In Which I Am Unfair: Vignettes in Campus Ableism

“Oh, he’s at the hospital again,” one of the women in the little gaggle of people walking past my table announced. “Again?” another of the business-wear group commented. Some of them had changed out of their dress shoes to beat-up sneakers. A lunch group or something like it, off for an hour’s break. One of the guys laughed. “He’d better come back with like a broken leg or something this time!” The rest of the group laughed too. “Something big.” “Yes, it doesn’t count unless it’s a full cast!”

I was on the top floor of the building housing a variety of student support services and academic judiciary offices.The little group was joking, in the rather mean-spirited way of much younger and less professional people… say, elementary school students. They just happened to do it in front of a student with invisible disabilities. Nice to know that their colleague’s misfortune was thought of so compassionately, and that their understanding of real injury and illness was restricted to the immediately visible.

************

“She’s always taking medications. Obviously, too, like taking a lot of pills at committee lunches or the department party. Something’s wrong. I mean, a lot of women take a pill every day and all, and that’s fine, but this is a bunch.”

This conversation happened with a colleague, who tried to backtrack when I (couldn’t help it, mate!) pointed out I took a lot of medications as well. Too bad it ended up with him even deeper in it than when he started, of course … his bumbling efforts were more humorous than hurtful, especially as there were a few other women who cheerfully joined in and helped him dig himself deeper every third word.

************

“I know your dietary restrictions – they are very familiar to me too, because I have some – so I’m sure you can find something to eat here because I can.”

Another very kind effort from a very kind person who still couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that two people with disabilities might have very VERY different disabilities and paths through life. Instead, everything had to be viewed through the lens of her illness. She never really did get that graduate students  are not usually protected by the FMLA or that mast cell diseases are much different than avoiding spicy food after 3 pm.

************

“Oh, so you mean there’s really something actually mechanically wrong? Oh!”

A college administrator who suddenly seemed to understand and be much happier to grant my request for help restructuring my classrooms. I couldn’t help it – I rolled my eyes. Fortunately for me, he was facing the other way. I do so love it when other types of disabilities are judged as less “real” than physical ones, or when it has to be some type of injury that the administrator relates to (like dislocating joints, for example, or sprains) to count. I’d already explained POTS and MCAS by that point, but those apparently didn’t count as “mechanically” wrong. It wasn’t until I remembered and explained JHS-EDS 3 that everything seemed to suddenly click. I probably need to work on my communication, but sometimes I just really don’t want to … 

************

I and another student are seated, slumped and exhausted, on those orange carpet-covered chairs common to 75% of student waiting areas. We’re tutors, nearing the last shift of the day, waiting for our respective students. They’re so late it’s looking like we are not going to be tutoring after all (read: not getting paid after all, either). I’m feeling a bit down about this. The other tutor wonders why I’m upset about having free (unpaid) time, and I explain I missed my bus and had to pay for a Lyft into school so I could work that evening. I at least wanted to recoup my losses.

Tutor 1: “Oh, where do you live?”

I told the other tutor

Tutor 1: “Oh, that’s so close! It’s not far from campus at all. You could have walked that!”

I was tired. I didn’t really want to go into explanations. “No, I can’t. Definitely not in time to get here for work.”

Tutor 1: “I don’t understand. It must take as long to drive as walk. But I guess your legs are shorter than mine!”

Really, really didn’t want to go into it … but I wasn’t much shorter than her, and the way she was now staring at my legs meant she’d figure that out soon. I didn’t want to be categorized as being lazy, either, so … “No, it’s not that. I just really can’t walk it at all, honestly.”

Tutor 1: “I don’t get it.”

I gave up completely. “I know I don’t look it, but I’m actually very sick. I cannot walk from my apartment to the campus in time for work. It’s not contagious, so you won’t catch it, don’t worry.”

Tutor 1: “Oh! I never would have guessed, because you look fine!”

A classic response. At least I already have a selection of answers pre-drilled, and wonder of wonders, here came a student. “Um, yes, I know I often look ok, thanks very much.”

