It’s amazing how your life can change in one day
Friday, July 2nd: I have a painful bug bite on my back, the doctor listens to my lungs since I have such a bad sounding cough. She says “Your lungs are lovely,” and sends me home with doxycyclene and ibuprofine, thinking my 103 fever is from the tic bite and possible lyme disease.
At this point my symptoms are: Bad cough – night sweats, (drenched), stiff joints, achy muscles, high fever, overall malaise.
SATURDAY, JULY 3RD, 2010: The same symptoms: More night sweats, more high temp, more stiff joints.
I have the same symptoms, and have agonizing nights, where each hacking cough sends sharp radiating pain from the center of the right side of my chest, and I am coughing up lots of bright yellow stuff, lots of it. I can’t forget the scout, the precursor, the harbinger, that showed itself to me about two months earlier than these episodes. I coughed up some mucus, as smokers do every day (especially in the morning). I had come from home from work, and hacked up something, and I walked to the bathroom so I could spit it out into the sink, and what I spit out disturbed me, and made me look up, directly into my eyes in the mirror, and wonder what the hell was going to happen next. I coughed up a bloody mass, a little smaller than the size of a dime. I was not able to feel the texture of this mass, as it slithered down the drain, and left only its slimy and glistening bloody red image ingrained on my memory. It may have been bloody mucus, it may have been a piece of cancer that I just coughed up from my lung(s) and witnessed. I will never know, but I think it was a malignancy, a piece of cancer, a warning. One that I did not heed and chose to try to forget. Each time I coughed up something, though, I was sure to get to a sink, and have a good look at what came up. None came up like that first bloody one. That was the first and last.
SUNDAY, JULY 4TH, 2010: I watched the indy car race on my computer in the back yard. I felt shitty, but I felt that a few beers and a car race might make me feel better. I was real tired, like I was dragging around a cinder block, and I felt hot. Ironically, it was pretty hot that July day, and I sat just a bit in the shade, letting the leaves of a tree shade me. I did enjoy the race a bit, but the beer, cigs and heat did not make me feel any better, and I took my temperature. I was 102.4. I knew I was sick with something, and thought maybe the docycyclene and ibuprofine hadn’t yet had a chance to get rid of the Lyme disease that I thought may be making me feel so crappy. I figured I’d give it one more day to see if I felt any better or if my fever subsided. At about 8pm that night, I took my temp again, and told my sister and her husband (Pam and Rob) that I’d see how I felt in the morning. Pam wanted me to go back to the hospital that night, but I assured her I would have Oma, (Rob’s mother) take me in to the hospital if I still felt poorly in the morning. I called my boss, and told him I would not be working that Monday. He didn’t take it very well, as I had expected, since he is the type of person who prides himself in getting up at 4:00 in the morning, taking a shower, having breakfast, and getting out the door by 5:00 A.M. All the power to you, nutcases, but I can only function the way God meant me to function if I get up when (ever) I wake up. Call me lazy; I don’t care. I do my best work after midnight.
MONDAY, JULY 5TH, 2010: I had another horrendous night, filled with really sharp, radiating pain and lots of yellow shit being hacked up from my lungs. I actually had to grab my chest and push back each time I coughed; it felt like my chest or ribs would just break if I didn’t put my hand there. I also drenched the pillow again, so when I finally woke up and went upstairs Monday morning, I knew it was time to go back to the E.R. I don’t remember exactly when I woke up or went upstairs, but Oma was up and reading in the living room when I dragged my ass up those stairs and emerged from the basement. “How are you feeling,” she immediately said. “Like shit,” I answered, and added, “I gotta go to the E.R.” “I’ll get my bag,” she said, with no nonsense in her voice. I told her I had to dress, and moments later we arrived at the E.R. I think I waited about six minutes before they called me back to triage, and I immediately went from there to a bed in the E.R. I was still coughing something awful, and a doctor came in within minutes, and said he heard my cough down the hall and it sounded bad. He listened to my lungs, and sent me for an X-ray. Literally about three minutes after I was rolled back to my room from X-ray, I was rolled out of that room and into another, where everybody that came into that room wore a gown, gloves and a mask. I noticed this and asked the nurse what was up. “You’re in isolation,” she said. “I know that,” I answered, since I had worked in the E.R. years ago and knew the isolation procedure. Sometimes it’s to protect the patient, but usually it’s to protect anyone who comes near the patient. The doctor was right on my case, and he answered for the nurse as he finished donning his gown and walked in. “Have you ever had tuberculosis?” he asked. “No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure I would know,” I said. “Oh, you would know,” he said. And thus began the questions; maybe six straight days of questions; maybe more, actually – and thus began my month-long interaction with people wearing masks, gowns, and gloves. I actually didn’t really know what any of these people’s faces looked like, and only realized that oddity when I saw someone’s mouth move as they spoke to me, and remarked to myself how nice it was to see everybody’s whole face again. Interestingly, though, you can tell a shit load about a person by seeing only their eyes and forehead. You most definitely can tell when they are smiling, frowning, pensive, focused, studied, etc.
I still didn’t know what was wrong with me, but when that doctor asked me the tuberculosis question, I knew it was going to be a longer road than I had anticipated. As I write this, it is Saturday night, (actually Sunday morning, 12:30 A.M) April 2nd, 2011, just about ten months from that day I went back to the emergency room. I just put my hand to my chest, and felt the changes that have taken place, and that July already feels like almost another lifetime ago. But this has been the course of my life. I have been many places, done many things, and it sometimes feels as if I have lived many lives. For this I feel blessed, lucky.
I had brought my cell phone, and had let my sister and mother (who I knew would alert everyone else) know what was happening. Soon, I had my family, looking grim, but trying to look nonchalant seated around me. They asked some questions, answered none, and just said that they were as baffled as me at what I could possibly have. When they left, I was alone with my thoughts, and just allowed the reality of the situation to sink in. Nothing hit me like a ton of bricks, but I felt a kind of gathering, a nearing, like the smell of rain coming, or the sound of distant thunder. I sensed something, but didn’t worry, just felt that I would know my fate as it came to me.
I was admitted to the hospital, this pretty large establishment in this pretty small town. It had been 3-4 years since I had stayed overnight in a hospital; that was when I thought I was having a heart attack, but found out it was only a bad case of acid reflux. I was charged 16 thousand dollars for those two days. They ruled out heart attack while I was in the E.R., but just kept me for observation.