Wednesday, August 6, 2014

confusion between words, names, and diseases

e coli magnified

I needed a prototypical picture of a beautiful dumb blonde, and Alyssa would've killed me (read about what she did to Jared) if I used an actual photo of her.   I don't know this girl, and for all I know, she's a neurosurgeon.

One of Jared's little cousins who lives just under an hour south of here has contracted e coli. She had odd bruises for which her mother could not account, and then developed [ sorry if you're eating] bloody diarrhea.There's nothing pleasant, at least a far as I know, about having a case of e coli, but a mild case is curable, and it appears the little girl has a mild case.  She's in the hospital for precautionary measures and to keep her hydrated, but all signs are that she, who is four years old, will be fine. 

No one really knows for certain how she might have contracted the bacterial  illness. As  far as home-cooked meals, everyone in the family has eaten the same thing, and no one else is sick. The fast food places and restaurants the family has visited are being investigated, but it doesn't appear that there's any sort of epidemic. Still, she could have eaten the one under-cooked burger that escaped detection all year at a given fast food joint. As likely as not, considering the child's age, she  probably failed to wash her hands properly after using the bathroom, and then ate some sort of finger food, but who knows?

Anyway, my friend Alyssa, who is  both Jared's and the sick child's cousin, came back from a short trip to Utah to learn of this, and immediately flew into hysteria. No one present could determine the source of her panic. We're all concerned about little Brooklyn (the poor child's parents have bizarre tastes in names; her five sisters are fortunate not to be named Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, or maybe even Bedford-Stuyvesant or Hell's Kitchen), but the situation appears to be under control. She's anemic, but not dangerously so, and her kidneys are functioning well. She's in the hospital so that she can be monitored, hydrated, and given antibiotics by IV. If things go as expected, Brooklyn will be released in a few days.

Alyssa was literally weeping over what she perceived as the laissez-faire attitude the rest of us had regarding Brooklyn's illness. She asked, "What is the survival rate of this illness, anyway? What are the chances that she could die?"

Jared responded with, "What are the chances that any of us could die, Alyssa? I could walk out the door and be hit by a car while I'm crossing the street. Or maybe I don't even have to walk out the door. Maybe a drunk-driver or an old person could drive right through the living room wall any second." He probably picked that up from the Everybody Loves Raymond episode when Frank crashed into Ray and Deborah's living room.

Without really thinking, I moved away from the wall that was closest to the street. Jared noticed and laughed at me.

Alyssa became enraged and hit Jared's face so hard with a sofa cushion  that it caused a his nose to bleed. "I'm sorry!" she shrieked. "I meant to hurt you, but I didn't intend to draw blood."

"Don't worry about it," he told her as he used his T-shirt to soak up the carnage.

I ran for a roll of paper towels because I didn't want to deal with my mother's umbrage over Jared's blood, or anyone's blood, for that matter, tainting her living room. No one enters the room in an unclean state [my mom is nearly as anal as the Saducees of the Old Testament], no one eats in the room, and certainly no one bleeds  there.  I handed paper towels to Jared, then suggested that we move the discussion into the family room, where a drop of blood might elicit a question or two but not utter mania.  As we were moving to the family room, a light bulb went off in my brother's head.

"Alyssa," Matthew asked her, "What do you know about e coli?"

"What everybody knows," Alyssa answered. "It's in Africa, and people are dying over there with it because there's no cure. The [Mormon] missionaries are being moved out if Liberia and somewhere else for their own safety because the area has been so hard-hit. They're bringing two Americans back to the U.S. to treat them, and it's stirring up all sorts of worry because now the disease will be on the American continent." She paused.  "And now Brooklyn has it right here in California!"

Jared was sitting [bare-chested because I'd thrown his shirt in the washing machine because of the blood on it, and no one in my house owns any shirt that would come close to fitting his 6' 6" frame] with his elbows on his knees and his huge hands covering his face. He was laughing so hard that I could tell he was crying, but didn't want the rest of us to see the tears streaming down his face. (Their family cries a lot, whatever the reason.) Matthew was laughing openly.

"My cousin is dying, and you troglodytes for some reason think it's  funny!" Alyssa stormed out of the family room and into the bathroom, slamming the door and locking it behind her. I followed her. I could hear that she wasn't using the bathroom for personal business, so I reached for a paper clip in the drawer under the kitchen counter and unlocked the bathroom door. (It's a highly secure lock.) 

Matthew grabbed Alyssa's arm and pulled her back into the family room. Jared had no intention of letting her anywhere near him after she'd bloodied his nose with the sofa cushion. Matthew sat her down on a love seat away from Jared.  He pulled an ottoman up to her so that he was directly facing her. "Alyssa,"  he explained, "the disease you're thinking of - the deadly virus that's decimating parts of Africa, is the ebola virus, NOT  e coli.  Brooklyn'll be out of the hospital in a couple of days and probably back to  normal in less than a month."

"So she doesn't have that illness that's killing all the Africans?" she asked.

"No!" we all answered in unison.

"Never mind, then," she said cheerily as she jumped up and hurried back into my parents'  living room to play the Steinway that sits  there. The rest of us just shook our heads. The scary thing was that until the end of the last quarter, she was a pre-nursing major. 

She's changed her major to English, and plans to become a paralegal. We can only hope that she obtains a better grasp of the principles of law than she has of the most very basic medical terminology. Depending upon the agency for whom she works, because of her ineptitude, guilty people will walk the streets, patents will be sought for products for which they already have been granted, or documents will be misread to the extent that lawsuits which should have prevailed will be lost and vice versa, but presumably at least no one will die as a result of of her perpetual state of confusion.


   Today's lesson, which most of you have learned eons ago::

                  e coli  ≠  ebola

Note: I am  not poking fun at the ebola virus or at anyone who suffers from it, nor would I ever do so.. I am, however, making mirth at the expense of Alyssa's obtuseness.


  1. Good gawd... She sounds a bit like Rose Nylund. ;)

  2. Yeah. She is kind of a young Rose Nylund.

  3. Well, it's probably best that she gave up the nursing idea.

  4. If she had actually made it through the nursing prereqs, we were going to draw up a pool for big bucks regarding how long it took her to be bounced from the program.

    I personally think for the most part it's a waste of an English major (if she completes it) just to become a paralegal, as it's certainly not a requirement to have a bachelor's degree in order to become a paralegal, but in her case it's probably not a bad idea. Her writing skills aren't all that abysmal, relatively speaking, but she probably needs all the help with reading comprehension that she can get. It's unfortunate for her that there's really no such university major as "reading," just as there's not a major in handwriting (there might be some extension of calligraphy in an art program somewhere in which one can obtain a degree, but there isn't a degree program in basic handwriting), just as thre's no reputable degree program in finger painting, Mr. Potato Head, or recess.