More Seizure Coma Death Moments

by Elizabeth

This blog post is brought to you by a 100% Harm Avoidance gal, in the spirit of a life lived the Seizure Coma Death way. I present to you now, purely for your reading pleasure, true stories from this last month:


A fever and a hacking cough recently afflicted my youngest daughter. One night as she’s crying in pain, I wake to give her more Tylenol, to bring down her fever. I leave her room thinking, “Hmmm, she’s worse than the night before, when she slept all night without her fever spiking.” I begin to worry thus: Oh no, it’s probably that new mutant strain of the flu that’s worse than most flus but starts as a regular cold and gets worse and worse and worse until. . . it moves into the lungs and my baby might DIE.


And then, as I crawl back into bed, I notice that my big toe is hurting. This is my OTHER big toe, because the first one is already fighting an infected/ingrown nail. When I realize both toes are hurting, I think, Oh no!!! I have DIABETES!! I never knew a 5-pound weight gain could be enough to propel me into type 2 diabetes. I am going to be stuck the rest of my life having to take meds for this.

So I toss and turn awhile and Jonathan finally notices and asks, “Are you ok?” I answer, “NO! I am not ok! I think I have diabetes. Both my toes hurt. My feet aren’t healing.” He retorts, “The reason feet are a problem for diabetics is because they CAN’T feel their feet, not because they CAN; your feet are fine. Go back to bed.” So I try. Even though my toes are still in pain.

The weather here affects my feet I guess, making them more dry and calloused than usual. So maybe I need to invest in some sort of foot cream.

But probably not Metformin.



Later that week, a killer mosquito attacks Jonathan and me. First, it attacks him. We had gone to bed early that night to try to recover from the sleep loss associated with, you know, COUGHING KID. So we are tossing and turning, in and out of sleep, listening to our dear sweet little hacker, when suddenly he jumps out of bed, all flustered, saying a mosquito bit him on the lip. It’s swelling HUGE, and it hurts. I give him the Benadryl cream and we look for, but cannot find, the Perpetrator.


I cover my entire self with the sheets, except for my face, so I can, you know, BREATHE, and I fall back asleep. Then about an hour later, I wake up with a pain in my lip, and it’s a teeny tiny bit itchy. Fearing the worst, I run to the bathroom, only to discover a bite that is TAKING OVER MY FACE. Numbness and tingling spread all the way down to my chin. My lip simultaneously balloons outward and swells all the way INTO my mouth, where I can feel the bulge on the inside of my lips. I think: And when the swelling reaches my windpipe, I will die.

So I slather on the Benadryl cream and search for that blasted mosquito. When I finally find it, I swipe at it with the electric bug zapper. The zapper buzzes the mosquito no fewer than 5 times (usually 1 or 2 zaps is enough to slay a mosquito). When it falls to the ground, it is STILL WRITHING. Of course, even a mosquito as hardy as that can’t survive my foot: one stomp finishes the job nicely.

It takes all night for the swelling on my lip to go down. The tingling doesn’t fully subside until later the next day.

But my airways are still intact.

For now.

It’s 1am, and I need an Epi-Pen (Or, How Harm Avoidance Can Disrupt Your Sleep)

If you are known for your 100% Harm Avoidance, and are awakened from a dead sleep by two insanely itchy mosquito bites, which are swelling your fingers into sausages, and preventing you from closing your fist because your swollen skin is stretched too tight, and your arm is numb and tingly all the way up to your elbow, you may become afraid that if that tingly feeling gets to your heart, you Might Die. (Wait. Is that the risk for snake bites? Or rabies infection? Or blood poisoning?) Then you just might wake your ER nurse husband out of his dead sleep to inform him of your fears.  This is a completely rational train of thought.  After all, he will probably need to administer the epinephrine.

But, if you wake him and say, “I think I’m going into anaphylactic shock,” he may very well respond by singing his “Hypo Hypo Hypo Hypochondriac, I’m married to a Hypo, Hypochondriac” song. Because although it may be the Worst Mosquito Bite of All Time, requiring no less than 3 applications of Benadryl cream to reduce the swelling and the tingling, you are, in fact, Not Dying. Unfortunately your husband will now know just how absurd you can be under the influence of Harm Avoidance. (But you can claim it was the 1am stupor talking.)

Not that I would know anything about that.


