Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Thanksgiving Dinner Gone Wrong

Famous Last Words ...

“Good job, Mauricio*”.

As we left, I complemented the unofficial cook who had prepared the Thanksgiving dinner turkeys for a group of about 35 teachers from the USC Language Institute and their families. It was dark at just after 8:00 pm and we were riding in the car of one of my peers. The number of cars transporting people to the semi-suburban home location of one of our co-workers had to be kept to a minimum. Few of us knew the location and parking was very limited. The house itself was large and spacious enough, situated high on a southern foothill of the Farallones mountain chain that borders the eastern side of Cali.

Just over forty teachers typically work at the Santiago de Cali University Language Institute, where up to eight languages are taught. The most popular of these is English as a foreign language, of course, but also available are French, German, Italian, Spanish for foreigners, Japanese and Portuguese. Previously, Mandarin Chinese was on the roster when Chinese exchange students were at the university a couple of years ago.

“At 5:30 pm we should be eating.”

That was the key announcement Mauricio* made when plans were being drawn up for the annual dinner. This year was different though. We were actually going to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. Virtually every other year it’s after the official holiday and as late as early December before we finish the semester and are able to have the dinner. Each year in a different location.

We Never Saw the Turkeys That Did Us In

We never saw the roasted turkeys that did us in. When the meal was served buffet style, the turkey was already carved into slices loaded into a rectangular cake pan. A few people acted as “hosts” to pre-serve plates loaded up with mashed potatoes, gravy. Mixed rice and dressing to speed up the process. You then added you own vegetable and salad servings, scooped up a carbonated beverage and returned to your seat to feast. Dessert was chocolate cake and Tiramisu. The ride back home was ten minutes.

We weren’t home long before Doris complained of stomach cramps saying that she also felt nauseous. I was still okay at this point, but she has a bit of a reputation for a "queasy" stomach. Minutes later she was vomitting full throttle. All her meals that day were purged in less than ten minutes. I began feeling an “urge” too and went upstairs to the bathroom adjacent to my home office. One moment I was fine, the next I collapsed on the bathroom floor and was projectile vomitting like it was an olympic sport. I now had bloody diarrhea to add to my symptoms. This was a holiday list I didn’t want or need.

In a state of utter dis-array, clothes half-thrown on, shoes but no socks, the taxi called to our house ran traffic signals and went the wrong way down one-way streets to deposit us at the ER door twenty-five or so blocks away. Now shivering uncontrollably from dehydration and shock, we needed to be put on IVs. We had to insure that mine was saline and NOT Dextrose. I’m a type 2 Diabetic. A Dextrose infusion could have killed me.

“That happened to a co-worker of mine” Doris reminded me later. “She was a diabetic, went into an ER and they gave her a Dextrose IV. It killed her.”

The Ivs contained medicines for vomitting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea in addition to serving for providing us with large quantities of lost body fluids. With a blood pressure so low the tech couldn’t get a vein to insert the IV, it took three tries to get it right. I didn’t have the strength to curse, but I knew it wasn’t his fault. My hands and feet were so cold, it even put the doctors and other attending staff on alert. I couldn’t stop shivering uncontrollably. We each got two IV bags and got adjoining rooms. It was after 4:00 am before we were stabilized and left the ER ready to go back home to bed. Doris has a week’s worth of medications to take. Due to my Diabetes, I’ll be on meds for nearly a month.

Food Safety Tips

Basically, there are four principal food safety tips which came out of this experience. They are invaluable for preparing foods to prevent all manner of food poisoning.

Wash everything in hot soapy water before, during and after preparing each food item
• Keep raw meats and poultry seperated from cooked foods. Rinse all vegetables under running water and clean cutting boards, knives and utensils thoroughly after each use
• Cook all foods, especially meats and poultry, thoroughly
Refrigerate meat or poultry as it defrosts; DO NOT let it thaw on the countertop. Store these foods promptly and DO NOT let them stay out on the table.

For more information on food poisoning read, “Keep Food Poisoning off Summer Menu”. Be careful, be safe, don’t spoil your next holiday meal with un unwelcomed hospital visit. Be sure to check out the Salmonella slide show too.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

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