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Monday, March 23, 2015

Summer Camp Part III

It was my very last week of summer camp season. We were having our Beach Day, when the whole camp walked to the nearby village and spent the afternoon on its sunny, sandy beach. There were usually a few activities planned—obstacle course relay races, beach volleyball, etc—with the rest of the time devoted to free swim.

I've never much cared for lake swimming, and much less for stepping on half-rotted fish half-buried in slimy mud. I opted for dry land whenever possible, and letting my campers bury me in sand seemed to be a good way to get through the afternoon. The heaviness of the warm sand was relaxing, and I was enjoying the lethargy of soaking up the sunshine.

On retrospect, it seems rude to breeze through a group of girls obviously working purposefully in the sand. At the time, all I could do was watch in the stunned helplessness of my sandy prison as a tall teenage boy strode distractedly towards us. When his foot planted on my ribcage and his entire weight came down, my body curled out of the sand of its own volition as I began gasping in pain. Only then did the boy realize that there was a person beneath the sand. In typical Megan fashion, I assured him that it was an accident and I was fine.

But I wasn't fine. I felt as though my ribs had been cracked, and my ragged, throbbing breathing made me worry that my lungs were injured. In the remaining day of camp, I moved around gingerly, wincing at every slightest motion.

I was certain I had a broken rib or two, so I stopped at a medi-clinic in the city on my commute back to my parents' farm. The doctor suggested a word that I didn't quite remember, and sent me home with the advice that the only treatment was rest and ibuprofen until it cleared up.

If anything, it got worse and lingered for months. I remember helping with harvest that autumn, and how excruciating the hop from the combine cab to the ground was. I moved as slowly as a geriatric in need of full-body joint replacements, and had little control over the pitiful groans that kept escaping. Easing myself into a chair was agonizing; standing up was agonizing; doing anything was agonizing. It's still one of the most painful experiences I've ever had.

Through all the years of my life, I've come to depend on and trust my mother's knowledge of health and, more importantly, illness. Her best guess was pleuritis, which matched my dim recollection of the word the doctor had enunciated. It did eventually clear up, though it took months of near certainty that I would never breathe or walk easily again. The downside is that it has also stayed with me in occasional bouts of costochondritis that sometimes present in abnormal ways—in unexpected ribs, under my collarbones, and encircling my throat.

That was the last summer I worked as a camp counselor; I spent the next summer completing my final undergrad classes. Maybe it's best that I quit while I was ahead.

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