When Cross Cultural Living Makes You Stupid (Looking Back on a Year in Asia Part 6)


Bilbo Baggins (of Hobbit fame) once reflected, “Adventures are not all Pony-rides in May-sunshine.” Sometimes, though, unfortunately, those pony rides can lead to stupidity. Or maybe it’s the May sunshine?? Whatever the cause, for me, the end result is the same: Stupid. Here is my proof that cross cultural living can, indeed, make you Stupid.

My Knight in Shining Chacos

We purchase our drinking water (in the form of 5-gallon containers) from a man on our street. His type of in-home shop is very common here. These shops sell drinks, various packaged candies and junk food, and paper and cleaning products. We really like our water guy. He is cheerful and eager to help. He always knows what we want and has enough water on hand (which is quite a lot in hot season). He will even deliver the water to our house.

One evening in January we were playing outside. The sun was creeping lower in the sky. Suddenly we remembered that we were running low on water. I decided to walk to our water shop and buy some water, which means taking empty containers and exchanging them for new, full containers. I had been pushing Faith in her purple push toy, and Jonathan suggested I just take her with me. Hannah wanted to tag along too. I thought that would be a fun little outing for the three of us girls.

I managed to push Faith and hold a water jug with one hand, and hold onto Hannah with my other hand. Hannah also had to hold a water jug in her tiny hand. Jonathan wondered if we’d be ok. I assured him, yes, we’ll be fine. It’s our water guy, it’s our street, no problem. So I left Jonathan at our house, playing football with our sons, feeling quite confident in my errand-ing ability.

The water place is just past the dress shop. At least, it has been all year. But when I got to our water shop, our trusty water guy wasn’t there. Some guy I didn’t recognize was sitting on a chair. And he didn’t recognize me either.

Ok, Elizabeth. It’s time to put the two water jugs down. And do some thinking. I think to myself, is this the right place? I’m just past the dress shop, where we always get our water.  I’ve been here 100 times. And this shop doesn’t look the same as my regular shop. Instead of having lots of drinks and junk food, it’s nearly bare, except for a washing machine against the wall (which wasn’t there before).

Is this not the place?? I ask myself if it could possibly be past the alley with barking dogs? I shook my head. No. We never pass the alley to get to the water. I stand stupidly at the edge of that alley. There I am, with two little girls, a purple push toy, two containers in need of exchanging, and the money with which to do the exchanging. I didn’t even have to talk to my regular water guy. He knew what I wanted when I showed up with empty containers, and I just handed him the money. I might have to talk to this new guy. Except my brain is tired after a long day of homeschooling the boys, and I had neglected to put on my Khmer Thinking Cap. (In all fairness, I didn’t think I’d need it.) In my confusion I cannot get ANY intelligible Khmer out of my mouth.

The sun in the sky is in that eerie, almost-twilight stage. I can see my own house as I stand there. But where in the world am I???? I am completely lost. I am convinced I must be in a parallel universe. And I don’t even believe in parallel universes.

I am so confused, and I look it. What should I do? I know I’m not at the right place to buy water, but how can I just walk home with empty hands, er, containers? And what if I’m not in the right dimension after all? I might never make it home, even if I try.

Then, there he was. A Man in Sandals, walking towards me. Jonathan’s keen observational skills had told him that I was in need of assistance, even from 100 meters away. Oh thank goodness. I don’t have to believe in parallel universes after all.

Jonathan HAD put on his Khmer Thinking Cap that day (as he does every day), and he talked a bit with the guy who has taken over our old water shop. Apparently when we weren’t looking, that family moved away. Now we have to buy our water elsewhere.

But I’ve seriously got to watch out for those pony rides in May sunshine.

And here is my message to you:  In whatever myriad ways you may have embarrassed yourself today, take heart in this one simple truth — at least you didn’t get lost on your own street.

photo source here

When It Rains Cats and Dogs

— by Elizabeth

It was my turn to lock the gate for the night. And because I picked that very moment to go, I have this story to tell:

I heard a loud noise overhead as I pulled the gate closed. It was an unfamiliar noise, so I thought to myself, “that must be gunfire.” (Here my inner paranoid reveals itself again. You too can discover your inner paranoid by moving to a different country. Then again, I possessed an inner paranoid in America, and you might too, so on second thought, an international move is not required.) No one else was running away or screaming, though, so I figured I was wrong about the gunfire.

