Posts Tagged ‘fragrances’

I very much enjoyed the experience of presenting. I realize, after the fact, just how much my left brain dominates.  Although I have a good understanding of how the artistic, right-brained individuals function, I am less tolerant of their function than I would like to be when it comes to what I perceive to be  “professional” events and functions. I am not sure if that is something I learned or if it is innate.

I wanted to (and was) on time for the meeting for the presenters. Part of me knew it would be foolish to worry about being on time for an “artsy event”  but that’s who I am (remember the left-brain dominance). The meeting did not occur and the person who called it did not arrive until forty-five minutes later. In fact the level of organization was just not the tight, structured,  Japanese, haiku-like form that is PechaKucha. So as I waited and watched for the show to begin, safely inhaling oxygen at 4 litres per minute (one of the presenters wore a LOT of fragrance), I experienced some cognitive dissonance. I so firmly believe that the production should be organized, should start on time, should be coordinated  professionally – after all people are paying to see the show. On the other hand the audience is happy, largely unaware that the media is not present, the photographer and film crew are absent, the meeting did not take place – they are more than happy.

Dissonance…tells more about me than the situation… “dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.  I realize I have done all three. So while other people turn inward with nervousness, do I look outward…settling upon justification for the situation by noting that all went well despite the disorganization which I perceived?  The arts community pitched in and did what was needed. The audience was inspired. The focus was on the positive. The networking was amazing….and the feedback I received was great.

It seems that people were, on the whole,  inspired and motivated.

And when I reread “What makes a good PechaKucha” (it means chitchat in Japanese…) from the originator’s website, I know this whole thought process is something I need to continually work through…

“Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.”

It was a box of chocolates – there was something for everyone at PKN Coquitlam.

I appreciate your willingness to see me as a patient at your eye care centre. I note that the first time I had a reaction to the eyedrop the resident (I assume) put in  my eye after I assured him I would react was called “fainting” by you. I may not have corrected you.  The combination of the reaction itself, the epinepherine, your freshly fragranced colleague and the long wait in the chemically-laden carpeted office did not aid in my being  my most cognitively competent self. Sir, I did not faint. My reaction to the eye drop, as predicted, was anaphylaxis. Thankfully, my attendant was quick with the epipen.  The staff present was a little surprised by the reaction and apparently was relieved that Geoff took action.

With regards to yesterday’s appointment, no, I am not epileptic. What you observed firsthand and up close is a rather classic reaction to the presence of chemical fragrance. I am pleased that you were open-minded enough to follow the instructions of my attendant and get some oxygen before I deteriorated to the point where I needed the epipen as the drug is very hard on my body. I understand you also agreed to move the patient who was very fragrant away from the immediate proximity of your examining room to help ameliorate the situation. I am so sorry that your coffee spilled all over your papers and desk area. I am pleased that someone arrived to help you clean it up so quickly. It is clear by the two hour wait I had in order to to see you that you are a very, very busy specialist. Your kindness during the crisis is truly appreciated, as well as your apparent new insight into chemical sensitivity. When both Geoff (my attendant) and I assured you that the reaction you observed was not as severe as I experience, and that I am not the most highly chemically sensitive person in the world at large, we were being most sincere. When my speech recovered enough to explain that rather than an allergy, it is a toxicity – and that the reaction is similar to what you might observe if I was intentionally huffng gasoline, I noted a glimmer of comprehension in your eyes. Similar products, you see! Toxic petrochemicals! Your office is a paper bag for me. And it can’t be good for you, either. Did you note that the oxygen cleared up the problem in due course… so, definitely not a seizure. If you really are able to learn from a patient, this may be it. Chemical sensitivity is real. You have observed it and those signs in your office and adjacent areas may be worth enforcing as I explained. Yes, a simple explanation to patients when appointments are booked telling them the office is scent-free AND WHAT THAT MEANS would be a good first step. If you had NO SMOKING signs and didn’t enforce them, would it really be a NO SMOKING office?

I hope that observing my anaphylaxis, and near anaphylaxis were educational events for you…enough to influence your practice in the eye clinic.

Respectfully yours,

Elaine Willis

The final day of my arbitration was held on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 in Coquitlam, British Columbia. I was very impressed with the lawyer for the union (for ME!) as he presented the closing arguments for our case. It was clear that he had developed personal respect for me, a deep and persoanl respect for the environmental issues surrounding the case and ultimately a fine argument in law.

The experience, although harrowing over the years of waiting ,  was indeed INTERESTING and  if nothing else, good or bad,  SCHOOL DISTRICT 36  vs BC TEACHERS’ FEDERATION  ELAINE WILLIS -DUTY TO ACCOMMODATE will ultimately set a precedent in arbitration law.

And my lawyer truly did such a fine job in the end. The professionalism I couldn’t see at all in the beginning shone through in spades.  The beginning of the journey was extremely  rough – he didn’t, I feel, see me as a person – didn’t see past my disabilities. In the end he saw more than that. In the end there was, I believe, mutual respect. He recognized that I am a teacher and quoted me several times. I was touched. His words were sincere, eloquent and heartfelt – and if I taught one person about the environmental impact of chemicals as opposed to my need for a fragrance free workplace, then I did a good thing! So I have to be happy in the end, whatever the outcome.

The battles for those of us with disabilities, and especially for those of us with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, are huge. There are many false beliefs about our abilities and the nature of our disabilities. The truth remains that we are people, to be treated as all people, with dignity, equality and respect. We are not to be shut away in our homes as society continues to demand of us.

Education is enlightenment. I WILL CONTINUE TO BE A TEACHER!  This process may enable me to do so for a living as well!