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Houston Asthma Walk: Desperate Measures

March 29, 2005

Every year when I work Ren Faire, Mom gives me The Talk.  It is my mother’s opinion that my lungs are much too delicate to be camping out in the wilds of the Ren Faire participants camping grounds.  The weather, she believes, will make me catch pneumonia again and it will be sad for me.  But what mother doesn’t know is that all too often it’s not what I do at night that might cause an attack, it’s what might happen during the day.

The parade each day is half-jokingly referred to as the Death March.  On a hot day it can be a mile of sweating, spinning, stomping, smelly people trying to catch the eyes of the people watching.  On a rainy day it’s a mile of mud through which you must trudge and pray you don’t lose your boots.  This past year, it was nearly the death of me.

I don’t walk the parade.  I dance in it.  As much as possible I spin, twirl my skirts up high, and wriggle my bodice in time to the drums of the group in front of me.  It’s quite a workout and is the main reason that I lose so much weight over the run of the festival.  After a while, I walk backwards with the banner on my back to get a break and catch my breath.  I’ve never had an actual attack in the parade.  And I’ve only ever had to jump out once.

The problem began when I turned poorly and caught my boot in my bloused pants.  The path is not smooth and occasionally I will accidentally turn on a lose rock and have to catch myself.  This time I simply caught the tip of my boot in the extra fabric and pulled the knee out of the turn.  It hurt, but I kept walking.  I favored the injured knee and only make turns on the right leg.  I was off balance from the start and the extra strain on my right side started a small stitch in my side.  It grew as I walked until I finally decided that it was better to jump out someplace close to where I worked, rather than have strangers trying to care for me.

I pulled out of the parade near the glassblowers booth and knelt to try to catch my breath.  Fortunately, there was a young man nearby who had EMT training.  He talked to me, trying to help figure out what was wrong.  He sent someone off to get Mamma and Pappa.  Several nice ladies began trying to unlace my corset in order to give me breathing room.  However, they had no experience with unlacing corsets and got some of the laces tangled.  Over the commotion, I heard someone propose that they cut my laces.  I was hot, out of breath, and in a lot of pain but I caught that much.

“DON’T cut my laces.”

The voice that had made the suggestion grew whiny.  “You’re dying and you’re worried about us cutting your laces.”

“I’m not dying, don’t cut my laces.

Pappa came running over at that point and shooed the women out of the way.  He got me loosened and helped walk me over to the vardo to cool down.  Mamma declared that it was the black clothes I had been wearing under the corset which had overheated me and sent me off to go change.

In telling this story, there always comes a point where someone asks “Why didn’t you let them cut your laces?”  The answer is both complicated and simple.  The simple part is that I didn’t want someone to ruin 18 feet of lacing.  But there’s also the fear that someone I didn’t know would cut the fabric under the lacing, and in doing so slip and cut me.  There’s not a whole lot of readily available scissors out at Ren Faire, but there’s lots of knives.  And I didn’t want a stranger anywhere near me with a knife.  We were not on the set of a pirate movie, and I certainly wasn’t drowning.

Sometimes when I have attacks, I can see the edge of panic in the faces of my friends.  They don’t know what to do, how to handle it.  I wish I had the breath in me to tell them that it will be okay, that I know what I’m doing.  And that desperate measures won’t be necessary.

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