Friday, December 7, 2012

Weaving My Death Shroud ... Call me Penelope

I just finished doing one of my favorite things:  giving a beautiful recommendation for a favorite teacher I’d hired a couple of years ago.  Looks like he landed his dream job! He and I taught together at a classical charter school I’d had the privilege to help ‘found.’

After the administrator and I hung up today, I was chuckling to myself about one of her questions:  “What would you say your title is right now?” 

“Unemployed,” and we both laughed. 

But doing the whole industry-Iingo chatter for a glorious near-hour made me feel, when we hung up, like a teacher again, home playing hooky! This reminded me of my first classical charter school experience, when – after going in to teach with a variety of minor ailments and forgoing family events in our inaugural year (we had no substitutes) -- I finally missed my first work-day that spring.  I had a leg injury.

Working at schools with classical humanities curricula does nothing if not provide Ancient metaphors and dramatic literary excerpts for every occasion.

I insisted everyone “call me Penelope...  as I weave my death shroud
. . .  for I have a venomous thigh-'festation -- black and murderous -- filled with INCALCULABLE Mini-Medusa heads -- which must by order of Hera be TORN from their ROOT and cast down before the Assembly --  and left to rot as feasts for dogs and birds, as Zeus's will is done -- C.Givelope”

At first no one knew what the problem was: possibly a toxic spider bite our School Nurse became alarmed over, as did the Registrar, Guidance, and our World Language Department named Jan. (I wanted several second opinions that it looked horrific, since, technically, I could not see it. This injury was located on my ‘dorsal’ thigh and at the time I didn’t own a periscope.)

It was baffling, how fast it came on.

The previous evening, it felt like a sore muscle, but since I had forgotten to do my 3-hour Pilates/Spin Class and 30-K Run that day, I decided to find a mirror to see what the problem was.

After repairing to my bedroom, I hoisted my leg atop the mirror’d bureau to catch a glimpse.

I instantly self-diagnosed flesh eating bacteria or religious stigmata …and while I was almost correct, the point is … I lost my balance, toppled backwards into the ironing board along with the actual iron, which after it hit the floor lost its bottom panel along with electrical wires and a large pool of iron-water, all of which I was lying in … waiting for electrocution.

(Luckily the iron had not been plugged in since 2004)

Meanwhile, the sepsis due to spider venom coursed through my femoral artery where it jetison’d to my heart, which was now palpitating. 

That’s when Abigail came in.

“Whatcha doin down there? Jake just brought CHINESE FOOD!”

Later that evening I caused four available family members to view and describe for me the heinous blight afflicting my thigh. 

My son, a WPI graduate of Biotechnology, rolled his eyes, cracked two fortune cookies then announced, “Looks fine,” and sped back to Boston.

Everyone else went to bed. 

Abby:  "Take a Tylenol.  'NIGHT!!"

By the time I arrived at school the next morning, I had to limp to prevent the artifact... of horror... from touching my other thigh or my own skirt or air molecules... so I hobbled off dragging my dead right leg behind me and presented it to our School Nurse.

She was very cool-headed.

”No Pass? No Nurse,”  she said, typing away at her keyboard.

So I revealed the visage...

School Nurse: "Oh MY.  Let's lock the door."

(First she closed it.)  "I'm getting a ruler to measure this."

"Really?  Well, while you're doing that could you get me a mirror? I've not exactly seen this... horrific entity... exactly."

School Nurse perking up. "You HAVEN'T!? GREAT!" 

She passed me an Industrial Strength Whale-Thigh-Viewing Mirror the size of Nebraska. My hand developed apoplectic neural spasms from trying to hold it aloft.

Then she rolled forward on titanium casters a mechanical contraption sporting a twelve-million watt surgical lamp from hell.

It gave me gamma-style radiation burns and the glare off the angry red entity blinded me.  I could hardly drive home in the rain later in the morning.

But before the Blinding, I gasped.    It was exquisite.

Picture a Mars-Red Football -- or blood-colored basketball.

My entity was twenty times larger.  The School Nurse measured it.  It was 70 mm by 40 mm. 

In case you are unfamiliar with the metric system, "mm" means "miles / mountain" -- and wild algorithms using the Richter Scale help medical personnel convert the 'mm's ... to "cubits."  [Oh, in ancient Russia, during the winter solstice, they used "vershoks."  These involved electricity.]

So I apparently had... a "cubit." 

A cubit is a three-dimensional elliptical 'cube' sporting 'bits' of red inflammation in the pattern of a football. A cubit is found on thigh-parts so remote, the victim may never view it, according to Zeus, and will be rendered blind if they try.

And so it was. Call me Oedipus-'elope.

The School Nurse insisted that all cubits must by Oath of Hippocrates and liability be swiftly assessed by physicians...(these originated in Ancient Greece, too.)

When it was evident I was not dashing instantly to an ancient physician, the School Nurse noted that cubits, if caused by the Wily Brown Recluse spider, could cause tissue to break down much like flesh-eating bacteria!

This was exciting!  I’d come to this conclusion, myself!

