By Dr. Paul Ehrlich
After Indiana Jones risked life and limb for two hours looking for the Ark of the Covenant, the object of his quest was packed in a crate and stored in a vast government warehouse where it would no doubt still be gathering dust if the story were true. I was reminded of this scene when a mother came to me to ask what to do with a request from the New York City Department of Education (DOE) for a full medical history to accompany her paperwork in support of her child’s need for an epinephrine injector at school.
She asked me, more or less, “What do they need that for? Isn’t your word as an allergist enough?”
I answered, more or less, “Beats me. They never needed it before.” So, like Indiana Jones before me, I grabbed my trusty bullwhip—an appropriate weapon for the bull I was likely to encounter—and set out to find my way through the DOE bureaucracy in pursuit of that most elusive of all objects: a straight and sensible answer to a commonsense question. Okay, it was a telephone, not a bullwhip.
I had done battle with the labyrinthine educational bureaucracy before. Years ago, as readers of our book will recall, I started a program in a number of public schools to provide specialty care for worst-of-the-worst asthma patients. The only reason I was able to succeed was that one of my best friends from college happened to be Chancellor of the school system at the time. Even though the program was successful, it was not without its frustrations; as I wrote here recently, I once had to bend the rules to treat a kid who was blue from lack of oxygen during an asthma attack. Unfortunately, it was impossible to sustain the program.
This time, I did manage to get through to the DOE health division. That was the easy part. However, I was bounced from desk to desk, with more waiting time between each than the intervals between Raiders of the Lost Ark and the sequels, or so it seemed, and no good answers. No one knew who made the decision to require the additional intrusions into this child’s health, no one knew why it was made, and no one knew who might look at all the paperwork. Regardless, in these economically pinched times, I sincerely hope the City of New York has better things to do than hire an army of health professionals to review these records.
I have a feeling I know what will become of it, however. It will sit on a shelf, unread, in the bowels of some warehouse, gathering dust, like the Ark. I told the mother not to bother. Stocking epi is not conditional on this information. Let them talk to me. I’m ready.
Photograph by indygear.com