I Have To Go To Venice. Part One.

I was a Theater Major in college and reveled in the fierce lifestyle of wearing all black (accented with eccentric hats and scarves), smoking cigarettes at the benches and deconstructing Pedro Calderón de la Barca. But since I was attending U.C.L.A., I also decided to join a sorority. Much to my friends’ and family’s confusion.

I have varied thoughts on the Greek System as a whole, in fact, I even wrote a book about it, but my personal experience was pretty awesome. To this day, if I were to ever meet a girl from my House, no matter what chapter, I would give her our secret handshake and call her ‘My Sister’. It was at my sorority, during our formal Monday night dinner, when events set me on the course to have ‘The White Light’ experience.

It started pretty innocuously. I took an antibiotic and then drank a glass of milk. Within a few minutes I couldn’t stop clearing my throat. Twenty minutes later, I’d excused myself to the communal bathroom, stripped down, put myself in a cold shower and proceeded to sit there, singing to myself and pulling my hair out by the roots. I was also simultaneously raking my arms and legs with my nails, becoming fascinated by the pools of blood that formed there. I couldn’t stop myself because the extreme itching over my scalp and skin was such that the pain was a welcome respite. I’d lost my mind. Soon I couldn’t see, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. My sisters, Tiffany and Trisha, found me there and after they dressed me in an ADPi sweatsuit, hauled me off to the emergency room. By the time we arrived, my head had swelled to the size of a pumpkin and I’d lost the will to live.

You would hope that when your time comes to go, that you would fight tooth and nail, come out guns blazing. But by the time I fell out of Tiffany’s car in the emergency room parking lot, I was so goddamn tired I didn’t give a crap. The nurse kept slapping me in the face to keep me awake, to keep me alive. But I just wanted to sleep. I pushed her hands away and curled up into a ball. Then I let myself fall. It was an incredibly peaceful place I landed.

When I awoke a few hours (minutes?) later, the reaction had returned and I couldn’t breathe again. They shot me up with adrenaline, which made me jolt up and clutch at my heart like Fred Sanford in ‘Sanford & Son’ (for those of you who remember that reference). This went on and on and on all night. Sleeping. Suffocating. Peace. White light. Adrenaline. Finally, the next night they released me to my sisters who were instructed to watch over me constantly, as there was a concern my heart would stop as I slept. One by one, in shifts, they came to my bedside, holding my hand and taking my pulse, night and day. They would run their fingers through my hair, put a cold compress on my forehead and tell me about their classes, their dates, their days. They would give me water and try to get me to eat grilled cheese sandwiches. This went on for seventy-two hours.

Twenty-two years later, I still carry the terror from those few days. I can’t take any sort of new vitamin, medication or even eat any kind of new food without needing someone to sit next to me and hold my hand for twenty minutes to convince me I’m not having an allergic reaction. I have to be really, really sick to even take an over the counter cold-remedy. And even then, all my friends have to be on high-alert.

That’s why it was incredible to me, that I was sitting in Dr. Shay’s office requesting a prescription for Xanax. When he asked me why, I said simply, “I have to go to Venice.”


9 thoughts on “I Have To Go To Venice. Part One.”

  1. What a horrific experience! I’m so sorry you went through that…and the stressful lifelong after-effect of fear of ingesting unknown substances! Well…in some respects that’s a good thing… Anyway…what’s this Venice business?

  2. No question, anaphylaxis is no fun…life-changing to life-ending. Too bad you were scarred by it for life, but I’m glad you survived. Don’t blame you for avoiding any possibility of its return.

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