Two things caught my attention this past week and they all involved people close to me. It is not that these people are really related but in recent times I have been spending most of my waking hours with them.
At the start of the week I got a call from a woman whose voice I barely recalled. I had to wait until I met her two days later but during that phone call the woman spoke of being tired of fighting. I imagined that she was in trouble with the people around her. Then she spoke of needing help with preparing her will.
When she came I saw a tired woman but the reason was shocking. She suffers from depression. Now this is something that I do not profess to understand. The woman spoke of waking up each day to fight the demons in her head.
There were distractions in the form of her young children. She enjoyed the opening day of school when her son took to his class. She spoke of him fitting right in talking with a friend about accessing the internet. Now this is indeed the new generation. When I went to school the conversation was about the games I played during the holidays.
These days the children have smart phones that allow them to do so much. The young boy played games on his phone and even chatted with relatives and friends overseas. In my days it was a case of out of out of sight, out of mind until the letter arrived.
So this boy created a distraction for his mother but she had to go back to work. She told me about the voices in her head and the fight to keep them out. On occasions she slashed her wrists. Surprisingly, she never sought medical help. It could be that we do not advertise out psychiatrists for fear of a stigma. Many of us still feel that when we go to a psychiatrist it is because we are mad and Guyana does not look kindly on mad people.
The result is that this young woman relied on over the counter medication for what she saw as headaches. But the medication she used actually made the situation worse because she had problems sleeping at night. The result is that she resorted to sleep aids. That could have been the start of an addiction.
I have promised to help her seek psychiatric help. When someone contemplates suicide and you know about it the situation becomes frightening. Death is something that we never get accustomed to; suicide is even worse because we can see it coming.
The next frightening thing was presented by a colleague who gargled with aspirin. This young mother was allergic to aspirin but she never knew it. I would have expected that in her younger days her mother at some time would have given her aspirin for a fever. This probably was not the case.
There she was sitting at her desk and calling out to me. When I looked there was swelling under her eyes followed by the scratching. Immediately I knew that she was having an allergic reaction to something. “Did you take aspirin?” I asked.
Within minutes she was a mess. Her eyes were almost shut and her face was swollen. I told her to go home and seek an antidote. To her credit, she wanted to finish the story she was writing. In the end she was off the job for two days.
I have another colleague who presented some horrible symptoms. She too was allergic to aspirin and her case was even worse. Her throat began to constrict; she could have died but for a frantic dash to the doctor.
But on one occasion a trip to the doctor actually killed a woman. I worked as a teacher with a friend Bejimal Beepat while I was resident in Bartica. Beepat’s sister accompanied a woman to the Georgetown Public Hospital for some routine reason. While there for some reason the doctor gave her an injection. She never left the hospital.
She was allergic to the injection and went into shock. She died. Here was a woman who was healthy and who had many more years to live. But one injection killed her.
There was the case of a very close friend who opted to die his hair. As he told it, before long his scalp began to itch. Then the swelling came. His face looked like a grapefruit. He immediately shaved his head and tried something to combat the allergy.
That should have been his experiment with hair dye but like most men he wanted to avoid grey hair so he began to read the labels on the hair dye packages. He found one that he thought was safe and experienced the same problem. This man was to try two others with the same dire results. Thanks to fate he is still alive.
I have no known allergies or as we say in Guyana, I have no kina. I eat any and everything. In my home I never had to reason to cook two pots (except for when I cooked my favourite karila which children seem to abhor.)
It came as a shock when I found out that one of my sons was allergic to pork. He had eaten the meat throughout his childhood. But there was this day when his mother informed me that the boy was allergic to pork. I asked her how. She told me that he vomited.
I thought that his case of vomiting was a freak. Lo and behold the next time he not only vomited but developed rashes. The same thing happens to people who eat pumpkin or shrimp. One of my daughters was allergic to peanuts.
At my office we keep supplies of Claritin but this is a drug that is not easily bought. I tried to buy two packets in the United States and could not get without the help of my daughter and later, my son. The sale was entered into a computer so that if any of them had gone to another pharmacy the record would have popped up.
My son managed to get the second packet because he informed the clerk that his father was leaving the United States and that he was not a drug dealer. Young people now use these prescriptive drugs to get a high.
How do people know that they have an allergy or that they are allergic to something? I suppose it is a case of trial and error but the error could prove fatal.
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