Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do
Ælflæd of Duckford
I have two personal tales of woe in which I was very grateful for chirurgeons. The first was being sick at Pennsic the year of "The Pennsic Plague" (a painful stomach virus or flu got about 20% of the camp, it was told). Chirurgeons were making housecalls, going camp to camp asking if there were any plague victims, giving out advice and instructions, and making a count. My friends sent one in to see me in my tent. He was very very nice and made me feel that I might not really die. One of my fondest but weirdest SCA memories is puking into a large silver bowl held by a baroness. That doesn't happen every day! (thank goodness)
After that event I got the big official call from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The guy was interviewing me as president of the weird club that had held a big campout where people were cooking their own food in a place with no good sanitation facilities. Actually he was nice, and sympathetic, but concerned that we might have spread that disease around the country because of us being from all kinds of everywhere. My thought was that all the people who'd been sick did all they could do just to get home and sleep it off. We might've spread it around more if we'd had any energy. I think he said if you have to wash hands and dishes in cold water, try to at least use soap. I wouldn't swear to it; I was still trying to sleep off the effects of the plague.
Another back-at-the-site bit—Although there were toilets marked "plague victims only" the other toilets were not marked "no plague victims," and if these selfsame plague victims could have patiently waited their turn in the long line at the plague toilet, they wouldn't really have qualified to use it.
The second tale was breaking my leg. Folklore holds strong to the theory that I slipped on a cowpie, but I don't think that's true. There was a slippery grassy place, and rather than fall on my butt in the pitch darkness (which no one would have seen anyway) I caught myself with my other leg (or tried) by stomping it firmly to the ground. Unfortunately, the ground under that foot was closer than I thought, there was a stick right under where the arch of my foot might have been if I hadn't had on Birkenstocks which were too big for me. My leg didn't know which way to tilt so it just broke. The force and the quick tilt did it, but I didn't know for a week, because every time I tried to think of what happened, blinding white pain would come. I told all the doctors I fell down. NO KIDDING-when your leg bends forward between your ankle and knee, you do fall down. I didn't break my leg by falling, though. I broke my leg by stomping it onto a stick.
The sad, sad part was that our ranking chirurgeon, Lady Merlina, had spent the previous three weekends teaching out-of-town marathon EMT courses, and working two ambulance jobs during the week. This was her first day off in a month and she was sound asleep. She came and oversaw getting me splinted (spears and duct tape, I think) and into the back of a little pickup with a camper (which had to come across a place where pickups had never gone before) and she rode with me all the twenty slow bumpy miles to Los Alamos, New Mexico-not a major medical center, but we were 90 miles from Albuquerque.
In both these instances people sacrificed their time and shared their knowledge to do something altogether mundane and modern, which kept them from being in persona as they might have liked to have been, which kept them away from classes and activities and sleeping, and which benefitted others more than it benefitted the chirurgeons. I've always been grateful for the patient attention I was shown on two of my worst-ever days.
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