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Student health should be College priority

The Health Center should be open on weekends, writer argues.

I have incredible confidence in the good intentions of our Master Plan, and those who guard its mission, but recent events in my life have made me question the priorities of the College moving forward. Most importantly, I feel we should be prioritizing stronger health care options for our students. Why is the Cox Health and Counseling Center closed on the weekends?

Sunday afternoon while picking out a pear in the dining hall, I suddenly felt the ground slip out from under me. I may have turned my head only a fraction of a degree but suddenly the world moved around me like I was on a boat. The blood rushed to my ears and I stumbled over to the couches by the register, where I sat down overwhelmed by an intense pain in my head. My roommate, Jessie Griffith ’19, sat down beside me, shocked but calm. She told me I was probably experiencing vertigo — from what, she did not know — and that she would get me a glass of water. Ten minutes later, the spinning sensation  had not stopped and I did my best to hold my head still. Jessie called her mom, who had experience with vertigo, and I called my mom, a physician. My mom’s first reaction was expected: What were my options in terms of immediate care?

That day I was certain I had two options: Call 911 and have our fire department take me to the Knox Community Hospital, or do nothing. On Tuesday, my Community Advisor informed me that there is a Nurse Practitioner on call during the weekends. A simple call to the Campus Safety Switchboard could have told me that. However, while I waited for Jessie to bring a thermometer and dramamine back from our dorm, I could not help but be angry. I was convinced that going to the Health Center was the best, most affordable option.

In those moments I began questioning a lot of what the Kenyon Master Plan prioritizes as “best” for the College and its students. Would I like a new library and better housing options? Probably, yes. But what about improving the life and safety of students right now? Could we please consider allocating funds and resources to keeping our Health Center open on the weekends?

Sunday afternoon I stumbled back to my dorm with Jessie’s help. We could never find the dramamine, so I took a Benadryl and slept from 4 p.m. that afternoon until 7 a.m. Monday morning. When I called the Health Center to set up an appointment my symptoms had lessened, but not subsided. Walking from Peirce to class that day I still felt like I was on a boat, though the seas were a bit calmer. Unfortunately, the only appointment slot available was during my afternoon seminar, and I was not willing to risk missing a day of class this late in the semester to take care of my then-somewhat-manageable vertigo.

By the time I made it to the Health Center it was mid-morning on Tuesday. Everyone from Jackie, the compassionate receptionist, to the nurse who saw me was kind and worried that I had not made it in to see them yet. It turned out that I had a “red and bulging” ear infection, which strangely enough, had not caused me any pain — just intense vertigo. They sent me home with antibiotics and told me that I would be feeling better in 48 to 72 hours. I was relieved.

As it stands, the Health Center is staffed by an incredible group of people that truly care about Kenyon’s students. I know that funding a new health center is not as flashy as a new library — and some alumni certainly donate with the intention of their name being on a building — but we need to find a way to keep our Health Center open for longer hours. It is in the best interest of our current and future students that we are able to match the care given at our peer institutions. I respect that Gambier has a fantastic Emergency Medical Services team and I acknowledge that I could have gone to the Emergency Room or spoken to the nurse on call, but those options are not equal to having the Health Center open and available at times when there are no classes in the way and when rambunctious Kenyon students get weird. Weekends should not come and go without  students receiving the care they need, especially on our remote little Hill.

I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be a Kenyon administrator, Board of Trustees member, or giving alumnus; it is incredible that so many people would love this College enough to donate their time and money to improve the quality of life for current students. That said, we need to take action and open our Health Center on the weekends. Everything else should wait.

Jesseca Kusher ’19 is a biology and film major from Spartanburg, S.C. Contact her at kusherj@kenyon.edu.

Jesseca Kusher

Jesseca Kusher

Jesseca Kusher is a member of the class of 2019 and double major in biology and film. When not in the Kenyon Athletic Center or athletic fields watching a game, Jess spends her time studying in the Science Quad and hiking down at the Brown Family Environmental Center.
Jesseca Kusher

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