Monday, May 11, 2009

"Now why should that man have fainted?": or, how the classroom mirrors fiction.

On Thursday, one of the students in my American literature class arrived ill, with a pain in his side. (I waited until today to blog because I wanted to make sure he was fine which he is.) He sat in a seat near the door, and about halfway through the class, asked to leave with the assistance of his best friend who is also in the class. It took me a moment to realize how serious things were, in part perhaps, because the student in question has a generally jocular demeanor. He stood up to leave and was clearly in a lot of pain so I asked another student to help him down the stairs. As soon as he stepped out of the classroom, he fainted.

The class (6 in all) transforms into the Super Friends. One starts trying to call medical services. Another student goes over to get one of the campus’s mini golf-cart ambulances. One gets water. Another calls his brother who is on campus with a car thankfully. I ran off to get a security guard (one who I knew because he did me a solid last week). Another gathered up everyone’s belongings from the classroom and took them to my office. People came out into the hall from a nearby classroom.

Through no fault of the student superheroes, this all took far longer than it should, but eventually a doctor showed up who could not do much beyond suggesting he go to the hospital. He tried to stand up but was unable to do so and he was shaking a lot (almost spasms). Plus he is a relatively big dude. With the help of the security guard we put him on an improvised wheelchair (two classroom chairs with wheels) and took him to the nearest elevator (which is ridiculously far away). Once we got him downstairs we had to bring the ambulance over because we lost each other due to the unfamiliar labyrinthine architecture of the new campus. He was helped onto the cart and taken to his brother’s car, which was waiting at the gate to take him to the hospital.

No real ambulance was involved. They are not very effective in Cairo. Due to traffic, they take so long to come that most people in emergencies will take taxis or alternative means of transportation if they are an option.

This was the official end to my week. Over the weekend I was texting and emailing the students in the class to find out what was happening. He had some hospital tests. Nothing conclusive. They think it is related to his colon and stress so he was prescribed some medication. He was back in class yesterday—moving around slowly but steadily, and bearing a box of chocolates as gratitude for our class’s help.

On the day he fainted, we were discussing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Due to the disruption we did not get to discuss the end of the story as scheduled. But the class ended, strangely enough, in the same way as the story—with a fainting. In the case of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is the narrator’s physician husband who passes out. The story’s concludes: “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”

1 comment:

NMK said...

Aww, thinking of your class as the Super Friends makes me really happy. Glad the student seems to be ok!