"No mom, I definitely need a hearing aid."
My older sister Molly had gotten glasses and braces all in the same year. It was so unfair. In all of my eight years, I hadn't been gifted with any ailments or maladies to brag about. Nell K. broke her collarbone and got to wear a sling for like, all of kindergarten. Nell E. got glasses and braces before middle school. Anna G. was deathly allergic to dairy and had to drink Parmalat and got to wear Supergas. She also had an awesome office in her family's apartment that locked that we were allowed to go into and lock ourselves in if we wanted. She was so cool. Maia P. couldn't even be in a room with peanuts without fear of epileptic shock. My sister had terrible car sickness and the aforementioned glasses and braces. So far, I had nothing. Nothing! I sometimes got diarrhea if I drank sugary apple juice. But being allergic to apple juice is really not glamorous, and to be honest, i didn't love talking about that. Diarrhea wasn't yet something I loved talking about. Once, on a walk to the school bus with my mother, we saw wet tar being laid down on the sidewalk. The smell was strong, and a couple of minutes later, I got a nosebleed.
So, I claimed two allergies. Apple juice (NOT cider) and the smell of tar.
The holy grail of medically necessary paraphernalia was one that was visible to all, but could also be easily removed for an easy "cute to HOT!" effect. My sister had claimed the glasses, and I liked for us to have more of a "similar but separate" aesthetic. I still had baby teeth, so a retainer, the real winner, was out. I hadn't really seen what a hearing aid looked like, but i knew they sat visibly in one's ear, and that they weren't screwed into your head, and in fact could be removed.
I wouldn't take health for an answer. I bent paperclips to wear as "retainers" and complained about how much "my retainer hurt". I was constantly going to the nurse's office in the hopes of finally twisting my wrist enough for an ace bandage. Besides casts and slings, an ace bandage was the penultimate in accessories that garnered attention. As far as I was concerned, one couldn't simply purchase the flesh-toned non-adhesive wrap in a store. One had to be given the coveted band by a medical health professional, only after the distinction was made between a "strain" and a "sprain". I left the nurse's office many a time with a naked arm, a bag of ice and a "strained wrist" diagnosis. The "strain" was basically like winning Miss Congeniality. The nurse would give it to you to show her recognition that you did try, but you definitely didn't do anything to call home about.
It wasn't until I was in eighth grade that my moment came. My shining moment of glory that would find me surrounded by my friends and family, basking in their concern and undivided attention. Of course, the days preceding my check-in at New York Hospital were grossly uncomfortable and worse, didn't require any outside help. Nobody called anyone to let them know my condition, because I was just experiencing serious xiang tu xia xie at home. Chinese is the only language that marries "shitting yourself and vomiting at the same time" into a single phrase: xiang tu xia xie. It wasn't until I started experiencing more of an all-encompassing, blinding agony that anyone past my parents seemed to really take notice. If I could have chosen a different path to the ER, I might have left out all the xiang tu xia xie, but regardless, I made it there. It had arrived. I had my first real medical emergency: appendicitis. Truly one of the greats.
I had cried appendicitis many a sick day in the past, but my mom herself had hers taken out, and knew the real symptoms. One of the symptoms is such formidable pain that a 13-year-old won't even think to complain, only whimper and have her hair pet while in fetal position in the back of a cab.
A stall in my diagnosis turned into a burst appendix as we waited for my cat scan. They actually mistook the fragments of that organ for a fully formed one, blaming the extraneous fluids in my system on "puberty". I believe they used the term "womanly fluids". Once that got cleared up, the medical team apologized and I was prepped for surgery.
After the surgery, I was told I would be in the hospital for at least three days for observation while they administered the antibiotic that would rid me of whatever fatal liquids my dinky little appendix had released. I was ecstatic. My sister came to visit, and was so distraught over my weak state that she cried, and only once I was out of earshot. The drama! I had my own little clicker that administered morphine to my system, which i clicked all the time. I told a group of visitors, a mix of friends and their parents, that we were all in the jungle. I deemed them certain animals, and let them know about their backstories. Morphine is truly the shit.
In the hospital, hours passed in strange ways, and i would often find myself up and watching That's So Raven until 6 a.m., before passing out until 2 p.m. the next day. Neither of my parents said anything, and it was amazing. I couldn't eat any solid foods, and at a certain point that depressed me. My father brought in soup dumplings, pork fried rice and a bevy of other Chinese food items that i cared deeply for in the hopes that i would be able to eat some. I cried and cried over my hospital tray, not being able to comfortably put a single dumpling in my mouth. This was probably the most painful part of the entire ordeal.
I had to miss Halloween because i was in the hospital, but the tragedy of a holiday missed gave me a ton of leverage. I have never seen so much candy as I had when I didn't get to trick or treat. "Our friend is in the hospital, and we want to fill a bag for her to!" I mean. Thats gonna bring in a massive haul.
After about a week in the hospital, I had to stay bedridden at home for another week. I finally arrived back at school on a Friday. A Friday! I had tricked them all into thinking i was so weak that I could only manage a single day back at school before another break. On Fridays, the middle school would gather in the assembly hall to start the day with announcements from club heads and sports captains. After the first club heads, two of my buddies, ended their announcement with "and welcome back, Annie," everyone felt obligated to end their announcement with "and welcome back, Annie." Obviously, it was the best half hour of my entire life. Every time someone would say "and welcome back, Annie," the entire assembly would turn and look at me. I made sure to wither in pain and smile weakly, yet graciously.
There would be other medical emergencies in my life after the burst appendix. I would be sent to the hospital after fainting on the Roosevelt Island tram. I would visit my mother in there when she suffered a minor heart attack. But my acute appendicitis would always be the glory moment. I didn't die, but i found out later that i might well have, if they hadn't operated in time. Everyone felt bad for me. I got to stay up late watching television. I lost eight pounds from being unable to eat! I would never again wonder what it was like to command the attention of so many. My emergency became everyone's emergency. Everyone trick or treated for me, regardless of whether or not I'd be able to eat any of it afterwards. And at the end of it all, my entire middle school felt obligated to welcome me back. Appendicitis was truly the home run hit I imagined it would be.
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