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The Unwanted Lesson
It was one of those days that you were slightly glad that everything was normal, but wished that “normal” was different. Like, for instance, you were yelling at your classmate and he was yelling at you and it was two days before the due date of a huge project, and you guys hadn’t gotten anything done. But you were really glad that you didn’t live during the Great Depression. But you really wished that for that huge project, you could pick partners. And you definitely wouldn’t have picked him.
That’s what my day was like. It was a Wednesday, and I had started to daydream, and I dreamed it was Thursday. Then I started to wish it was Friday. And finally that terrible moment came when my teacher jerked me back to reality and reminded me it was a Wednesday. It was near the end of the school year, and I could find absolutely NO reason why we had to do this project when the report cards had already been written.
“What are you arguing about now, guys?” Ms. James interrupted Nelson’s sentence.
“Well, Julia claims that in the town we’re making, we should have more than five basketball courts. And she won’t let us make a mile long maze.” Nelson complained. The entire class was supposed to make an eco-friendly town, and our group had been put in charge of the recreation. We decided to have mostly outdoor sports.
“We have more than 10 basketball courts in Bridgewater!” I exclaimed. “And I couldn’t find my way out of a 100 meter long maze, how do you expect for anyone to find their way out of a MILE long one, for pete’s sake?!?” Ms. James had a very grateful look on her face when the dismissal bell saved her from having to take sides.
Dad picked me up very early from the after-care. He normally didn’t get home ‘til six, and now he’s picking me up at 3:30. I was just going to ask him: “What up with the early pickup?” when he said:
“Come on, we’re going to be late for your check-up.” After that short sentence, he rushed out the door.
“Glad to see you too, Dad.” I muttered under my breath.
When we got to the pediatrician, we had to sit for a while. I picked up a magazine, and started reading about getting a “leaner, fitter, healthier YOU!” and “How to be Happy” (I’m not kidding, that was the title of the article). Then Dr. Lu called me in and we started the annoying, “Please step here. Can you feel that? Does that hurt?” process. And then she asked me to pee in the thingy. Ewwwwwww. Then she STUDIED it. Double ew. “This doesn’t look too good.” Dr. Lu said. She tested it (triple EWWW) and continued “I’m going to write Julia a pass for the hospital. Go into the emergency room. It doesn’t matter what hospital.” Great. I was being sent to the hospital for my pee. She continued to talk to my dad as I sat there, mollified.
When I got back on Daddy’s car, I realized just how serious my situation was. He had this solemn look on his face, and he stared strait ahead, holding the steering wheel so tight his knuckles burned white. It was then that tears started to stream down my face. Dad called Mom, and they started talking about which hospital to go to. There goes my goal to never have to go to the hospital as a patient.
To make matters worse, my team’s eco-friendly town project was in my backpack. And Dad had said that there was no way I was going to go to school tomorrow. And it wasn’t on the computer, so I had no way of sending it to Nelson. We were going to FAIL that project, and he would push all the blame on ME. Wonderful. Violent, temperamental, mean Nelson was my project partner and we were going to fail. One thing I should mention. I’m in the AP (Advanced Placement) class in my school. Most of our parents have no antibodies to a big red F on their child’s report card. Nelson would make my life miserable. You know what? Now I am starting to feel a little sick.
Dad’s game plan was that all three of us, Mom, me, and him, were going to go home and eat a quick dinner. Then we would rush to the hospital. It was all really surreal to me. I felt fine. I looked fine. And I had plans that night to go to a track meet. Why in the world did I have to go to the hospital if I was perfectly capable and healthy?
Well, despite my protests, we went into the emergency room and I sat apart from all the other patients. There was a small room with windows that offered a peek inside. There were all sorts of instruments. Not the scary, “Oh my gosh they’re going to stick a needle in me and it’s going to hurt” type of instrument. The “ugh I’m going to be prodded and squeezed that is so annoying” type of instrument. The little girl in there actually looked ill. Her head rested limply on her mothers shoulders. Meanwhile I was sitting straight, reading a book, deeply disturbed that I had to be there.
When I got into the room, they took my blood pressure and found that I was apparently dangerously high. Then I am sent to the private rooms and told to change into an annoying, cold and extremely ugly dress (mom says not to complain and that it was most practical for medical uses).