“But you always seem to manage …

Thankfully my student had arrived and I was rescued before I had to explain that my ability to tutor was not proof that I wasn’t sick.

*************

 

Ableism means discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. It isn’t a word I particularly like, because everyone’s definition of “discrimination” tends to vary just that little bit, and it’s so very easy to accuse someone of it. It can range from systemic abuse (such as a corporation not following ADA law) to casual comments about how inspirational disabled people doing ordinary things are. (In my case, I’m actually just fine with being told that I’m inspirational or heroic, because most of the time my mind is screaming at me that I’m a failure. If there are ever other voices chiming out a different message, I’m usually far too grateful to be offended.)

I’m being unfair here, because not only are all of the above based on real things that happened to me this semester, most of the people involved had no idea what could have even been construed as wrong about their behavior. Despite the bit of me that feels like a small tattling child, this is part of the reason I decided to write this post – because some of them will not realize what they did was quite wrong. In this light, in this form, it’s easier to see that endlessly interrogating someone and then using her ability to complete her work and look physically put-together as a marker for disability is wrong. Judging someone on taking the medications they need to survive is wrong (or having the number allowed be related to their sex!). No one in in a professional setting especially should joke freely about a colleague’s physical status – even if that colleague might have ordinarily joined in on the joke.

In the end, the best path forward is probably one I struggle with myself continually.  Wait, and then in the depths of the smallest square of privacy you can find, think about your latest sly witticism. If you wouldn’t want it said about yourself, then don’t tell the joke out loud to Mr. Oral B.

 

Advertisements

7. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically Ill Graduate Student

I wish some of my professors would realize how horrifically expensive it is to be a chronically ill and a graduate student. I can see it on their faces as I try to fit in a few more hours of work or pass on attending conferences. “But there’s grants that cover some of it,” a few might protest, or “shouldn’t you be writing your dissertation instead of working?” The kinder ones also mention things like “knowing you have to eat” and “student budget.”

I spend literally thousands of dollars each year in medical care. Even once I’ve paid for my insurance and met the deductible, many things that I need to function — including medical devices —  aren’t covered by my student insurance. Then there are the countless other things that add up: Lyfte or Uber, on days when I can’t drive and public transit falls through; crucial supplements; more expensive food as I become intolerant to basic cheap staples like ramen or peanut butter; even delivery costs for things when I can’t find a way to get to a store or a distant compounding pharmacy. It’s not that I’m not managing my money, or that I’m not trying to save, or any of the other common financial tips. (Saving for a rainy day when you are constantly, chronically ill … it’s not a “rainy day,” it’s a monsoon that will last the rest of your life.)  ‘

It is just very expensive to be sick.

6. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically Ill Graduate Student

I wish my professors would realize how surreal school sometimes seems to me.

At first, you see, it was hospitals and doctor’s offices that felt surreal. My future life as I imagined it could and did crumple and blow away like dust and ash in rooms with cheerful accent walls, posters of kittens and skeletal systems, and crinkly paper robes. Repeatedly. It was surreal.

Then I spent a lot of time in hospitals, listening to the banter of the night nurses and the jokes of the janitors. Those places became, if not comfortable, at least familiar. School felt surreal then, with its very artificial deadlines and rules. In the ER the deadline for the man who had been hit by a car was real, the rules for resuscitating a patient in cardiovascular collapse because of anaphylaxis were real. School was an absurdity, ridiculous in the amount of effort and stress being expending over 7 pages in Times New Roman that would only ever be read once.

Sometimes it all feels surreal, especially when I jump in between a world where almost everything is life and death to a world where everything is made-up and meant to teach safely. There isn’t a lot of room in my life between those two poles for normal living. I worldjump instead, losing a bit more of myself with each trip until I feel like a ghost, out of place in both planes.

Oddly, the place where there is life and death around every curtain is also the place where dark humor reigns, but the place where there are tests and quizzes behind every classroom door is sometimes taken oh so very seriously. There’s not anything to be done about this — it’s up to me to manage the worldjump. I just wish that my professors knew.

