Poison Ivy Infection, Book Tour, and Ostrich Farming

Through much trial and error, the author managed to overcome a poison ivy infection, finish her book tour, and get acquainted with a local family who had taken up ostrich farming.

| December/January 1994

What a poison ivy infection, a book tour, and ostrich farming have in common is anyone's guess, but in the past few months, they all converged on my path. I should have known better ....

At the prickly age of fourteen, my twin sister Donna and I had tangled with poison ivy at a Shuswap beach party. We returned to school proudly wearing panty hose for the first time. But the glittering coach of privilege soon turned into a pumpkin. Our rashes were thriving and spreading until the nylons were more akin to a torturer's device. The itch was so fierce that we scratched our legs until they bled.

Thirty years later, elated by what would amount to a sixteen-mile back road bike trip with Ben and my friend Eric, caution scattered like the pebbles launched by our whizzing tires. As poplar leaves spun in the breeze, I wandered in a glade in the remote reaches of Meadow Creek. Unwittingly, and with a stroke of luck, only my right arm was zapped.

Eight days later, despite the use of calamine lotion, baking soda, and other suggested remedies, my arm had swollen to nearly twice its size. Aggravating the condition was my apprehension about the publicity tour of Vancouver looming on the near horizon. The purpose was to promote Wilderness Mother, my book about raising children in the bush. Whitecap Books had produced a Deanna Kawatski Canadian edition and organized the tour. First I was to do a reading and signing at Elaine's Books in Salmon Arm. In horror I watched what was scheduled to be an autographing arm mutate into a monster. Would it make people run? Without question, I would wear sleeves.

At a clinic in Chase I was told that mine was the fourth case of poison ivy the doctor had recently treated. The physician made no move to touch me and instead told a nurse to bring a basin. I was then instructed to wash off the slathering of zinc oxide while the doctor watched from the opposite side of the room.

The next step, naturally, was the drugstore, where reluctantly I bought forty dollars worth of prescribed antibiotics, antiseptic, gauze, and Band-Aids. It was against my better judgment to take the cloxacillin. I also understood the doctor's aim to head the infection off at the pass even if, in the process, it knocked my own immune system back. I waited several days for the antibiotics to kick in and heal my rash from the inside while my arm continued to throb. I felt like a leper and preferred a cave rather than the spotlight.

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