Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Letter from the infirmary

It appears that winter in Santiago means two things for me: patterned knee-high socks and tonsillitis.

That's right: I'm writing this from bed while sucking on a cough drop. I probably should be sleeping, but the striking students from the high school down the street are in full swing. Recently, they've been demonstrating several times a week, almost always starting at 9 A.M.; I don't even need an alarm clock anymore. Today, they have music speakers and a megaphone.

So, while the kids demand quality public education, I'll update my blog.

This isn't the first throat-related episode I've suffered here in Chile. Shortly after I arrived in Santiago as an exchange student a few years ago, my throat was overtaken by white blotches and wince-worthy pain. Convinced that I'd picked up my sister's mononucleosis before leaving home, I plodded across town to the student clinic, prepared to be diagnosed with two months of misery.

Having never had to conduct a medical visit in Spanish before, I grew increasingly nervous as I did my time in the waiting room. What if I were unable to describe my symptoms correctly and they ended up doing something involving scalpels?

My anxiety must have been apparent by the time I was called into my "box"--a cubicle with an examining table and a curtain--because before I knew it, a doctor was holding my hand and asking what I was so nervous about. A second doctor and a nurse also were leaning intently over the examining table. I don't think I've ever gotten so much attention in a medical facility in my life.

As it turned out, I didn't have mono. According to the team assembled in my box, I had "amigdalitis"; unfortunately, I wasn't quite sure what that was. Nor was I exactly sure why the doctors had started talking about shots.

Figuring it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to know what was about to be coursing through my veins, I asked what they were planning to inject me with.

"Penicillin," one of them replied.

"I'm allergic!" I exclaimed.

Apparently, a shot of penicillin is a common treatment for minor illnesses here in Chile. The problem was that nobody had bothered to ask me if it would, you know, make me die.

Since there's a pretty good chance it would have, the friendly doctors were left with no other option than to write me a prescription for antibiotic tablets.

After picking up the medication at a nearby pharmacy, I went online and confirmed my suspicions: "amigdalitis" is tonsillitis. I spent my convalescence thinking about how nice the student clinic staff were--even if they had tried to kill me.


Julie said...

I was just talking to someone the other day about when we first discovered you were allergic to penicillin. I sat up all night watching you sleep to make sure the hives didn't cause you to stop breathing.

Leigh said...

Thanks =)

noel said...

Pobrecita, Leigh!

I hope you are feeling a bit better today. I'm very glad you remembered that you don't like penicillin. (It couldn't be that penicillin doesn't like YOU!?)

I'm also glad that, years ago when I was on a trip, Julie rushed a muy rojo version of Leigh to the doctor and watched her throughout the night! Thank you, thank you!

Sending cosmic chicken noodle soup to Chile....