Roselli: Dangerous chemical, poor diagnosis sour biology lab experiment

Amanda Roselli

Drama is unbecoming to most people, so unless your name is Meryl Streep, go cry in someone else’s cup of coffee.

People get too easily worked up these days, screaming lawsuits at fast food restaurants for providing the grease with which they stuff their faces. Those sorts of cases highlight exactly what is wrong with American culture – greed, impatience, stupidity.

But this article is not about what’s wrong with America; it’s about how absolutely ludicrous and counter-productive unnecessary overreactions are.

I am a liberal arts major. I will never need to know about dialysis tubing and the Krebs cycle. It is a nice attempt to tell me I will be a well-rounded individual for having this knowledge, but really, I will not be. I will probably be spending my adult years in a poorly-lit cubicle, typing away the hours until I can speed home in my SUV to feed the kids and cart them off to soccer practice. They will not care about the glucose concentration of a potato, but about how many more paychecks until their new Polo shirts can be bought. Too bad doing the minimum at Villanova lands me in the health center with a doctor misdiagnosing my affliction.

Picture this: Somehow, in my biology lab, I end up with silver nitrate, a lethally poisonous chemical, on my hands, elbow and face, but I do not notice it until it is too late. It has already stained my skin.

I am only slightly concerned at being branded a leper at this breeding ground for beautiful people. I am not concerned for my health – yet.

The next morning, I wake up with a rash on my skin. Red flag! This is not normal. I run to the health center in a panic. I have toxic chemicals on my skin. I demand to see a doctor, who tells me that there is NO way that I would have that sort of reaction to silver nitrate – it must be oil-based paint that I somehow leaned on (please someone show me where there is wet paint on campus) and the stain is probably not permanent.

I am slightly relieved for a moment. That moment passes when I do a little independent research and find out that yes, I do have silver nitrate all over me. Turns out, a common reaction to silver nitrate exposure is a rash. Yes, the doctor who “treated” me graduated from Villanova with a degree in biology and probably has had more than a limited experience with silver nitrate. And my teaching assistant was negligent in not telling anyone that we were working with toxic chemicals and not giving out gloves.

On the plus side, every time I do not know an answer in one of the classes I missed on the day I spent running around looking for a diagnosis for my mysterious ailment, I can say, “Wait, I think we learned that on the day I had silver nitrate poisoning.”

Everyone laughs, I am off the hook and all is right with the world.