Are you ever off duty?
I had spent some time praying at The Altar of The Overtime Fairy, and with the proceeds had decided to take The Long Suffering Wife on a cruise. Now, one of her idiosyncrasies is that she is allergic–VIOLENTLY, anaphylaxis, throat swelling, red faced allergic, to tree nuts. Remember that. It will return to feature prominently in this “war story”.
The cruise line we selected had gotten our business previously. The personnel are unfailingly pleasant, professional, attentive, and on their game. The food is excellent, the accommodations are pleasant, the cabin stewards are magicians who ghost in and make the beds and change the linen without our seeing them. There are reasons that we are repeat customers.
We select the formal dining room each time. There are large tables, so we get acquainted with fellow cruisers, the food is outstanding: as good as, and generally superior to our own home cooking. On this cruise we joined two folks from Minnesota, a contractor and his girlfriend, and two other couples, the men both volunteer firefighters from a small town in Canada.
Firefighters are part storyteller, as am I (surprising, no?). It develops that our other two companions were storytellers, as well. So, mealtimes were fun, great food, round robins of telling tales, and no workaday cares.
Now, it seems that, for some reason, we had failed to make clear to the serving staff my wife’s allergy to nuts. (likely, because we had failed to, ya know, TELL THEM!, or something.) So, one evening, when my wife took her first bite of the chicken that she had ordered, she chewed it for a moment, then spat it out, turning to me with a peculiar look on her face.
I asked her what was the matter, and she told me, “I don’t know, but my mouth is burning as if I had just eaten a nut.”
From the corner of my eye, I noticed our firefighter companions in still life, forks immobile in mid air, as Mrs. Stretcher Ape and I had our conversation. I asked her how her breathing was, and she told me that was fine, but that the burning was concerning. I agreed.
She keeps an epi pen in her purse, which, of course, presently was in our cabin. She did have benadryl on her person, and I directed her to take two, right now. She did so, and we all watched her for a moment. I then directed her to give me a third capsule of benadryl, which I opened, and poured onto her palm, directing her to “lick that up, now!”
One of the firefighters shuffled his chair back a bit, as if clearing for lift off, and asked me if I needed any help. Our contractor friend, with whom we had gone on shore excursions, observed that I was an ex medic, ex ED nurse, and presently a Physician’s Assistant. I looked at the firefighter, perched on the literal edge of his seat, and his partner, similarly (not so very) relaxed, and said, “It looks like things are OK for now, but I’m anticipating the possibility of that changing. Let’s give it 20 minutes to see how things develop. Thanks for the back up.”
I turned my attention back to my wife, and pasted a fake, but encouraging, smile on my face. “How you doing, Honey?”
She thought for a second, and answered, “OK so far.”
The waiter had noticed our diorama like table, and the absence of conversation, and walked over to see if he could assist us. I briefed him on the foregoing, and our suspicion that the chicken may have been cross contaminated with some sort of nut in some manner. Alarmed, he told us he’d look into it and be right back.
He was. Along with the Maitre D’. Both assured us that there were no nuts whatsoever in the recipe for my wife’s selection, although it was possible that there were some nut oils remaining on the surface upon which the chicken had been prepared. Effusively, they both asked after my wife’s well being, and apologized for this occurrence.
By this point, she reported that the burning was receding, and no swelling nor shortness of breath, as well as no itching was present.
I noticed that everybody else at the table, finally, resumed their meals.
Once I was convinced that her symptoms were, in face, receding, and appeared likely to continue doing so, we retired to our cabin for the night. She, and I, thanked our companions for their vigilance, and reassured everyone that it appeared that her reaction was on the way to being resolved.
So, the question: are we ever REALLY off duty?