 

5. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically-Ill Graduate Student

I wish they understood how and why graduate life can be isolating for someone who is chronically ill.

Professors might reminisce about the good ol’ days studying together over drinks, scraping together papers last minute, and doing rambunctious and borderline insane physical stunts. That’s great. But it’s not going to be my life. I can’t rock climb, I can’t go out drinking with my fellow students, and I can’t even be designated driver anymore. I can’t stay up late partying, or even just stay up late most of the time. Even if my mind wants to party the night away, my body needs a heating pad, ginger ale, meds, and sleep.

I’m seen as insular, not engaging with graduate life, non-participatory, etc., and by more than my cohort (most of whom actually understand). Professors have pulled me aside to ask about why I’m not hanging out with the rest of the graduate students. I have gotten kindly meant tips about everything from battling depression (because I’m pulling away from people) to ways introverts can have fun at parties. The social side of professional academic life is important, and professors are watching to see that we’re developing those skills and representing the department well. If I’m not at the 9 pm-12 am conference reception, I’m seen as failing that unspoken test of graduate school life. Furthermore, as a graduate student in the fine arts, there are often alluring late nights of concerts, talks, dinners, operas, showings, and presentations. But I really have to pick and choose which ones I even try to attend, and I can’t do them all. The physical cost is just too high. I still have to teach at 9 am the next morning.

In this age, there are other ways to make contact with people. There are ways to fundraise, to network, and to present research that don’t require robust good health. The field needs to recognize that these options are legitimate and begin to make accommodations a matter of course. Professors need to realize that not all routes through graduate school are going to resemble their own — but until then, I’ll probably still be stopped and interrogated every couple of weeks about my life choices.

I wish they’d realize I’m not deliberately a hermit — I’m just sick.

4. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically Ill Graduate Student

I wish my professors would realize that if I’m quiet, curled into a ball, and white, it might not be because I’m emotionally upset. Even if there are tears in my eyes and my face is screwed up! More likely I’m just trying to get through class without screaming in pain, throwing up, or passing out — and possibly all three at once.

I’m not a drama queen that has a bad breakup every week.

I’m just chronically sick.

3. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically-Ill Graduate Student

I wish my professors would realize that my life as a chronically-ill student outside of college is a lot of doctor’s appointments, PT, clinics, testing, procedures, trips to the hospital, and other usually painful and terrifying things. A lot of these appointments were booked months before staff meetings were scheduled. On the flip side, I’m sometimes called into a cancellation or an emergency appointment quite abruptly. Either way, it can play merry hell with scheduling.

I honestly never intend to ride rough-shod over anyone’s carefully planned day. We all have lives, after all. But if I say “I can’t make it that day, I have an appointment,” it means I can’t make it. I shouldn’t have to defend myself further by telling what kind of appointment it is, and I certainly should not be required to go into detail and defend the necessity of medical treatment. I should not have to refuse to reschedule a cardiology appointment to attend a 15 minute staff meeting about the answer key for a quiz.

I am also not going to feel — or be made to feel — guilty about the decision to prioritize my health. My lack of guilt can be interpreted as defiance. I’ll admit it, sometimes there is a touch of defiance in there — I hate having someone attempt to guilt me into feeling or acting a particular way, and so I find myself automatically bristling and pulling out my best teenager “oh YEAH?” complete with eye roll … at least in my mind. 🙂

But usually, my attitude is much more the result of a certain emotional numbness than defiance. After all those appointments and procedures, I don’t have a lot of emotion left to either bravely defy or convincingly grovel.

I know that as a student with disabilities I may unfortunately have more absences to deal with medical emergencies than able-bodied students. If I could change that, I would. I wish that my professors would realize that I would far rather be sitting in the staff meeting, planning out the answer key, than sitting in an exam room being given another life-altering diagnosis.

