Hominy & Hash
ALLERGY IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD
BY Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- My apologies to Thomas Gray for playingwith the title of his elegy on death, but the underlying theme of hisplaintive poem and my column this week is the same: Sooner or later, our daywill come, ready or not.
I'm not an allergic person. I can walk through clouds of gnats andthey part and make way for me. There's no buzzing around my face, arms orankles. On St. Simons Island, in addition to the clouds of gnats we have asmaller variety: no-see-ums, they're called -- for obvious reasons. Weswat the air around us just in case -- but I really don't know. We can't seethem. Nothing comes after me nor leaves a trace if they do.
There are those who break out and swell up head to toe if they'renear poison ivy. I don't.
I can run into a patch after a lost ball or awandering kitten; I can pluck a dandelion from its midst. Nothing. Mosquitoes don't hover and zoom down on my arms as they do so often to those with me. Occasionally, I have had a fat, sassy, mosquito land on my forearm. He so piques my interest I stare at him He lingers long. Just when he's had his fill but still keeps slurping, I swat the creature too fat to fly. His blood -- I mean "my" blood -- streaks to my wrist.
The itch heleave behind is my punishment for the murderous act. I feel no remorse.
I'm not totally without experience with stings. Make that singular.In the days before air-conditioned buses, I was sitting back to an openwindow on an uptown bus in New York City. Few people were riding that hot afternoon.
I felt a vague brushing on my head and raised my hand to run my fingers through my hair.
"Ouch!" I yelled.
My thumb had been attacked my a huge waspthat escaped before my eyes. A man across the aisle said, "It must have thought your head was a flower."
My thumb was swelling, I was embarrassed for saying ouch out loud, I couldn't comprehend the flower remark, but the man elaborated, "the short yellow curls look like a chrysanthemum."
The woman in the seat across the back, observed all this, said, "Nah, they go after perfume because they think it's a flower."
That's the limit of my personal experience with allergies. Othershave to learn to live with attacks on their lives and limbs. Greg is someone who had to talk with the chef before he could touch the specialty of the house, Stew a la Andre. If it has peas in it (even one) he will instantly turn red and swell up all over.
There are other things, wediscovered, that no one at the table thought of that night until Greg washaving a reaction. The chef assured us there were no peas or beans of anykind in the stew. What then? It was discovered the chef's secretingredient was pureed peanuts. Greg can't eat peanuts.
Shelley, a beautician in Lafayette, Indiana, worked in the samesalon for a few years. Suddenly, she had difficulty breathing whenever shegot to work. She finally changed salons in an effort to escape whatever wascausing the reaction. (They assumed "sick building;" a popular theory witha mold and asthma connection.) But, that didn't do it. Each work place wasthe same. Finally, through tests and elimination of environmental reasonsas cause, she discovered her allergy to hair dye ... something she's beenhandling for years.
Allergies reached epidemic proportions among health professionalsand patients when it was discovered natural rubber latex gloves causedreactions both pulmonary and dermatological. It was especially noted inpatients having frequent surgical procedures and therefore more exposed tothe latex than those in routine care.
Although my concern for friends and family is sincere there's really nothing I can do about it. It's a fact of life and I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.
Or, am I?
I didn't have a cold. Out of the blue, I just started to cough. Not choke on something, just cough. No runny nose, nothing to cough about at all. The little spell would end and a few hours later begin again. I finally mentioned it to the doctor and he said it was a post-nasal drip. "A what?"
"A post-nasal drip," he said. "Some sinus drainage drips into the throat causing you to cough. You may just feel a tickle."
"I don't have sinus problems; I don't feel any dripping."
"You wouldn't necessarily," he explained. It could be an allergy."
"Oh, no," I countered, "I'm not an allergic person."
"It appears you are now, it can develop at any age," he said,reviewing my blood work report.
"But, what am I allergic to? I've lived here for nine years, I'mused to the plants and pollen." "Hmmm," he said, looking over my chart and his scribbled notes of my exercise, dietary and beverage regimen. "I'd say, alcohol, you're allergic to alcohol. You say you drink wine every night, perhaps three or four glasses?"
"Yes," I said, "so?"
"Well, your blood report level on allergies is high, as is your consumption of alcohol," he said, looking me dead in the eye over his glasses.
"But, I don't drink Scotch, Rum, Vodka or Gin. Just wine," I whined.
So, that's it then. Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, fattening or, I'm allergic to it. Thomas Gray started his poem, "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day," and I'll end my column: "Bummer."