Digested week: I feel like a million dollars on my child’s prescription flu medicine

Monday

With the news full of alarm about this winter’s “tripledemic” – rising case numbers of RSV, flu and Covid, particularly among children – when my child’s fever hits 103F late on Monday, I do something I hate: drag her around the corner to urgent care, the 24-hour drop-in clinic where for $150 you can be seen immediately by a doctor who’s never seen you before and will never see you again. It’s the fast food of healthcare, right down to the décor – which consists, unnervingly, of wall-to-wall framed photos of TV doctors, as if the place is cosplaying medical help and the clinicians have all been booked from central casting.

Actually, the doctor is very nice, and after running the tests says it’s flu. He prescribes Tamiflu, surprisingly – through a combination of low efficacy in children, supply issues and a requirement to take it within 48 hours of first showing symptoms, we’ve never been prescribed it before – and sends us home with the words: “It turns some children cuckoo, so keep an eye on her.”

It doesn’t turn her cuckoo. The next morning, however, I start to feel symptoms myself, and in the time-honoured tradition of repurposing other people’s prescriptions – the OxyContin left over from my C-section ended up with a friend of a friend who’d been in a car crash, while her own stash of Percocet, a life-saver when she threw out her back, came from a stockpile of her wife’s cancer meds – I neck some of my seven-year-old’s Tamiflu. Better, I think, to head it off at the pass, experience brief, probably psychosomatic nausea, wonder if I should pretend to have spilled the bottle to get a refill without visiting the doctor, decide that risks flagging me for substance abuse, pick a random dosage for myself and throw back some more. I’ve been taking Tamiflu all week and while my daughter still has flu – four days off school and counting – I feel like a million dollars.

Tuesday

I don’t know if you’ve been following this story about the compulsive liar on the writing staff at the TV show Grey’s Anatomy? Briefly: Elisabeth Finch, a longtime writer on the medical drama who had talked and written about using her experience as a cancer survivor to inform the show’s storylines, turns out not only to have never had cancer, but to have lied quite spectacularly about a bunch of other things, too.

Everyone loves a good hoaxer unmasked story and this one’s a corker. Among the 44-year-old’s lies, chronicled in Peter Kiefer’s blockbuster interview with Finch for the Angler this week, were that she’d lost a kidney; that she’d been a regular worshipper at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where in 2018 a terrorist gunman killed 11 people, one of whom she said she knew (she didn’t); that her brother had taken his own life (he’s alive and well and living in Florida); and, the big one, that she’d survived metastatic cancer after being diagnosed with a spine tumour that, among other things, led her to show up at work with a dummy catheter taped to her arm and a shaved head to mimic someone undergoing chemo. “I miss my fellow writers,” Finch said in the interview. “It’s like a family and … one of the things that makes it so hard is that they did rally around a false narrative that I gave.”

False narrative is certainly one way of putting it, and after explaining that her lying is itself a clinical condition – ironic! – Finch wonders idly if she might be forgiven sufficiently to score a seat in the Handmaid’s Tale writers’ room.

Wednesday

To Congress, and the spectacle of the Missouri representative Vicky Hartzler breaking down in sorrow at the prospect of gay Americans having too many rights. Discussion of the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act was a dry affair until Hartzler took the floor, argued that the bill threatened the lives of decent, God-fearing Americans, and then started, incredibly, to cry. In the weirdest episode of political weeping since Matt Hancock mopped his eyes on Good Morning Britain, Hartzler concluded with a wobbly plea against “this misguided and dangerous bill”. Moments later, the bill passed, to loud applause, after the defection of 39 Republicans to the Democrats’ side, although it should be added that while requiring each state to recognise another state’s legal marriage, it doesn’t force all states to legalise same-sex marriage in the event that the supreme court overturns – as it did Roe v Wade – federal law protecting that right.

Camilla, the Queen Consort, with a reindeer
Picture of the week: ‘Oh god, she didn’t ask if you’re originally from the north pole, did she?’ Photograph: Paul Grover/AP

Thursday

A rough day in journalism as staff of the New York Times strike for better pay, entreating us to boycott their website – a friend forgets, does a Wordle, then frantically texts “am I a scab?” – just as the entire world media grind to a halt to watch Meghan and Harry on Netflix. “We’ve had an emergency 6am video conference about how to handle the day’s revelations,” says a friend at a tabloid.

I’ve had a quick look, obviously, and unless I’m missing something: didn’t we know all of this already? Didn’t Oprah already have this story? I’m sympathetic to Harry, and I’m inclined to be on the side of anyone who can trigger a public meltdown in Kelvin MacKenzie. Equally, I find it hard to believe, per Meghan’s account, that she’d never seen footage of someone curtseying to the Queen, heard the British national anthem, or understood that royalty might be a hierarchy-based system made up of people who aren’t the warmest or most welcoming in the world. Although the main takeaway is, obviously, what a shameful waste the series is of Liz Garbus, one of the greatest documentary makers in American history, reduced to peddling PR guff for this pair.

Friday

Honouring the digital picket line means I have to wait a day to catch up on Diagnosis, my favourite New York Times column, otherwise known as the weekly I-thought-I-had a-cold-but-in-fact-I’m-dying column. You think you are tired and just need to eat a banana? Think again, sucker. Here comes a man with exactly your symptoms who turned out to have orthostatic hypotension. Thought you tripped over in the street because of an uneven paving slab? Check out the story of this woman who thought the same thing, then had to be rushed into hospital for emergency surgery. I’m thinking of writing in with my own contribution. Thought you’d casually chug someone else’s prescription medicine and get off scot-free? This person did that and believe me, they’ve been high as a kite all week.