 

2. Things I Wish My Professors Knew About Being A Chronically-Ill Graduate Student

Graduate assistants often function as the dog’s bodies of a department. We fetch, carry, grade, make emergency extra copies, and cover shifts and lectures. If something needs to be put on reserve or the guest speaker for the conference needs a ride to the airport, that’s a job for the graduate assistant pool. We’re expected to learn the ropes this way. Sometimes it is fairly useless drudgery, chores that just have to happen for the craziness that is an academic department to remain fixed on planet Earth instead of spinning off into the aether. 🙂 Other times it is genuinely exciting, professionally stimulating, and career molding … but to be honest, there’s usually a lot more of setting up tables and proctoring makeup exams. My department even established a 3 hour service requirement (in addition to any other teaching/assistant tasks we have) and a graduate pool. Any professor can submit a request, and then we of the pool are all duly reminded of our required hours and offered this great opportunity to fulfill them by simply…

As a graduate student with chronic illnesses, I have a hard time jumping whenever a professor demands it. Actually, I can’t really jump at all! I can’t carry heavy loads, I can’t run places, and I can’t help move heavy pieces of furniture around to set up for events or class. I have to take medications on a set schedule frequently, so rearranging my day on the fly to substitute teach class or cover a shift is also complicated. To “run and make a quick copy” involves no running, for starters. It does mean mentally mapping out a building to find a safe route to the copy machine and then taking this often more time-consuming path. It means waiting for elevators and struggling with doors. Then finally, it means waging the battle everyone faces: beating the always-finicky department copy machine, large enough to swallow a small GA, into submission 🙂

In my building, “quick copy” suddenly turns into 20 minutes. No one is very happy about that.

So I wish that professors and the administrators of graduate programs realize that not everyone is going to be able to do the typical graduate student tasks. I wish they realize that the reason they are not getting notifications from offices of disability services about this is NOT because they don’t have graduate students with disabilities. It is because there is no mechanism in place to address this situation. Graduate student chores are not a defined job activity. They’re not directly associated with classwork. Until there is a conflict, the ombuds office is of limited use. It is a gray area, and the only way for me as a student to deal with this dilemma has been to notify each and every person individually. Most of those professors have no idea how to proceed in a situation like this, and there can be a lot of varied responses of differing degrees of appropriateness. It means a lot of confusion and missed opportunities. It takes a lot of time.

I think it’s possible for departments to use their graduate students with disabilities in ways that will still be beneficial to the department and not damaging to the student. It will require more thought. It will require more planning. It will require a lot more tact.

It can be done.

Thankful Like a Fairy

https://i0.wp.com/www.gutenberg.org/files/26999/26999-h/images/img-019.jpg

It’s that time of year here in the United States when little construction paper turkeys appear on fridges and people suddenly remember that pumpkin is edible. Thanksgiving often feels more like a breather in between the heavier loads of presentations and finals, usually with a side of grading. It’s the end of the term, and everyone is feeling a crunch that has little to do with frosty grass or fallen leaves underfoot. Periodically I see little flyers scattered around, all variations on themes about thankfulness, gratitude, and the like. I usually read them with some trepidation, my mind clouded by rubrics and inner debates about the ontology of musical meaning. Most often I feel that I don’t measure up on the thankfulness scale at the moment, and then all I’ll be is annoyed and guilty before my mind scutters back to the meta-musical-microcosm.

That’s because, I’ve concluded, I’m thankful like a fairy.

“Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change.”
 ~ J. M. Barrie

When I’m thankful, it is an overwhelming flood of gratitude. One the flip side, when I am not thankful, I’m sometimes every dark emotion there is. It isn’t simply sniveling ingratitude, it can be an epic funk and a devaluation of my very existence. That is ungratefulness of the highest order.

