quite know how to field this unexpected question. His words gushed out before he could think too much because he was holding in so much emotion. “Unfortunately, Grand-dad has just received the news that his Covid test came back positive. He has been told there is no treatment and to stay home and isolate and a community nurse will check on him and see if he will need to be hospitalized. It’s awful, we’re really scared for him. Mum and Dad are putting on a brave face, but Maisie and I have been reading a lot on the internet and we are really, really scared to lose him.”
“I see…” said Dr Campbell. Well, that’s enough stress to make you HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE to scabies, I should think. I’d better write a script for you immediately so you can go to Mrs Laurie and get some medicine for your…for yourself. Now try not to scratch that RASH too much, Lucas, will you?”
And with that, Lucas was given his precious prescription, ushered out, waived on by the receptionist after a signal from Dr Campbell at his door, as he called the next patient in to his office.
“Wow!” thought Lucas, “my acting and makeup must have been better than I thought, that was SO easy!”
Mrs Laurie the pharmacist’s shop was only a block away. When Lucas got there, Mrs Laurie was just finishing a conversation on the phone. She looked up and waived him in. Fortunately it was not a busy time and she took Dr Campbell’s prescription from Lucas’ hand, while looking at his rash, smiled and said “Won’t be long, Lucas, I’ll have that filled in five minutes. You can sit on that chair or browse if you like.”
“Last phase of the plan…going well…” thought Lucas nervously. Five minutes went slowly, but then there was Mrs Laurie in front of him, handing him a packet and saying “Don’t worry about payment, I’ll fix it up with your mum next time she comes in.”
Lucas was ecstatic as he ran home to Maisie, who squealed with delight when she saw the plan had been successful. No time to lose, they raced off to Grand-dad’s flat a block away and left the package at his front door. Then they went home and rang him. He didn’t sound too bad, it having been only two days since he got the first symptoms, just sounded like a bit of a cold.
Lucas said, excitedly, “Grand-dad, we found you a medicine to take for your Covid. It’s called i-v-e-r-m-e-c-t-i-n, and Dr Campbell prescribed it and Mrs Laurie said to take two tablets now, and then again every second day for two weeks.”
Their grandfather was gobsmacked. He’d been trying in vain to get hold of some of this drug, but the Australian TGA had forbidden GP’s to prescribe it off-label for Covid, and pharmacists had been forbidden to dispense it anyway even with such a script. He held on to the phone while he opened the front door, brought in the package and opened it. “You beauty, kids! Don’t know how you pulled that off, but you’re life savers! I didn’t like my chances, but now I’m going to lick this thing.”
The children were so elated they almost floated back to the school gate in time for their mum’s pickup. “And what did you do at school today?” she asked. “Oh, not much,” they chimed, “it was a boring day.”
And that was how the plan that they hatched in the tent under the jacaranda came to bear fruit. And the surprising thing is that word got around, and so did an unusual amount of contagious scabies which tore through the schools, enabling a whole swathe of GP’s, who had been beside themselves with frustration, to prescribe treatments for these itching, scratching children so that they too could save their grandparents from the TGA.
When the rates of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid suddenly turned the corner, it was attributed to the successful vaccination campaign. The politicians patted themselves on the back, the media applauded them, and the TGA smirked in satisfaction. The Big Pharma companies made a mozza and everyone was happy. It was only the epidemiologists who looked at each other, did the calculations, and shook their heads. Something didn’t match up with the predictions, something else was going on…but what? In the end they gave up wondering and just smiled sheepishly.
And it was only much later that Lucas realized that Dr Campbell and Mrs Laurie were a lot smarter and wiser than he had realized at the time, which was lucky, don’t you think?