Oberlin Blogs

With a Little Help From My Friends

August 14, 2011

Ida Hoequist ’14

This is not the story of how I spilled frying oil all over myself last Saturday. Yes, I was making fried green tomatoes and dropped a bead of oil into the burner in the process of lifting a fried slice of tomato out of the pan, and yes, that oil caught on fire. I did indeed move the pan to put it out and in doing so splash oil on my right hand, and then on my right leg and foot as I momentarily lost control of said hand. But that's not the part I care about - what happened afterward is much more interesting.

Now, I realize that being too far away to help a child that has just sustained serious injury is a nightmare for parents, but chances are it will happen sooner or later. I'm here to tell you that it's not the end of the world. Those ninety seconds of rampant oil might have been terrible, but the alacrity and generosity with which my support system here responded astounded me - and this in the summer, when most of the people I know aren't even on campus.

The first person to leap to my aid was my friend Allyn, who was cooking with me at the time. I'd invited him over for an evening of tasty food and camaraderie, not an evening rescuing poor saps who hurt themselves, but he pulled it off beautifully on short notice. While I held my burns under running water, he called his mom (a registered nurse) to make sure we were doing everything right; she said that I shouldn't stop watering myself for another thirty minutes, and I figured the easiest way to do that was under a showerhead, so that's where I stood for the next half hour. During my impromptu clothed shower, Allyn not only cleaned up our cooking mess and mopped the oil-covered floor, he also went home for painkilling burn cream, ingredients for an omelette so that we could still eat, a comedy film, and a pint of Ben & Jerry's. In other words: total hero.

None of my housemates were home when I had my temporary bout of extreme clumsiness, but most of them returned soon enough to witness the aftermath, and were accordingly distressed for my sake. All five offered themselves to me as 'on call,' should I need anything, and one of them actually proved helpful without my making a single request - on her way out of the house, she unearthed a bottle of aloe vera in our bushes. It had just been lying there, chilling out, waiting to be found. She bounded back inside, beaming, and declared, "You'll never believe what just happened!" while presenting me with the bottle. There was much rejoicing.

After that, things wound down. I'd done my time under the running water, I'd eaten some dinner, I'd slathered burn cream on myself and taken some tylenol. I finally settled down in front of the comedy, feeling pretty well taken care of.

The next day, I went on my daily trip to the corner of Tappan to pick up the college's wifi, and who should appear but Camille Washington-Ottombre! She said that she and her husband had just driven by and had finally decided to take pity on me, after watching me walk past their house day in, day out in my quest for the internet. Then she handed me the password to her wifi. I was floored. She lives across the street from me, so having her password meant I wouldn't have to leave the house anymore to get online. (This came in handy later when the doctor told me not to walk around too much, and to stay out of the sun.) In the course of our conversation, she noticed my burns. "What on earth did you do?!" she cried, and then offered to give me some burn lotion - which, mind you, she'd brought over from France - that was stronger than just plain aloe.

I had internet, I had medicine, everyone who saw me was offering to help as best they could, and most importantly, I wasn't in any pain anymore - life was good! Bolstered by this good fortune, I broke the news of my accident to my parents, scheduled a doctor's appointment, and went to sleep happy.

I'd like to note that before last Monday, I'd never been to the doctor by myself. I'd also never been to the doctor in Oberlin before, but dealing with that was a necessary step in my big-kid journey through the consequences of my actions. Thankfully, said journey was smoothed by the efficient and effective care I got; everyone in the doctor's office, including Dr. Amirneni himself, was very sympathetic and very thorough. He prescribed me antibiotics so that I'd be less susceptible to infection when my blisters burst, and an even stronger antibiotic, painkilling burn cream to replace the one I was using. He also forbade me from working all week. I was less enthused about this, but burn infections can easily become amputation cases, so going back to my undeniably dirty Grounds job without the doctor's clearance was out of the question for me.

Something else I'd never done before was fill my own prescription, but strike me down if I haven't learned how to do that as well this week! As it turns out, there's a CVS five minutes down the road from my house (by bike, of course) with a surprisingly amicable pharmacist - either that, or my hand looks so gruesome that everyone I meet decides to take pity on me and be extra nice.

At any rate, my final source of comfort was Ma'ayan, who had agreed to cook me dinner for two days (I was having trouble gripping things with my dominant hand). There were blisters all along my forefinger and thumb, but a particularly worrying one on my thumb's knuckle had been growing steadily since the accident, and it finally popped while I was washing my hands at Ma'ayan's house. She immediately called up her mother, who works as a registered nurse in an ER - not that I'm complaining, but why is it that all of my friends have RN moms? - and asked for advice. Of course, there isn't much you can do with a popped blister except keep it clean and make sure the skin doesn't dry out, but it was reassuring to have clear directives from Mrs. Plaut on the matter.

In the few intervening days, my hand has improved enough that I can play flute again and write reasonably well, thank goodness. I had a letter that I wanted to answer right after the accident, so I wrote that one left-handedly; it took me about an hour to fill up a piece of paper. I'm now legibly ambidextrous, but that cured me of any desire for further improvement. (I answered the rest of my letters today, with my right hand.) I've basically been using my time off to do anything productive I can think of, as long as it's low-key - the burns on my right leg and my feet prevent me from being too active. Unfortunately, I like to be active, so the restrictions my burns put on me have been a little frustrating.

But I can deal. That's what big kids do, right?

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