However, fairies are allowed to change… and the musician in me insists that practice makes perfect. So here are some of the random wonky things a fairy brain is thankful for on a Monday:

  • Lyft! I’m running late, and for less than a day’s worth of university garage parking a wonderful clean car pulls up to my apartment door and then drops me off at the door to my building.
  • The fish faces my students, locked out of their classroom on the top floor, are making against the glass at me as I walk into the atrium 3 stories below.
  • The fact that the sound equipment and TV in my classroom worked … on the first try!
  • My butt. Sorry folks! Chronic illness can take unexpected tolls on weight, and in my case I lost a lot over the past couple years. If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting then you can imagine that not having much of one can be a little painful. Thanks to the discovery of King Size Fritos, bean dip, and allergen-free chocolate cookies, I’m working my way back to normal weight. It is great.
  • Trader Joe’s fish sticks and Simple Truth potato puffs (aka tater tots). Yes. It’s more borderline junk food, and I can eat it without having a reaction. I love being able to eat without an allergic reaction.
  • My advisor. We’ve had a bit of a chat about my medical conditions, finishing in a brief “how to administer epi” course. When I told him this morning that I was still struggling with the aftereffects of a recent ER-level bad reaction, I was let out of a weekly meeting and got to go home early and rest. I don’t know how this will play out, but today I am very grateful for that understanding.
  • The lighted brick path that sweeps past the hotel, lined with lights and ending in an impressive skyline backlit by a sunset that looks good enough to eat. OK. Maybe I was hungry today…?
  • The long conversation my busy exhausted mom gave to me so I could walk around this evening, enjoying the sunset, feeling safe and not so alone. Truly a marvelous gift. 🙂

 

“The Hunt for Red October Butterflies”

Or so my friend laughingly dubbed it. It was one of the most terrific weekend jaunts in recent memory.

DSC_0124.JPG

A few weeks ago we both, unbelievably, carved out some time from the hectic sprawl that was our lives. We decided to go to a park and take a walk… with our cameras! Squeal!!!! We gleefully charged up camera batteries, set up pickup times that we both were probably going to miss, and forgot various sundry and important things (or at least I did—my water bottle. If you have POTS and it’s a hot day, which it was, that’s just a bozo no-no, as my mom would have called it).

She’s an incredibly dear friend, knows my love of chasing butterflies with my camera, and as a fellow photographer is patient enough to wait for a minute… or twenty … while I slither around on the ground trying to adjust aperture and focal length and whatnot.

As a personal victory, I walked farther than I had in quite a long time, and we crossed this railway bridge!! First, I’m scared of heights. Truly, honestly scared. Second, there weren’t any railings or other things for me to grab. Third, it required stepping over the gaps onto each old tarry beam. Fourth, some of those beams were in pretty bad shape. Fifth, my sense of balance can be very bad, a side effect of POTS and having joint hypermobility. Basically, it means I’m a little bit closer to fainting than the average person at any given moment, and my joints wiggle just enough that my body has a hard time determining where it is in space. Thankfully, with the help of an insane number of drugs and a lot of work, it no longer feels like I’m walking across the deck of a ship in a storm. Instead it feels like I’m on a floating dock, or maybe a bowl of really stiff jello. It’s an improvement, but periodically the earth simply tries to shake me off. How does a POTSie cross the bridge, then? VERY slowly, with a friend holding on to her hand, bracing and providing a balance reference point, coaching her over the rough spots, showing her where (and in the case of the ones half eaten through, where not to!) step. I was laughing breathlessly from adrenaline and triumph every four steps.

DSC_0264.JPG

I did refuse to go back the same way.

And then, amazingly, right at the end of the walk, we found butterflies.

And it was one of the several recent gasps of hope amid the drowning flood that has been illness and school. It was pretty close to a real hike. There might be a reason to replace my hiking boots yet, and not just because they offer great support for wobbly ankles. Maybe I didn’t need to think that holding onto my hiking camera daypack was being selfish and fanciful of me, just yet. Maybe I’d eventually be able to walk for miles and miles again, like I had before.

DSC_0296.JPG

And all the maybes aside, I certainly had a simply fantastic day at a local park, chasing butterflies, tramping across bridges, counting the number of bridal parties all posing for shots around the gazebos and fountains, and talking with a friend. And that was joy itself.

