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I Got the Swine Flu This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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Sirens tormented my ears as I lay on a stretcher in an ambulance with a blue mask over my face. On my fifth day at Princeton University's Summer Workshop in Mathematics, I began to feel very sick, with a high temperature, muscle aches, runny nose, teary eyes, and a hideous cough.

During an after-hours screening of “Across the Universe” with my new friends, I was headed to my dorm room to grab a pair of sweatpants when I ran into one of the residential advisors. I told her about my symptoms, and she nervously paused, then contacted other faculty. In the blink of an eye, I was on a stretcher being rushed to the emergency room.

Everyone in the ambulance wore masks except for one brave soul, “Emily,” a famous mathematician and Princeton professor, who held my hand and reassured me. “I'm not going to wear a mask because I know you don't have swine flu,” she said.

In the waiting room, Emily and I discussed math. We talked about group theory regarding a Rubik's Cube, chaos theory, and the mathematics behind the card game SET. My swine flu test came back negative.

For the next few days, I was quarantined in my dorm room. Emily stayed with me, and other faculty cautiously brought gift baskets and treats. Emily gave me some math books and introduced me to her online course, which I had almost completed by the end of the week. I was unable to finish my group project with the other girls from the program, so Emily gave me a new one to keep me busy.

On my next visit to the doctor, he said, “Your flu test is positive. There are many types of influenza … It is possible that you have H1N1 – the swine flu.” When I left the doctor's office that day I was required to wear a blue mask at all times. From the moment I donned my new attire, I sensed that everyone was looking at me differently. My residential advisor kept several yards away and immediately cleaned her entire room and wardrobe.

One of my RAs told me, “I believe that if you have a positive influence on someone who is healing, then karma will take care of you.” She was right. Emily, who had stayed with me for the past few nights without a mask, never contracted the rapidly spreading pandemic.

When Princeton kindly asked me to stay at a nearby hotel with a parent before I could fly, Emily came to visit and taught me about her discovery of wavelet theory and its application to the widely used JPEG 2000.

I learned a lot from my week in a blue mask. Away from my friends from Atlanta who think I am crazy for loving math, I discovered the strength of my passion. Though sick, I wanted to learn more in the hospital, quarantined in my room, and in the hotel at the end of my stay.

I also learned how extremely judgmental people can be. The minute I stretched the mask over my face, I was treated differently. I adopted a sort of quiet confidence for the rest of the week, as I successfully completed my project and Emily's online course.

Disability, skin color, ethnicity: we must look past these negligible differences. Lift the boundaries, pour your heart into all that you do, and fight for what you want.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

MargieKelly27 said...
Mar. 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm:
I think that to receive the loan from creditors you must have a great reason. But, once I have received a short term loan, because I was willing to buy a house.
 
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sunnysammy said...
May 15, 2010 at 10:01 am:
I cant believe that you had the swine flu i got it then 2 weeks later i got the H1N1 shot... Its terrible and i didnt have it that bad.  I was sick for 1 week and ended up with pneumonia.  Thank You for writing!!!
 
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Alice_The_Vampire said...
Dec. 11, 2009 at 7:58 pm:
that was a fantastic story and it had a great message. I'm sure it will stand out to alot of people. This one's unique, and a unique person wrote it it seems :)
 
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Hersheygurl said...
Dec. 11, 2009 at 6:13 pm:
That had such a good meaning. i had swine flu this year but it wasn't that bad for me since they caught it like the first day but it was still upsetting to have gotten it. and i love your meaning about the discrimination that people who shouldn't be discriminated against
 
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nunu897 said...
Dec. 11, 2009 at 6:02 pm:
this is such a good story!! i had the swine flu and it sucked. i was achey and i missed school for a week. but it was cool to see how some other people had to deal with it, instead of just knowing how i felt. keep writing! this is really good! :)
 
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BethaniThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 10:49 am:
That's wonderful that you can take something that happened to you and see it postively instead of negatively. I'm so proud of you! The whole thing about differences I agree that they're just things we deal with. This a great article! keep writing! Thank you!
 
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