Saturday, April 5, 2008

Magic medicine~

Before class, Mike approached me, red faced and nervous. "Mrs. D. Can I go to the nurse?"

"Why?" I always ask, performing my triage role. Paper cuts and week-old bruises get no one out of a math test.

"My arm feels numb, sort of tingly, and my leg is weak," he said rubbing his tingling right elbow with his left hand.

"What happened?" I asked, all the while noticing that he had good color, stood tall, spoke clearly.

"I poked my arm with my pencil," he said showing me his bicep on which there was the tiniest pink spot. He repeated, "My arm feels funny and the feeling's spreading down my leg. All on this side."

Some teachers in a situation like this say simply, "Go sit down. You're fine." Kids who make trips to the nurse for avoidance purposes are common and make teachers skeptical and impatient of complaints that come on the day of a test.

But I knew instinctively what his worry was. Despite the fact that pencil lead is not actually made from lead, kids think it is. Mike had no doubt heard many a TV account of the dangers of lead paint and the disastrous symptoms of lead poisoning. In fact he was suffering from lead poisoning at the moment in his own mind.

"Mike, pencils are not made of lead. You'll be fine." He still looked uncertain.

"But it was a mechanical pencil," he insisted. I assured him all pencils used graphite as their "lead" these days. "Lead hasn't been used for hundreds of years," I told him.

I started to explain that his symptoms were from worry, and would disappear soon, he should take a deep breath . . . but he interrupted, "I feel fine now. It went away, anyway." I'm not sure if he understood the mind/body connection.

I remember being around five and spending a Saturday morning with my father: a visit to the dump and Sylvester's Hardware store, then a stop at someone's house. I was given a cold drink and somehow swallowed an ice cube. It hurt going down and scared the daylights out of me. I figured I was doomed. I cried so hard-- gasping and inconsolable-- that my father took me home. My mother, though, understood the situation immediately.

"There's nothing to worry about," she told me. "The ice cube is probably already melted."

Calm informed logic is such magic medicine.

Today's kids don't see much of it. Consider the tease lines for the evening news:
  • What's under your kitchen sink that might be making your family sick?
  • What you don't know about your doctor can hurt you.
  • Is your pet endangering your health?
  • Are the lights in the classroom affecting your child's brain?
Stay tuned!
"So great a power is there of the soul upon the body, that whichever way the soul imagines and dreams, thither doth it lead the body."~ Agrippa, 1510


Wanda said...

Every day is a new adventure for you isn't it? I love hearing your "Teacher" stories. And you are so right about waht we see on the news.


rain said...

This reminds me of a couple of years ago I cracked a rib tobogganing (yes-tobogganing)but didn't know I had cracked a rib. It was on the left side and for a month I was convinced I was having heart attacks, because when it hurt I would get anxious and have a combination of pain and heart palpitations! Once I had an x-ray the pain stayed, but low and behold the palpitations stopped.

I HATE the evening news and the fact that because there is so much crap and fear mongering my kids can't learn about current events, except from me, and that's a patchy education, at best.

Lisa said...

I'm with Wanda ~ just love your teacher stories, Ruth. I think someday you should write a book. :)

Btw, I swallowed an ice cube once while at a reception, and thankfully didn't panic. It sure scared me, though!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

sc morgan said...

You are so patient, Ruth. I remember going to a junior high school in Washington DC. It was a notoriously bad school; one of my classmates dropped out that year, pregnant. That kind of school. My seventh grade teacher was a former W.A.C. and a real battle axe. Sitting in math class, bored out of my mind, I used my index finger to probe around inside the folds of my ear. There was a lump. I fingered it some more and felt it flip back and forth under my finger. I knew, from living on a ranch, that it was a tick. I raised my hand and asked if I could go to the nurse's office.

She, of course, wanted to know why. When I explained, the entire class erupted. Total chaos-- laugher, hoots, and more I can't remember now. She refused my request and never bothered to look in my ear.

It *was* a tick. I pulled it out myself later in the bathroom.

Tere said...

You are right - logic calms all fears. Like the minute my daughter heard that the results of her CT scan showed no skull fracture, only a concussion. Miraculously her head stopped hurting and her nausea went away. Go figure!

Janice Thomson said...

A perfect example of how the mind and its thoughts control our health and our actions. If people only realized just how much.

Jen said...

Laughing my ass off about the picking of popcorn out of the it! Your style is so engaging, such a good read.

You're right too...when did our bodies become the last thing on our list?

Talk soon...tea????