Dysautonomia Week – Thursday

THURSDAY

7:00 am: – I wake up to the gentle beeping of my alarm and slowly, lazily crawl over to slap it off for another hour. It’s THURSDAY!! I don’t have any scheduled classes on Thursday, nothing to teach, and no scheduled jobs. This is different from not having work to do, some of it paid – but I can do it in another 3 hours, and it will be ok. I love Thursdays. I go back to sleep.

7:55 am: I get a call from the service department, letting me know about how long it will take for me to get my car fixed. It’s going to be cutting in close to my 2pm doctor’s appointment, but I don’t cancel. I’m still trying to wake up, to be honest.

9:00 am: I realize that I should have canceled, especially when I’m coughing so badly I can hardly breathe. I also have intercostal neuralgia and ribs that don’t stay in place very well, a side effect of a pretty intense ablation procedure and joint hypermobility/ HEDS syndrome. This means that coughing is really very … uncomfortable. Screw it. I call and cancel.

9:30 am: One of the cardiology offices got back to me! It’s a nurse covering for someone else at my new cardiology office, and they don’t have all the information they need. The nurse has never worked with patients like me on ivabradine before, so she gets the information and says they’ll get back to me. To be fair, ivabradine was initially approved for heart failure, though it’s proven very useful for treating other conditions like dysautonomia and IST. If it’s ivabradine causing the light trailing, I’ve got a dilemma. It’s been helping me a lot. This means right now I’m trying to figure out which one I need more – being able to see, or being able to stand?

1:45 pm: I didn’t get much work done this morning, unless you count blowing my nose as “work.” Another cardiology office returned my call. This nurse knew a little bit more about the drug, but she hadn’t heard of anyone having quite this reaction. She’d double check with the doctor once he was free, but it could be awhile. They were short-staffed, and at a trauma one research hospital there’s always more than enough to go around, even without people being out sick or on vacation. She was happy to hear I was following up with primary care. I walked up to the shuttle stop and sat on the sidewalk. The benches normally have a lot of trash around them and smell funny, and the grass is worse. The stop is right outside some of the mental health offices, and I can’t decide whether this is good or not. Does it mean a young woman with an Ikea backpack and a college shirt looks normal sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, because “normal” is actually “just a little bit different than social standards”… or does it mean I just look slightly off with a reason for my being there? Actually, it doesn’t matter one whit. When my shuttle pulls up, I think the driver recognizes me, and she’s grinning. So was the little boy dancing as he waited for the city bus with his mother, and the guy who went and tentatively sat on one of the benches was smiling broadly at me too. I bet he wished he’d sat on the sidewalk. 🙂 It’s a nice ride in, and for once, I’m not going to be really late. And finally, on Thursday, I’ve managed to get my act together enough to ride the blasted shuttle in like I’m supposed to.

4:00 pm: I’m greeted with grins and a chorus of “hellos” at the student health center. (I’m strongly reminded now of one episode of “Speechless,” in which the dad realizes he has cred at the hospital in town.) The head nurse sticks her head around the door and barks out my name. I apologize as she takes my vitals for being sick, and she points out that wasn’t even what I came in for, though, was it? Headache? I feel a grimace stretch my face and I explain. She snorts. “Too many meds!” is her brief assessment, and I feel that she’s right. I also know that right now, those same medications are keeping me off the floor and thinking semi-coherently. Sort of.

It can take a very long time to find the right combination of medications at the right doses for dysautonomic conditions. This is not an uncommon experience. That I was diagnosed in less than 5 years and am having some luck finding doctors and medications is what is uncommon about this whole process.

When you consider that I also have some bizarre allergy issue that makes my body randomly declare jihad on foods or substances that were prevously a-ok, medications can get extremely complicated. I wear a MyID now, a sporty little rubber bracelet like those sold for various causes or given out at summer camps. It will let first responders know that me being on the floor is probably not a disaster, what medications I’m on, and which doctors they can now start to annoy with my blessing.

