Our house here in Kingston has 3 mango trees in the garden, each one about 20 metres high. Not just any three trees but each one a different type of mango. One is number 11, one Bombay and the third the prized Juliet mango. We had won the mango lottery and didn’t know we’d bought a ticket. So I inevitably ignored the sage advice of ‘all things in moderation’ and quickly develop a Mango allergy.
Every day there are more mangos than I know what to do with. I’ve given them away by the bagful; made mango smoothies with a side of mango chutney;washed down with a mango lassi and a spoonful of mango ice-cream. Mango has been in pretty much every salad I’ve made since May. I’ve even made mango body scrubs. Sticky but not unpleasant. So when I developed huge welts over my entire body I presumed I’d caught everyone’s least favourite tropical disease of the moment Zika.
It couldn’t be a mango allergy, I wailed to the nice doctor in Andrews Memorial A&E or at least I tried to wail but my throat had swollen so it was more of a husky cry. I had my bloods taken and a cortisone shot in the butt later and I was on my way home – less itchy but still with a huge rash.
The next day I saw a lovely Kenyan doctor who was covering for my regular Jamaican doctor. You’ve got a plant allergy she tells me instantly – something in the garden. Maybe poison ivy or poison sumac or could be oleander. The garden is full of the latter I say horrified that I might go into anaphylactic shock. Stay out of the garden, she instructed, you’re hyper-sentisitve now. She gives me more cortisone.
I followed her instructions and stayed out of the garden. After a while the rash looked better but my stomach still looked like I’d been sailing around the world in circa 1490 and hadn’t taken my vitamin C ration. Maybe it’s scurvy, I say to my husband as I look up weird rashes on Google and then make a mental note to never Google ‘weird body rashes’ again.
Feeling frustrated, I speak with a friend who suggests I try a Chinese doctor. By now I can’t face any more cortisone shots or mango smoothies and I make my way to the Chinese doctor. I sit waiting patiently in reception trying not to vomit to the overpowering, putrid smell of burning mugwort.
I suddenly feel dizzy. For a moment I think I’m hallucinating as I see Jimmy Cliff strolling out of the consulting room. The doctor appears and looks at my lips disapprovingly, tells me to stick out my tongue and instantly recoils in horror. You are sick, she says, checking my pulse as if it might already be too late to save me.
‘You have virus and rash’. Wow, impressive tongue diagnosis I think. Then I remember I’d written on the new patient form that I suspected I had a virus and that I was covered in a rash. ‘Virus has made you very sick’, she continues in heavily accented English, and rash, rash is allergy. ‘You’ve eaten mango’, she says knowingly. Indeed I have, I say, lots. She shakes her head. Mango very bad for allergy, watermelon and papaya too. ‘You mean I have a mango allergy?’ I ask needlessly – hoping I’ve somehow misunderstood. ‘You have many allergies’ comes the matter-of-fact reply.
I think of the huge watermelon sitting on our kitchen table, our friends had lovingly grown on their farm. No more pineapple either. (Un)fortunately I’d managed to eat almost a whole pineapple the day before – also grown on our friend’s farm. I’m allowed no eggs, no seafood, no meat, no peas and importantly no beancurd. This isn’t a mango allergy, I think to myself, this is full-blown food allergy.
You need to take care of yourself, she says before telling me to lie down. She then sticks hot pins into pressure points all over my body, something known as fire needle. It’s not uncomfortable but feels exactly like you might expect a hot pin being jabbed into your body might feel. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. It’s Jimmy Cliff and he’s forgotten his hat.
It’s not the most relaxing scenario to ever be in. Semi naked, whilst a doctor holds a giant pair of tweezers with a cotton wool ball on fire attached, centimetres from my skin and Jimmy Cliff rummaging under the bed searching for his rasta hat. The harder they come Jimmy, I say. ‘The harder they fall’, he coos back as he leaves the room and the doctor continues with the fire needle.