Encounters With Chocolate Pizza

Musings of an Elementary School Nurse

by Amy Mitchell

I work as an elementary school nurse in a third, fourth, and fifth grade building. Over the last couple years, the kids at work have given me a good deal of amusement. I do, of course, have a few favorite stories.

I have developed quite a list out of 500 students or so that visit my office with great frequency. Our secretary refers to the kids as "customers," so these kids are my "regular customers." One such young lady appeared at my door one day with a stomachache. That would normally have been a serious ailment (in the mind of a ten-year-old), except for the fact that she claimed hers came from eating the all-chocolate pizza in the cafeteria.

Another cafeteria-related incident involved a young man's choice of meal. He came in to see me, complaining of not feeling his best. Since he had no fever or other obvious symptoms, I encouraged him to try to eat lunch and make it through the rest of the day. He trooped off, seemingly ready to meet the challenge.

My young friend returned several minutes later, visibly upset. He informed me that the lunchroom employees wouldn't let him eat. "They said I've already been through the line!" he told me.

I casually walked him down to the cafeteria, where I startled him by saying sunnily, "Hi ladies!" to our cafeteria personnel. "What's going on?" I asked cheerfully.

The head cook filled me in. My young man had tried to tell them I said to eat only french fries and chocolate milk for lunch. Caught, he sulkily bought his regular lunch and slunk off to a table.

We had quite an adventure on April Fool's day. A few students had the brilliant idea to sprinkle itching powder in the boys' bathroom. Unfortunately, as the nurse, I ended up dealing with the aftermath--the five boys who sat in my office complaining of "really, really bad" itching. After calling all the parents to bring a change of clothes, I figured it had ended. No such luck. They persisted, making their teacher and classmates miserable.

Well, I did some investigating. I learned that there had never actually been any itching powder sprinkled--just a wise guy telling everyone he'd used it. So just the thought that there had been some was enough to cause a severe case of imaginary itching!

Of course, more often than not, the kids that come in have actual germ-caused illnesses. One young man had the misfortune of throwing up in class. There happened to be a substitute teacher that day (even more unfortunate--for her and for him). I think she was at somewhat of a loss as far as what action to take, because she didn't simply send the student to my office. Instead she sent one of the other kids. What luck! She chose the only student incapable of telling me calmly.

The messenger came to the main office, where I was helping our secretary with some afternoon work. "You have to come to our class! Someone's throwing up!"

I told him, "Well, send him down. I'll take care of it."

My calm, collected response was met with, "He can't."

"What do you mean, 'He can't'?" I asked.

"He just can't, that's all. Just come to our class!"

I didn't want to panic my student any further, so I hurried off to take care of the sick student.

On arrival, I found that he was okay, just more upset than anything. Unfortunately, he had managed to soil another boy's shoe, so I collected them both and headed back to my office. I helped him get settled, and cleaned off the other boy's shoe. While we waited for it to dry, a third student came in to put some ice on a bumped elbow.

We were chatting away when one of my other students showed up with her mother. She wanted to brush her teeth for a dentist appointment. While she brushed, her mom commented, "Wow! You've got a full house. Nothing contagious, I hope!"

At which my shoeless boy piped up, "I don't think puking is contagious!"

I thought that poor parent might faint and I'd have yet another "customer."

I love what I do. Often, the things these kids go through move me to tears. But just when things seem so sad I can hardly bear it, one of them pops out with a gem that has me on the floor. And I suppose that's as it should be, because nothing in life is all one thing or another. Even the kids can see that, kids like a very tearful girl who came to see me in order to collect herself.

She was having a rough morning, so she came to have a good cry, wash her face, and go on with her day. While she was in there, sitting on my cot with her little lip trembling, a boy came in for his morning medications. Actually, "came in" doesn't do him justice. He swaggered in--at least, as much of a swagger as his tiny four-foot-two-inch frame could muster. After I got what he needed, he looked at me, put his hands on his hips, and proceeded to tell me about exactly what he disliked about his new bus driver.

After he left, my previously tearful girl looked at me questioningly. I could see she was trying very hard not to giggle. I told her, "You should visit me more often. If you wait long enough, there's lots of interesting things going on." At that, the laugh that had waited so patiently to get out exploded all the way from her toes. She had just discovered my secret.

This article was posted here in April 2000.

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