Hitting a Nerve

Dodging PE


I was (probably) the bane of my elementary school nurse.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

I hated PE (I know, who didn’t?). But I also had childhood asthma. So it was an easy out to go to the school nurse, Mrs. Reed, because I was having an asthma attack, or at least claiming to have one.

She’d put me in a chair to “keep an eye” on me, occasionally have me take the prescription drug my pediatrician had ordered (Marax – anyone else remember that?), and knew to send me back to class about 5 minutes before PE was over.

Maybe Mrs. Reed liked me. Maybe it was just the path of least resistance to let me dodge PE. Maybe she’d hated PE, too, and was sympathetic. Who knows?

So twice a week through years of elementary school she and I went through the same routine of my showing up in her office. No matter how busy she was, she always told me to take a seat and do a therapeutic application of her stethoscope. She often told others who noticed my frequent visits that I was “a sickly child” even though I knew she saw through me and said it with a sense of sarcasm and humor.

Of course, life goes on, and one day 20 years ago Mrs. Reed showed up on my hospital census as a new consult after she’d had a minor stroke.

She remembered me very well. Her first comment, said with the same tone I recalled, was that she was amazed I’d lived to adulthood after having been such “a sickly child.” We both laughed.

Now, in her late 80s, she still comes to see me for this and that. Sometimes we reminisce about the intertwined journey our lives have taken us on. Sometimes she asks if I’ve been to PE recently.

Like any patient, she occasionally shows up on the wrong day, or at the wrong time. I always do my best to see her, though.

After all, I owe her big time for letting me dodge PE.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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