For a long time we just sat there. My mom, contemplating a way to comfort me. My dad, contemplating what disease I had actually gotten. And me, contemplating how in the world I would be able to get out of this mess. Every once in a while a doctor would come in, take my blood pressure, draw some blood, and ask me how I was doing.
“Fine.” I would say. But inside, I was not fine. I was the opposite of fine. I was hyperventilating about my school project. And having to stay in the hospital. And being screamed and cursed at when I got back to school. Physically, I was fine. Fine as any other day. But inside… TURMOIL! CHAOS!
But no, “You have to calm down Julia, getting nervous is not going to help.”
“You’ll be just fine Julia, don’t worry. You’ll be back to school in no time.”
No time turned out to be a week and a half. That’s a lot considering that I only had two more months of school left. After waiting for about three hours, a short, squat lady came in and started to pick up side bars on the hospital cot. “I’m just going to wheel you up to the third floor where the over-night’s stay.” OVER-NIGHTS?
“Um… can I just walk? I feel fine, you know.”
“Sorry honey. That would be against the rules.” Oh well. Getting wheeled around sounded like fun, anyway. The nurse awkwardly positioned my cot and barely managed to squeeze it through the door. The elevator seemed to be better suited for holding a hospital bed. As the elevator door opened with a ding, I saw why the hospital was one of the best children hospitals in New Jersey. The lobby was very colorful, and there was a movie machine in the living room. The living room was well stocked with books, puzzles, and the ceiling was made of glass. In one corner there was a mini kitchen, complete with an espresso machine and coffee maker. There was a huge aquarium with rainbow colored fish, and six of the eight sides of the room were windows that overlooked the busy street.
I was wheeled into a dark room, in which the only light illuminating it was the TV on the opposite side of the room. The kind nurse gave me a small stuffed poodle, patted my cheek, pulled the curtains that separated my “cubicle” from the other girl’s, and left the room. I never saw her again at my stay. I was surprised to see that my roommate was still up. It must have been close to midnight. My mom arrived a few minutes after me, carrying a bag containing my P.J’s and a spare change of clothes. The only other thing that I had was the book that I had borrowed from Ms. James; The Sea of Monsters. In a small bathroom, I brushed my teeth and did my business, then fell asleep. The last thing I saw was my dad trying to make do on a couch. His attempt was unsuccessful until another nurse came in and showed him how the chair could unfold into a bed.
I was awakened after about four hours by an annoying beeping sound. And a wheely-thingy being bumped around. A nurse whispered “Sorry to wake you. I just need to take your vital signs. If you could just put your finger in this clasp. That takes your heart rate. Could you lift your arm? I need to take your blood pressure. And just tonight, I also need to draw some blood. The sharp prick of the needle fully woke me up. Even after she left and turned off the light, my eyes adjusted and I just lay there, staring at the ceiling and wondering how in the world I had gotten myself in this predicament. Also, the ceiling had pretty pictures of smiling moons and balloons.
The next morning I got a menu for my meals. On the top it was marked in big letters: JULIA’S MENU- LOW SODIUM. Some of the foods were crossed out because they were too high in sodium. Like mac-and-cheese. Dad explained that they thought I had a kidney problem and that a low sodium diet was usually recommended. It’s really surprising of how much salt we eat on a daily basis. I couldn’t eat pancakes and a whole bunch of other stuff. After my meals were ordered, Mom called. She had slept at home, and was wondering if I wanted her to bring anything. I asked for a deck of cards, another book, and my stuffed animal named Harmony. Mom arrived right after breakfast was served, and Dad left for work. That day I watched four movies. It was more TV than I usually watched in a month. I walked around a lot, and tried to put together a puzzle. Having to where that dress was not fun. It was rather embarrassing, really.
That afternoon, I was wheeled into a room where I was going to be ultra-sounded (Again, I was not allowed to walk down. I sat in a wheelchair that had a flagpole). A kind, tall nurse came in a few minutes after me. She helped me jump on to the cot and lie down. Other than Mom, her, and me, there was no one else in the room. It was dimly lit, and next to the cot there was a screen and some equipment. The doctor put some jell on the ultra-sound equipment (it had a flat end-that’s where she applied the jell- and a handle) and started rolling it around my stomach/kidney area. That would send images to the screen. She had to re-roll some areas, and it appeared that my situation was not very bright (just like the room). After she de-jelled my stomach, I was wheeled back up to my room (we had to wait for another nurse, they wouldn’t let my mom wheel me up either).