I stood at the threshold looking nervously toward the noise. Suddenly two animals fell off my roof – a roof that’s 15 feet high and made of metal (perhaps explaining the gunfire-esque noises?).  These animals were locked in a fight. I’m afraid of wild animals – oh, let’s be honest, I’m pretty much afraid of all animals. So I did what any normal zoophobic would do: I hid inside my house.

A yellow cat flashed by. I waited a minute longer, just to be sure the other animal wasn’t going to come after me (again, PARANOID). I peeked around the corner of my door, and saw the neighbor’s dog, standing next to him, calm as can be. And all the neighbors were calm, too, as if nothing extraordinary had just happened. But I was like,A cat and a dog fell out of the sky. That’s not normal!

Sure, it feels like it rains cats and dogs during Cambodia’s rainy season, but it’s ordinary water. Two hydrogens and an oxygen, bonded together in a delightfully polar compound. It wasn’t rainy season anymore, but cat and dog rained down at my house that night.


An American at a Khmer Wedding (Part 1: A Trip or Two to the Seamstress)

— by Elizabeth

The seamstress on my street does my mending, and each time I am happy with the quality of her work (and with her exceptionally low prices). While she speaks no English at all, she does speak her own language rather rapidly.

I’d been admiring the purple dress (my favorite color!) in her window for weeks but didn’t have the courage to ask about it. Asking about it would expose my ridiculous lack of Khmer language. But there was a wedding coming up, and I wanted something more formal than what I owned.  So three days before the wedding (can you tell I brought my whole self, including the procrastinating part, to Cambodia??), off I marched to the sewing shop. And this is how it happened:

I tell the seamstress I like the dress. I stand there next to it, unable to think of the word for “wear.” Because of course I want to wear it before buying it. Oh why didn’t I study first? That’s what Jonathan does before he attempts something new.  I have a limited Khmer vocabulary, and only the most used portions come to the front of my brain during a conversation. Words I don’t use much — like words about clothing — stay way in the back. Think think think. What is the word for wear?? The only thing I can think of is the word for clothes. I stand there unproductively, actually waving my hand in circles as if it could help me. She talks at me while I think. I have no idea what she is saying. Then poof! The word I need comes to me.

I tell her I want to wear that dress. I tell her, if I like the dress, I will buy it. She looks a bit confused, but she teaches me the word for “to try on.” I stand and think some more. Suddenly I know what to say: “I want to try it on now.” The light goes on, and she pulls the dress off the mannequin. I have found the Magic Key. (Magic Keys are an essential part of my life. The Magic Key asks a question that forces the hearer to answer me using words I already know. Or, as in this case, the Key asks someone to do the very thing I want them to do.)

I try it on, and it fits (hooray!). But the back shows too much skin, so I tell her I don’t usually show my back, because I am “shy.” (That’s the only way I know to explain my desire for more coverage.) She teaches me another new word, which literally means “skin for enclosing.”  She’ll basically make a wrap to cover my back and shoulders.

Then it’s time to hem the bottom. I don’t have my dress shoes with me. (Um, again, why did I not think to bring them?? I am so unprepared.) I’m not sure how much she should cut off, so I ask for her advice. She doesn’t seem to understand that I want her help in deciding the length. So I ask her to make it the normal length for dresses. Again, her face registers no understanding. I stand there, think think thinking again, about how to do this hemline. (Have you noticed yet that I do a lot of standing around and thinking??)  At one point she even tells me I should have my husband come (she knows he’s a better speaker than I am).

Finally I tell her, cut just a little bit. She seems to understand that. (Magic Key alert!)

But when I go to pick it up later, it’s not ready. She seems to be concerned that the dress and wrap materials are not exactly the same color, so she hasn’t sewed the wrap yet. At first glance, they look exactly the same to me. But as I examine them closer, I notice a slight difference. She is very concerned, so I start wondering if the slight color difference is a big deal to Khmer people and will I show up to the wedding looking extremely inappropriate?? (Insert internal freak out moment right here.) I stand there. Thinking. Asking myself what to do, as if I could possibly help myself. All this time she is talking at me again, and I understand nothing. Finally I say, sort of questioningly, “they’re close to the same color.” She agrees, “yes, a little bit different color.” I ask her if that’s good.  She says yes. (There’s that Magic Key again. Because let’s face it, all I really care about is covering up that back.)

In the end, I’m very happy with my new dress and wrap. And I’m very happy with my seamstress.satnight (2)