Tuesday, December 25th, 2001 12:07 pm (pandemo)
The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.
-- Lord Bowen
Leaning on the horn, Cu stops the truck in front of the hospital and leaps out. Jacques opens the heavy front door, sees Cu, and dashes into the rain to his side.
"Good. You found them. Together?"
He's speaking English as though Cu knows it well.
"Sí." His eyes grow bigger and bluer as he stares at the doctor expectantly.
"You take Alberto. I'll help Despina. We'll just check them both over to be sure they're none the worse for wear."
Cu has plucked Alberto out as they speak, giving him quite a fierce hug as he passes into the building. "Bueno," he calls over his shoulder just before the door slams shut.
The doctor, now dripping, takes Despina's arm to help her down, hustling her through the rain. "He could have used the ambulance entrance."
"Don't gripe,” Despina chides, shivering. “You've finally got PATIENTS, just days after complaining about having none. We shall, it appears, live to tell the tale."
More water in tiny sips, then a black cherry sports drink for Alberto, still held by Cu, who makes sure he takes tiny sips and rests in between. When he becomes restless, Jacques hands him a Popsicle, which he eats while bopping all over the hospital, fascinated by everything.
Although Jacques is distracted, he says nothing as he continues to lay cold compresses on Despina's feverished skin. Cu catches his errant son and holds him, gently, but firmly, patiently, on his lap on the waiting room couch. Alberto is soon fast asleep against his father's chest.
Jacques eyes Despina, then says, "I know this walk was unexpected, but if you're going to live successfully in a desert, you must get yourself into the habit of always being ready to handle the normal temperatures it offers. Don't look at me like that. Your LIFE is at stake."
Despina resists rolling her eyes. She meets his intense amber ones instead.
Fingering her top, he says, "This is the wrong kind of fabric for the desert. You need stuff that will wick perspiration away from your body so it evaporates quickly. That's how your body cools down."
Looking down at his chaste fingers on the hem of her top where it is not touching her body, Despina admits, "I can't afford a new wardrobe before payday."
"I'd look into a payday loan... you don't even have the protection of a roof over your classroom, and it may be a bit before that happens. Then, of course, you have to STAY UNDER IT."
"No 'but's about it. You need a hat, as well, and I'd recommend one of those neck coolers. Soaking it in water and draping it around your neck will cool for hours. Even if you never go out on another walk."
Despina gives a mock military salute.
"I also am going to recommend an anti-chafing cream for those nasty rubbed places between your thighs. You do use a sun screen with an SPF of 15 or more, don't you?"
"Uhm, it might only be 12... I'd have to look." Despina’s eyes light on anything else but Jacques’s.
"If it isn't, replace itt,” Jacques says, still in command mode. “This is SERIOUS sun country, and you're the skin type that loves to burn."
Gingerly moving her shoulders, Despina knows she'll have a burn right through the thin fabric of her blouse.
Jacques, who has been watching her intently, carefully pulls her collar over. "Okay, I'll get something for that right now." As he returns, he draws the drapes around her bed, then slides her blouse away from her shoulders, carefully rubbing the cream across the red patches. "Take that with you for now."
Looking at her blistered feet, he winces. "And, get some hiking boots. Even for the classroom. They protect against snakebite, too, and we DO have nasty critters running around here. White socks, made from a wicking fabric as well."
After he's slathered something on the blisters, he eyes her again. "Now, what do you know about the symptoms of heat exhaustion?"
"Uh, overheating, vomiting? Weakness?" ventures Despina.
"Have you ever had it before?" Jacques asks sharply.
"Yes, at least twice,” Despina admits. “Once on a white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico, and once when my grandfather and I were tearing out old fences on my family's Century Farm in Iowa."
"You'll always be more susceptible, then. Before you go hiking, say, an hour before, drink a large glass of water. While walking, drink a cup of water every mile. On long walks, after an hour switch to a sports drink that contains salts (electrolytes) to maintain your salt balance. If you drink only water while exercising and sweating, you may end up in the hospital from depleting your body salt, even without the excitement of a flash flood."
"Okay," Despina responds meekly.
"Heat stroke is a true medical emergency -- when your temperature and salt balance is off, it destroys your kidneys and other internal organs rapidly. Stop and cool down at the first signs of heat sicknesss," Jacques concludes his lecture.
"If I had stopped," Despina spits vehemently, "Alberto would have been in the bottom of the arroyo when the water hit."
"Ah, yes. There's always that. Nobody denies the necessity of you actions,” Jacques admits. “But switching victims is a futile solution. They don't want ANY victims." Then, lest the import of his lecture be overshadowed, he reiterates, "The basic rule of thumb is to start a walk having had 16 oz. of water, then replenishing with a cup of water every 15-20 minutes. End your walk with a big glass of water. That will prevent dehydration, losing too much fluid from your body.” He cautions, “Symptoms such as feeling thirsty happen only after you have lost too much water already. Don't wait until you FEEL thirsty; keep drinking. You know you're getting dehydrated when you have a dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, stomachache, back pain, headache, irritability, or decreased urination."
"I don't have all those," Despina mumbles.
"Thank God for small favors!” Jacques enthuses. “Remember, sweating removes both water and salts, electrolytes, from your body as you walk. In our low humidity, you may not notice how much you're sweating. For walks of over an hour, replenishing your electrolytes with a sports drink is also important to prevent hyponatremia, the loss of sodium,” Jacques says, turning to the fridge. He returns with a Gatorade, handing it to Despina as he continues, “It's recommended to drink a bottle of sports drink for every two bottles of water. Or drink a mixture throughout your walk. The signs of hyponatremia include nausea, headache, cramps, confusion, slurred speech, bloating, and swollen hands."
"Do the kids already know all that stuff, or should I teach it?" Despina asks, relaxing a bit now that the lecture seems over.
"I'll get you some pamphlets. They can never know too much, even at four." Jacques smiles as he looks at Cu and Alberto.
Despina, following his gaze, thinks, A masculine version of Madonna and Child.
"Okay, so if I take them off on a nature hike, we need to tank up first, right? Then end with another tanking up, and suggest carrying water with them in canteens, or something similar? Do they have those?" Despina meets Jacques’s eyes inquisitively.
"I think they use glass jars around here, as far as I've seen," he says, a light blush flushing his cheeks.
Looking away to remove the flirting quality of her direct gaze, Despina suggests, "Maybe I can collect used, rinsed out milk jugs at church instead. I'm not comfortable having kids with potentially broken glass."
Last updated 2/21/10 Added "tells"; amber eyes; changed does to gives; 1/1/06 Brought Despina's back story more in line with what Leanna is using in Sequel's Finale. Put heat symptoms in more conversational tone; 2/20/02, a palindrome of a date...until 11/23/04.
Word Count: 1302
Reading Level: 5.3