So after getting requisite second opinions from at least three easily-alarmed friends, I decided I would go see a physician. (Our Registrar was appalled I didn't summon a National Guard Medical Helicopter to spirit me to a nearby field-surgical unit... that I, instead, was showing her a Final Exam asking permission to use the office photocopier because the one in the FACULTY lounge is too painful to walk to cuz I---     "I'LL DO IT, CAROLYN!  25 COPIES? GREAT. GO.")

Once I was satisfied my departure would cause as much chaos as possible, I decided to leave.

Departure trauma unfolded.

The History Department appeared, herding an array of children to my now-empty classroom to finish their history exams – whereupon the Latin Department appeared announcing he was covering for Chemistry who was GOING to cover for ME but couldn't due to an emergency parent meeting.

Next a Classroom-Aide arrived with Chemistry students for the Latin Department to teach – and suddenly, several sets of children were bottlenecked in the mini-hall in front of my class.

Unaware of the unfolding mayhem, the history department began dragging a few extra chairs from Detention to my classroom for the History Final Remainders, with Chemistry students now scaling and leaping over the chairs while they were in motion.

I was transfixed. 

Thankfully, our principal arrived with a clipboard.

She and her clipboard squeezed past the children and the musical chairs and the Chemistry Kids A-Leaping and –

 -- I found myself in the hallway pinned to a glass wall overlooking the staircase with my throbbing entity and briefcases and satchels ALL unwittingly injuring children and staff as they smeared past me.

Most Cubit Victims get appointments by Healers from their work station telephones, then tarry off at the appointed hour.

But due to my classroom phone being ensconced in chaos, and my documented disability where I cannot drive anywhere I haven't already been driven to thrice -- and since my cell phone was buried in my sofa -- I drove home in sudden horizontal, ark-esque driving downpours.

To use my home phone. 

I called my spouse to see if he wouldn't love taking half a day to drive me since it IS my favorite driving leg that will be incapacitated from toxins and spores and bacilli long before I get to any healers -- during the apocalyptic floods. He answered his cell swiftly, saying, "I'm talking to Iraq. I'll call you back."  - click -

I could feel venom tentacling throughout my spinal column while I waited a half hour for him to call me back.

He said he would LOVE to drive and speak to Iraq on his cell-phone in the rain to resolve all of these festive crises in his work and home-life.

He added he is sticking to his entity-diagnosis that it is "nothing." He noted that this morning it was "already healing. It looked much better." (Same morning newly erupting yards of flaming, seething tissue hung off my femur and careened into walls.)

I told him the nurse was alarmed, the Registrar gasped, the Receptionist  and World Language Department both needed emergency chocolate.

My spouse fell silent -- then said, "These are civilians. They have never been to Iraq."

My primary was off that day, but the covering-doctor who had seen me once before took one look at me and said, "I've seen you once before."

"Mayhaps, but I bet you never saw one of THESE."

And my glorious entity occupied the entire exam room once I unleashed it.

It was resplendent.

After she diagnosed it as something she could never diagnose not knowing what may or may not have bitten me...   she wrote prescriptions and told me to ice it a skillion times per day and keep it exposed, and lie down so I don't further irritate it, and take a whole lot of Benadryl and Cephelaxen and Advil and Dioxicyline in case of Lyme Disease... with food.

And she sent me to Phlebotomy (born in Ancient Greece where they invented the 'vein' but called it a 'phleb'.  This is due to them using veins to string lyres, but they hadn't invented a method of 'tuning the lyre' so the vein-strings just sort of "phlebb'd" from flaccidity.  The 'phleb' is onomatopoeia).

There in Phlebotomy, I had a Lyme disease test.

Then I left with all of my instructions for the care and feeding of a cubit, which clearly prevented me from being in the presence of middle school children. Exposed cubits mean virtual... commando - ness... and I couldn't very well teach commando with ice duct-taped to my upper inner-thigh lying down with Benadryl and high dose anti-inflammatories coursing through my phlebs, causing spontaneous diarrhea. 

(Although, the next day, while I was unconscious and sofa-bound from Benadryl, lying commando with my entity duct taped to frozen peas, the Tile People sashayed into the house to finally finish that last bathroom corner.)

My doctor also added that, of course, if it gets worse,,, to call.

Why do they feel the need to state this? And why do they not define "worse"?

If giant pustules leaking spiders spray from your leg and frighten your students, call us.

If you spike a fever of 115 degrees and hallucinate and vomit lung-parts and small woodland creatures, call us.

I'll do that. After I call SWAT teams and CSI investigators and multiple television stations.

It did end up being Lyme Disease, so one of the medicines kicked in nicely.  I was able to return to school late that week to help with a going away party for little Christina Papandrea (who is now a college freshman!  AND on the Dean’s List! Although not necessarily due to my Lyme Disease.)

But before the drugs kicked in, I had to endure one last insult:  I had to phone my principal late at night to alert her that my colleagues needed to sub for me for a couple of days.

If there was something that delighted me more than feeling ill and delivering stressful news at night to my boss on her cell phone, I could not think of it.

Then I remembered: it would be teaching prone on my classroom carpet wearing nothing but a blazer, drooling from antihistamines and holding a bag of frozen kale to toxic thigh tissue. 

Thank heaven for early intervention with Lyme Disease medications.