I have learned that throughout our lives, we are driven to do things. Not all of them productive, but nonetheless…we do them. For some it may be as simple as washing their windows. For others it may be to discover how to recreate the world’s fossil fuels while restoring our rainforest, preserving our endangered species, and establishing peace on earth and beyond…during their morning coffee. I fit somewhere in the middle, probably closer to the window washers than the latter. Now to obtain our goals, on occasion we decide to take on extra courses of study to learn how to better the world around us, one degree, certificate, or diploma at a time.
I have also learned that with each degree, certificate, or diploma we obtain, the skin encompassing our heads expands slightly to accommodate our new-found egos. We have new things to talk about, new challenges to face, and new knowledge with which to impress those without said degrees, certificates, or diplomas. When I obtained my scuba diving certification, I joined a club. I am in an elite group of people who have risen above the daily grind to seek out the challenges of breathing processed air through a fragile rubber hose, held firmly by their teeth because their lips have become too numb from the frigid temperatures of Canadian lakes and oceans to hold it, while submersed in a world with things we don’t understand, can’t out-swim, and can’t survive in for more than half an hour at a time. We are Gods! We get to discuss our trials and tribulations with other club members and inspire those around us to join our club.
Eventually we get bored with the last club and look for a new one to join. My latest club of interest became the EMR course (EMR stands for Emergency Medical Responder). I would get to race around in an ambulance with lights flashing and sirens wailing, rescuing injured and sick people who are not be members of this club. How exciting! I would be a force to be reckoned with! Children would point as I walk down the street, elderly people would write me into their wills, men and women would think I was an angel! Yes, I will be an EMR!
I show up for my first day of class, proud and ready to begin training. By the time I leave, I am exhausted and overwhelmed, and begin rifling through the brochure for where it said anything about colon obstruction causing fecal vomiting. Two-thirds of the way through the course I finally contract the flu that’s been propelled around my home through sneezes, coughs, tears, and vomit at all hours. I had managed to elude it up until this point, but now it has mutated into something that over-the-counter drugs can’t even begin to fix. They’re not in the club!
“I can handle it,” I think. I’m almost in a new club. The EMR club! EMRs don’t get sick! So finally I complete the course. I graduate, in spite of chills, fever, and sore throat, with grades in the nineties. A new member of the club…with honours! My flu doesn’t care. I decide to go to the doctor. Armed with my impressive medical knowledge and ability to correctly use the terminology, I go for some routine testing. He mentions that I don’t sound well and I quickly dismiss it. “I don’t need an antibiotic,” I declare. “Just prescribe a nasal steroid to relieve some of this pressure around my ethnoidal and sphenoidal areas and I’ll be good. I think my frontal and maxillary sinuses will resolve themselves.” I somehow miss the raised eyebrow of my doctor and feel confident that I have proven my worthiness of the ‘club.’
By three the next morning I am wide awake trying desperately to gain relief from the now throbbing ear ache I have developed. No relief is coming. By six thirty my husband, Dion, has left for work and I need to manage children who are hungry, grumpy, and not understanding of my plight. By nine o’clock I am sobbing in the doctor’s office in between short bursts of an exorcist-type voice that tells my two youngest to stop fighting over the gynaecological stirrups. My medical terminology escapes me and I manage to blubber a meager apology that I am usually much more composed but my ear is @$%&*!# killing me! She comforts me briefly and prescribes more pain medication and an antibiotic that I should have had two days ago. I leave, staggering through the clinic while trying to balance one child on my hip and being tugged by the other who wants the plastic frying pan the first one has. I make it to the van…barely. I’m blinded by pain. I can’t go on. Shoot me now. If I was a horse I’d dead.
As my only option, I call the RCMP detachment and blubber to the secretary who answers, “Where’s Dion?” Sensing my urgency, probably through the moans and not so subtle snorts of tears, she assures me he’s on his way. Dion arrives and already with his presence we have attracted new attention because he belongs to another club that demands respect by the mere presence of the assortment of assault weapons gracing his hips. I fall into his arms, an incomprehensible, hysterically sobbing mess. Somehow he understands. We get drugs and he gets me home. Within an hour of wandering up and down the hallways of my home, moaning inconsolably, BOOM!!
I think my head just exploded. I drop to my knees and fall into Dion who has now rescued me from breaking my maxible and frontal lobes on the floor. My sister once said to me, “sometimes you don’t know what’s worse, the thought that you’re going to die or the realization that you’re not!” Thank you Debbie, I understand that now. Did you learn that in a club?
By noon, I am lying in a hospital bed with a square of gauze taped across my ear capturing the drainage from my ruptured eardrum. The children have been taken to a babysitter as, although I am a new member of the EMR club (with honours), I am unable to care for them.
Later that night I lay in my bed ready to vomit with the slightest movement, my ear snapping, popping, and oozing. My three-year-old reads Dumbo to me and I think, “How prophetic.”
While waiting for the assortment of drugs that I have ingested to mercilessly render me unconscious, I am left to ponder the events of the day. Where did I go wrong?
As I gratefully drift off into my drug-induced coma I decide, “maybe I’ll join the pottery club.”
Jennifer Barry is a writer for Spectator Tribune.
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