As any bush teacher will tell you, substitutes are not plentiful out here and so on Tuesday I trudged to school with a mild fever of 100 and began my lessons with less gusto than normal. By the time I left on Tuesday, many shades paler (a HUGE accomplishment for me) with a fever of 102 and in considerable pain my throat had started to grow its very own white and red polka-dots... not interior decorating I approve of. I took some tylenol, drank some water and planted myself on the couch.
Wednesday morning at 3:30am I walked my sub plans over to the school and tearfully admitted via HR leave request that I could no longer speak, swallow, eat or drink and I had a fever of 104. I couldn't put off a clinic visit and desperately needed a sick day.
After some intake paperwork and insurance formalities, our assistant IL's son (who also happens to be the health aide) took me back to the exam room and began asking me the standard questions that any doc would ask. I answered as many as I could but by the end the process of speaking had tears leaking out of my eyes. Normally I would have felt bad for the health aide for having to deal with the crying woman, but he started the appointment by telling me I looked like shit (in the kindest, most sympathetic way possible) so I thought this turnabout was fair play.
By the end of the rapid strep kit (yes kit, not test. It was in a cardboard box and tested right there in the room) and referring to the medical resource book on the counter I was told without a doubt that I had strep... and a VERY bad case of it.
Here comes the great part! Because my throat was so swollen and I needed antibiotics ASAP I would be getting a penicillin SHOT.
My first thought was to thank God that our clinic had the shot so that I wouldn't have to fly to Bethel for treatment. My second thought was of the last time I had this shot: I was young enough to still be treated by my very first pediatrician and I remember that the shot went into the meaty part of my thigh and made me limp for days. The fact that I remember any of this means one thing... it hurt like the dickens, because I am usually not off put by shots. (This teacher would like to note that the shot does NOT go in the thigh anymore, or at least mine didn't).
I stepped out into the waiting room and asked the school councilor, who kindly came with me to the clinic so that I would have a friendly face, if she would come hold my hand. (When I am sick I revert back to the five year old me who just wants her mommy to hold her hand and her daddy to bring home ginger ale and Popsicles).
The wonderful Debbie held my hand and rubbed my back the entire time I was being given the horribly cold and thick serum. you can tell that she raised four kids of her own and was a great mom to have around when you were sick.
After my shot (and 30 minutes of waiting to make sure I didn't have a reaction to the shot) I was sent home with orders to force fluids no matter how much it hurt and to take Tylenol and ibuprofen to reduce the tonsil pain. I was also given blessings to get on a plane the next day and head into Anchorage for training. Only in the bush, right?
Flying with strep is not something I will ever recommend, especially on a bush plane since the inability to swallow makes it impossible to pop your ears. It took almost two days for the pressure in my ears to equalize once we landed. I am happy to report that I am in Anchorage, fever free and pain free, enjoying the balmy 60 degree sunshine!
Reading this I realize that having strep in the village isn't any different than having strep in the city, but it did make the homesick feeling much worse because everyone (whether you admit it out loud or not) knows that when you are sick all you want is your mommy or daddy there to take care of you like you're five again.