It was a beautiful October afternoon. I picked up my cousin Bonnie and we drove way out in the countryside to a farm with pumpkins for sale. No one was there to collect money. Customers pick their mini, small, medium, or large pumpkin, and put it money in the wooden box with a slit cut out of the top.
They had all colors imaginable. Pink, purple, blue, white, orange and white, orange and green, and the classic, just orange. As we pondered the choices I folded my arms. My wrist landed on a tiny winged fellow with black and yellow stripes. He appeared to be dancing to the twist without music on my arm. I felt a pinch and gently flicked him off of my arm. There was mild pain and a raised red bump. It was only the second time in my life I was ever stung. I am not one to worry about bees and hornets and other pollinators buzzing around because they are an essential part of the interconnected web of life. That guy with the stinger was just trying to survive. It wasn’t personal.
About a week later, I looked at my arm, the area was raised about twice as high and the redness was traveling to my elbow. I made a trip to Urgent Care. The diagnosis was cellulitis/ staph infection. I was given a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
The redness went down. I seemed to be doing fine. I had extreme difficulty swallowing my antibiotic one afternoon. It was a large pill. It felt like it was stuck in esophagus. That night, I had bad heart burn, could still fill something in my throat, and vomited blood in the morning.
I am teaching High School Science, so like most teachers, I hate having to ask for a sub. We don’t even have many subs at my school so calling in for a sub means inconveniencing colleagues to cover for me. My online research said I needed “emergency” medical attention. I called a nurse in my clinic. She said I needed to go to the ER.
First, I created my lesson plan and wrote to alert my colleagues. I got ready. I live with my now 77 year old mother. I tapped her foot to wake her, trying not to scare her to death. “I’m going to the emergency room. Do you want to come?”
She did. She took about 30 minutes to get ready. I needed to put gas in my car. We realized we forgot her medications. We went back to the house. Well, we both had to go potty since we were in the house. We eventually made it to the E.R. where we waited a little longer to see a doctor and get diagnosed. Mom stood at the edge of our privacy walls to stare down the nurses. She asked when the doctor was coming. The nurse said, “You all have a seat and he will be there soon.” The doctor treated me for the ongoing heartburn and referred me to a gastroenterologist to address my bleeding esophagus. As we were leaving mom commented to the nurse that nurse with the southern accent, “I see you are expecting.” The nurse replied, “No, I am just fat.” Under her breath she was probably saying, “I’m glad you all are going home now”. The medicine was helpful in relieving issues I was having with heart burn and nausea.
A few more days pass. On lunch break, I notice a growing rash or hives. I try calling my clinic to get an appointment with my doctor but I am put on hold for a while, and as lunch comes to a close, and kids are about to rush in, I give up, and decide I will just hope it goes away. By the next morning, I was covered in hives, and I was heading to Urgent Care again. I didn’t take mom this time. Diagnosis: “classic” sulpha medication allergy. I was prescribed 5 days of prednisone.
I have time to write a blog today because school had a two hour delay. I didn’t know that at 50, I would find myself single, caring for my mother, in the small rural town I grew up in. Mom would say she is caring for me, too, and that is also true. I didn’t know that two years after completing a self help book, empowering caregivers to employ the happiness, resilience, longevity and flow research to navigate their journey, my dad would pass. I would move in with mom. I would watch my Dad’s sister, my Aunt Sue, get dementia, then covid and pass. Her husband shortly departing after her. I didn’t know I would have to reconstruct powerful new connections, support systems, habits that were accessible in my new environment. In Minnesota, where I wrote the book, I was surrounded by friends I had know for as many as 20 years. I had lakes, and woods, and a nearby YMCA. I lived in an artist loft with other creatives in downtown Saint Paul with music, food, night life, and beautiful historical architecture. It was easy a good life.
This is a good life, too. I have the most supportive educational team I have ever been a part of now. I work with some great people in the Science department and my administrators are very kind. They have been so gracious about my absences. My cousin Bonnie lives in my town now, in her parent’s home, as she lost them both, and we get to hang out again. We help each other take care of ourselves. Having people that you know, like, and trust is the most important piece to living through hard times. As I enjoy taking off later for school and hoping that my hives keep fading away, I am so grateful for now. My now has been kind of messy but I see my support systems rising up in this time and place and thank you all for being here for me wherever you are geographically.
If you were stung by a murder hornet, who would care about you? I strongly encourage everyone to find a tribe of supportive people to connect with. It makes all of the difference. My mom turned 77 yesterday, and I get to be here. I feel privileged. So many birthdays and holidays were spent away, but we spend all of them together now. If she gets sick, I am here. When I was sick, she was here. I won’t have to come from Minnesota in a rush and then feel I have to rush back to work if something happens. I am here. It is a special kind of blessing to know your parents are okay when they get older. It was a great source of worry when I lived in Minnesota. This new season of life has its challenges and blessings. Thank you Murder Hornet for showing me I am not really alone in this adventure.