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Rash Decisions

The first time I heard about the Darwin Awards, named after the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, and given posthumously to people who “improve the species... by accidentally removing themselves from it,” I cackled like I was auditioning for a voiceover gig for the clown ride at the county fair.


It slowly sank in, however, that all the honorees did actually die because of their antics, so I felt a little guilty for laughing. But I was still flabbergasted that anyone more evolved than an early Homo erectus could be more concerned with packing their camera equipment than their parachute when preparing to go skydiving, or deciding the best way to avoid bee stings to the face is to encase your head in a plastic bag.


So, unless you’re an obese P.E. teacher or a doctor who smokes, you’ll appreciate the irony that I, Madam Le Smug, was recently a contender for a Darwin Award myself.


It all started when a dear friend decided I had not been appropriately acknowledged for my volunteer work at the school. But rather than present me with flowers like the other volunteers received, she knew the ideal consolation gift for a friend who seemed to like her pants just like her coffee – filled to the rim – was to give her an iced loaf cake from her favorite bakery.


It started innocently enough as I sliced off a piece (okay, a wedge) for an afternoon snack. I ate it. I may have also, possibly, let out a few sounds of ecstasy while I did so. Nothing out of the ordinary. I then went about my afternoon.


A couple of hours went by and I commented to my husband that a mosquito must have bitten me in the exact same spot on both sides of my torso. Soon after, I declared this mosquito to be the “Where’s Waldo” of his species, popping up as he was on every nook and cranny of my body.


I finally raised my shirt with the trepidation of a dedicated La Leche League mother of five at her first Mardi Gras and discovered a rash and welts so severe that I rushed to the medicine cabinet for Benadryl. I then spent the next hour feeling like a kid’s Scratch ‘N Sniff activity book, though no one would get close enough to see if I smelled like strawberries, lest it was something contagious.


Once the medicine took hold and my condition was downgraded from epidemic to eczema-like, I pondered the cause of the reaction. And try as I did to blame the healthier items I’d eaten – like the banana, wheat bread or chicken breast – I deduced that the cake was the only thing out of the ordinary I had consumed that day. I digested this sad fact alongside the decadent frosting and settled in for an itchy and restless night.


By 10:00 the next morning, I was itch free and in desperate pursuit of my second cup of coffee. As I headed to the coffee maker, things started to go decidedly Darwin on me. I spied the demon cake nearby and, somehow, convinced myself that it couldn’t have been the cause of such physical distress. The only possible explanation for this decision is that the secret ingredient in my favorite pastry is one heaping cup of devil, because I swear that cake called out to me: “Here, not-so-little girl, one bite won’t hurt you.”


In a trance-like state, I immediately convinced myself that having a second serving would be like conducting a science experiment. I simply needed a controlled sample to exclude any possible variables. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s probably because I made it up as I went along.)


I now understand that real scientists would have started out with a very small bite, or would have conducted the experiment on a rat instead of themselves. This scientist? Well, I cut myself a hog’s hunk of cake, just in case it would be the last one I ever ate. I assure you I meant this in the sense that I wouldn’t be able to order this cake again—not because I would be dead.


I ate it. All of it. I was home alone and may have uttered further sounds of ecstasy, but – just like those proverbial trees that fall in the forest – because no one was home to hear them, they can’t be included in my Honorable Mention Darwin Award application. What may have to be disclosed, much to my embarrassment, is that this time the welts were on the inside as well as the outside of my body. My throat started to close up and I dove for the Benadryl.


As I waited twenty anxious minutes for the medicine to take effect, all I could think about was the fact that if I died next to a plate of these cake crumbs, my husband would have to declare my cause of death to be gluttony. All of a sudden the parachute-less skydivers and head baggers are looking pretty smart, aren’t they?

6 Comment count
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I Might Rate an Honorable Mention too....

Once when I was around 11, I rubbed poison oak leaves all over my face and chest to see what would happen.

Swelling and steroids and missed school.

The next year, I did it again.

I must have really hated school.


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Another explanation!


Maybe you didn't hate school, but just enjoyed the "steroid" high. Some people do experience a high.

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Who woulda thunk it?...

that you would grow up to be an accomplished writer despite the extremes you went to to miss a few days of school.

Phew! So glad to know that I am not the only Honorable Mention Darwinist.

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Not calling 911 could cinch your winning the Darwin Award


Sudden onset, rapidly progressing dermal hives (an immediate reaction)should always be worrisome. But once the throat begins swelling (angioedema) the situation has become a medical emergency that could end fatally (suffocation!) Taking Benadryl is okay as your only at-home recourse, but you should be immediately dialling 911 as you take it. Oral Benadryl may take too long to begin its effect. If the throat swelling had progressed, you might well have needed parenteral adrenaline pronto to save your life.

It is imperative that you inform your doctor that your throat swelled in this episode. This angioedema means your reaction to this allergen (maybe nuts in this case) was  life-threatening. And next time you are exposed to it, the reaction could progress more quickly and beome more severe. You need to ascertain what you are so allergic to.  Talk to you doctor re: an appointment with an allergist (if you haven't already had one) to determine what it is that you reacted to.   After this attack,  the allergist may insist that you carry an immediate-acting anti-allergic medication like Epi-pen in your purse.

If you don't heed this angioedema warning, you will have condignly earned the  Darwin Award when perchance it is bestowed upon you.

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Can I stop laughing now?!

It is close to 1 a.m. East coast time; I have been up working for 24 hours straight. I am now in my home office laughing so hard that I woke my poor husband out of a sound sleep wanting to know what the HELL is so funny at this time of night?!

And for the record, my sweet tooth would have gotten the better of me too....anaphylaxis be damned. I say get an Epi-pen and keep on eating.

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Thanks, Karen!

A sleep deprived reader is my ideal demographic! Thank you for reading and for awakening your husband with laughter. I'm so tickled with that knowledge that I might just have it inscribed on my tombstone should I ever be lured to the demon cake again.