2007.10.31 If only hurricanes could eliminate fire ants

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I don’t know if I’ve come to terms with the idea of email as the major method of communication with my children, but I continue to be delighted at killing three birds with one email. That has to be one of email’s finest attributes—keeping Ben, Rozee and Maddie all informed at once.

we sold the blue van on thursday...

That, and finding out what they think:

...what would you do if you had $1100 you weren't sure you were ever going to get?

Sometimes, I just ask what’s going on, like in this email from a couple weeks ago:

not much happening. anything interesting on your end? or not even interesting, just happening?

Maddie, living on the University of Michigan campus in the heart of culture-laden Ann Arbor, said:

hey, nothing exciting is happening here either. 

Rozee, at tiny Berea College, gave a blow-by-blow account of her life:

Today was mountain day. Last night we had to go climb both sides and hammer posts in the ground with pictures of and facts about mountaintop removal for the new group I'm in—Bereans for Appalachia. That lasted until about 2:30 am...then I went back at 11:30 this morning to put one more sign up and set up the booth...then I helped at the booth and ate food and had free caramel apples and kettle corn until about 4. And watched the end of the belly dancers performance. And then I went with andi to get her car washed and when she said it was like a water ride I didn't know she meant that we would really get wet but she has an old convertible and so the water squirts in all over from the sides...it was fun. Now I'm doing laundry. The leaves started changing over night practically for mountain day. Tomorrow is the start of the celebration of traditional music and there will be a good convo tomorrow night and then I'll be working at the jam sessions and workshops all weekend. That's pretty much it right now I think.

And, Ben, well, Ben made me glad I asked—and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t.

I’ll preface Ben’s response by explaining a few things. Annie is the dog Ben and his girlfriend Sarah saved from a one-way trip to the Humane Society, the incident happened in the middle of the night at the end of his block which dead-ends at Biscayne Bay and there were no other humans around or living in the for-sale houses on either side of the street, he learned the behavior he’s engaging in from his father so he can’t be held completely responsible for his actions, and he doesn’t always tell me certain things because he thinks I might overreact.

i took annie out last night and i was bitten by a bunch of fire ants on my feet. i'm allergic to them like most people i've heard. i broke out in hives all over and my lips and neck swelled up. i couldn't even breathe through my nose. but online it said to only go to the hospital if your tongue or throat swelled up and you had trouble breathing. we luckily had antihistamine pills at the house and it took care of most of it by the time i woke up. just my eyes were swollen a little and a little bit of the redness from the hives was on my arms. my right foot is swelled up so that my shoe feels tight compared to the left when i have them on. and i was holding annie's leash and trying to pee at the time they started to bite so i got covered in pee trying to stomp them off my feet.

My stomach lurched at the description of his allergic reaction, but by the time I got to the “covered in pee” part I was laughing. Still, I worried all day long—Ben had had an allergic reaction to a bee sting when he was little—but I didn’t want to overreact.

I suggested calling Ask-A-Nurse and applying a baking soda paste, but what do I know about fire ants? Nothing.

He called me at the library the next day, foot still swollen, and I again suggested calling Ask-A-Nurse or going to the doctor. Then I saw Ruth Downer with her niece Vivian, who was visiting from Florida. I told Ben I’d talk to them, figuring Vivian might know a thing or two.

Vivian knew everything and urged me to get Ben to see a doctor. With a reaction that severe, he needs to be seen, she said, because the second time will be even worse.

“I don’t mean to scare the crap out of you, but I need to scare the crap out of you,” the doctor said after examining the 23 fire ant bites on his foot. “This is a very serious thing.”

He gave him a steroid shot, antibiotics and a prescription for an Epi-pen, which he will have to carry with him at all times to combat a fatal reaction to another fire ant bite.

I find it a bit astounding that all this time I’ve been worrying about him living in the path of Katrina-force hurricanes, it’s tiny little ants that could slay my son.

I want to overreact. I want to tell Ben to get out of Dodge. I want to go down to Miami and haul him home. But what can a mother of a 25-year-old do? Email a little more often, I guess.

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