The day went on almost normally after that, except that I was still in the hospital, still wearing that annoying dress, still watching way too many movies, and still not in school with my friends. While I was in the “living room” doing a puzzle with my mom, an old doctor in a white lab coat came up to us. He presented himself as Dr. Marcus, and took my heart rate. After doing that, he sat down and started talking to my mom about my kidneys. I got bored and started playing with Mom’s cell phone (she has a Blackberry) even though I prefer my NV. Alyson called, and the first things I heard were:
“OH MY GOSH YOU WEREN’T AT SCHOOL ARE YOU OKAY ARE YOU GOING TO DIE WHERE ARE YOU NELSON WAS SCREAMING HIIS HEAD OFF DURING LUNCH AND CURSING (short gasp) THE LUNCH LADY HAD TO DRAG HIM TO THE PRINCIPALS OFFICE HE WAS REALLY MAD ABOUT THE PROJECT…” While my best friend took her time to breathe, I seized the opportunity to talk.
“NO, I’m not going to die. But thank you for the consideration. Tell Nelson to deal with it. How was school? Did I miss anything in class? How is everyone else doing?”
“I don’t think Nelson will ever deal with getting an F… YOU MISSED FIELD DAY AND WE DID SO MANY COOL THINGS EVERYONE WAS SPRAYING WATER AT EACH OTHER AND NO YOU DIDN’T MISS ANYTHING BECAUSE IT WAS FIELD DAY AND IT WAS THE PERFECT TEMPATURE TOO SO YOU’RE NOT GOING TO DIE? I should tell Sally to stop mourning…”
That was when I first noticed the wailing in the background. Everyone was staring at me and the cell phone. Dr. Marcus and Mom were pretty much the only ones who didn’t notice the screaming. Apparently he was telling her that in order to find out my disease I needed to go through a biopsy. That being a surgery and all, Mom was worried sick and he was trying to say that it wasn’t anything to be scared about.
Well, it wasn’t because I never actually had the biopsy. Another doctor came in a few days later, and offered that I first take some medicine for a few weeks and see what happens. But every time he considered another variable, it seemed that my chances of being cured kept on decreasing. My age, my weight, my tests, my blood pressure. In the end we did it anyway.
For three months I was not allowed to do any exercise whatsoever. Like, no running up the stairs or throwing a ball. No hiking or swimming. And I wasn’t allowed to eat anything salty. Including barbecue (which was really a pity because it was summertime), cereal, cake, candy (junk food, as my dad put it), cheese, bread, and pretty much anything that tasted good. At least, that’s what it felt like. I stayed home most of the summer, watching TV and wasting away my life. Now that school has started, I feel like nothing could be better. But it was really hard to just do everything slowly, and not be able to go outside and play. By four o’clock I would be wailing: “IT’S ONLY FOUR O’CLOCK? WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN THIS MISERABLE HOUSE? I’M BORED. SOMEONE SAVE ME…”
And then, of course, there were side affects. I got fatter because I couldn’t do any exercise. Apparently during that “period of illness” I was slightly swollen and now I have stretch marks, which are these purple-ish horizontal lines that run down my leg. My mom was more worried about them than I was. The worst part was, there was a pandemic going around, called the H1N1 influenza. Since my immune system was not working like normal immune systems because of the medicine, my parents decided to keep me home. On the last week of school.
And of course, now my parents and are always checking me to see if I’m ok. “Julia, are you ok?” “That food is way too salty. Don’t eat it.” “Let me see your face. Is it swollen?” “Julia, you need sleep.”
My parents and I got a huge wake-up call from that disease. Now you can find me doing things like any other kid. Complaining about homework, hanging out with friends. But those three months were the worst moments in my life. If I had just been more health conscious, I could’ve avoided the entire thing. And that would have made my life so much more easier. That shows how important your health is. Like the old phrase goes: Health is the top priority.