POTSie style: accupressure anti-nausea bracelet, medical ID band, and pink compression socks with butterflies (usually covered by slacks 🙂 )

The doctor is a wonderful but exhausted woman. She doesn’t have any prior knowledge of ivabradine, but knows some things to check for in the pharmacology. For a while it looks like migraines might be the winner. Then we find a few bizarre little phrases and trace them back through a research article or two. We gradually manage to stretch out the little side effect warning in the drug information pamphlet into something that resembles actionable intel. When I point out that as a heart failure medication it probably wasn’t tested in people like me – under the age of 50, not going through heart failure, normal ejection fraction, etc. – well, perhaps the 16% of patients who experience visual sparking means that in a different demographic the light phenomenon will be a little different. Maybe it will equal me, with ghostly arms following me around. There’s also a chance it will go away in about 2 months. Maybe. Maybe we can reduce the dose and titrate up without me losing a lot of ground, too. In the meantime, I have to wait until one of the cardiologists gets back to me and probably avoid driving at night. Possibly period. She also checks me out when she notices how bad my cold is and gives me a doctor’s note to get out of class tomorrow. She is well aware that I don’t have class in the normal sense of the word and that she is giving me an excuse to refuse to lecture tomorrow morning if called upon to do so, as well as anything else that comes up. By the end of our appointment, I was so hoarse I sounded like a frog that had been microwaved. I take the note. It doesn’t mean I have to use it.

I say goodbye to the gruff nurse, who is actually a fierce dear who literally saved my life once and hugged me joyfully when came in to say thank you a week later. Like you can ever just say thank you for something like that…. I wave to the desk staff and walk out with someone from student insurance, and we talk about that and about a new restaurant. The frog in my voice has now been battered, deep-fried and then toasted to perfection on some spent fuel rods.

12:45 am: I took some tests outside to grade along with two whole packs of Kleenex, but of course I didn’t get many done. I had a wonderful conversation with the med student who parks in front of my garage and pawned a bunch of slightly old Chinese food on him… I’d bought takeout over the weekend, and it turned out that I can’t eat that stuff anymore without really reacting. He’ll probably just toss it, because he’s smart, but it will save me the pain of doing it. I fix myself comfort food for dinner instead- tater tots and fish sticks. I found that the Organics potato puffs brand, while not as flavorful as others, technically doesn’t have anything in it I know I’m sensitive to, and Trader Joe’s has acceptable fish sticks. I can use the “Just Mayo” brand and some dill to make tartar sauce, as long as I don’t eat much of it. Carrot sticks and some almond-milk ice cream with frozen cherries, and I’ve had a return to the 5th grade. It’s lovely. I’ve talked to both my mom and my sister today. By the end of the evening, my voice sounds like a bulldozer trying to crank up in a gravel pit. I think it already squashed the frog flat.

I turn on the baseball game and listen to the Dodgers beat the Cubs to go to the World Series!! … while grading and sorting through paperwork and emails. I even hurriedly remember to phone in a bill payment. I check the online boards and find, in response to my hurried question earlier, that YES, Virginia, weird visual stuff does happen with ivabradine! And no, it might not be permanent! And I wouldn’t be the only one to decide that it’s worth it to go on taking it and sacrifice some night vision for a chance to live a little bit more of my life vertically.

I beg off taking roll and notes during the professor’s lecture tomorrow. The opera students will thank me for not giving them this cold before their next show starts this weekend. An “emergency” staff meeting has been called to talk about some assessment grading… I’m uncertain how it can suddenly be an emergency when we’ve had the these assessments (and had them mostly graded) for two weeks, but ok. Over the last few years, health crises of one type or another have redefined my already skewed sense of the word “emergency.” I spend a lot of my time in hospitals watching people very bravely, visibly, quietly not freak over things that are very freaky. In contrast, outside of hospitals I sometimes get to see people very dramatically, visibly, and loudly freak, usually over things that are surprisingly non-life threatening. Maybe it’s because it’s okay to freak about things that aren’t really important. Even though I should try to prep for that meeting, I’m more than spent and the thought of talking tomorrow has the same appeal as actually eating gravel.