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January 23, 2010


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While I was getting ready for my defense last spring everyone else in my house was nursing a lousy cold. Around suppertime Sunday a nurse-by-phone told us that the 15-month-old was breathing too rapidly and needed to come into the ER. I sent my advisor an email:

We are taking Will to the hospital. Call me if I haven't updated you by eight am.
My defense was scheduled for ten.

Will had pneumonia and was admitted. Ellen stayed with him. The three-year-old and I came home and went to bed together, where her fever spiked. I sat next to her in the bed, her clothes open, cold cloth on her face, listening to her murmur her fevered murmurs and trying to remember what temperature meant I should take her back to the ER herself. Is it 106, 105, 104? Which way is this thermometer wrong since it reads in her ear rather than in her butt? Which is the mistake I would rather make: a second trip to the ER, exorbitant and unfounded; or the consequences of too high a temperature, whatever that is? Finally she cooled off and we fell asleep. She woke up murmuring and too hot again a few hours later and I went through the whole exercise with even less lucidity.

In the morning she was okay. I went to the university and did a dreadful job at my defense, but passed anyway.

If someone had come to me and asked me to schedule a week where my whole family was sick, followed by a week with the youngest in the hospital, I would not have said "hey, I'll submit my dissertation in the middle!" But the pieces fell into place. Who knows what else I can do?

Thank you again, for sharing your struggles.

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