I became ill the first week of June 2016, dismissing it as a minor bug — “con crud” as conventioneers say — and something I could get over with fluids, over-the-counter meds, and rest.
Except I didn’t. I was running a fever on and off, at one point hitting 102.5 F, so after battling for a week, I reluctantly went to the doctor that Thursday. After getting a cocktail of antibiotics injected into me, I assumed all would be well…until it wasn’t. I would find out later that I was far more sick and exhausted than I knew, and when the shot took effect, it did its job so well my forty-something body was no longer up to the task.
At some point later in the evening, my short-term memory failed and I’ve been told I started babbling. I don’t remember that night or the panic that set in when my family found me the next morning before calling an ambulance. The shot had started killing off viruses so quickly that I couldn’t flush them out fast enough. Systems started shutting down, and at 340 pounds, my family couldn’t move me to the car. The ambulance drivers didn’t give me much of a chance, but they didn’t waste any time, either.
I remember having some kind of dream about being in a the bottom of a boat, moving inside, as if I was being taken somewhere. There’s a high probability it was how I imagined the ambulance ride or maybe ICU; which one I couldn’t say. Fortunately, for being big and tall, I’m pretty resilient and managed to survive the following two days until I was functioning on my own again. The doctors were afraid something might have been permanently damaged, from my kidneys all the way to my brain.
The week I spent in the hospital afterward resting was less of a blur, and my wife Linda coming to see me along with my mother-in-law raised my spirits. What I could not understand was how I’d gotten there and why I was so weak. A neurologist would come in twice a day and ask me what day or year it was; that can be pretty difficult without a calendar and no phone app to crib from. I also discovered that doctors and nurses don’t fully appreciate a dark sense of humor — hello! Horror writer! — and questioned my mental “recovery.” Eventually I provided an impromptu presentation, logically thought out to convince the neurologist I was my old self again, and soon I got the green light to go home.
I’d lost 40 pounds…the hard way. My balance was shot and my legs didn’t have the strength to hold me up. Being laid off from my day job a few weeks earlier worked out in my favor; I had time to rest, use a walker, and push myself in a bit of home physical therapy. I recovered quickly enough and am still getting my stamina back, but I found I couldn’t eat as much. My tolerable portions were half or smaller than what I was used to, but I decided it wasn’t such a bad thing. As I’ve progressed, I’ve kept my new weight right where it is and am now adding more exercise to my routine. If I do eat out and if I can’t order from the kids menu, I just cut everything in half and take that portion home as a second meal to be enjoyed the next day.
So, lessons learned:
- If you’re running a fever for more than three days, get thee to a doctor or ER…don’t wait.
- If you’re too sick to answer a question, a hospital should be the next stop.
- Neurologists aren’t properly trained on how to assess the borderline sanity of an imaginative horror writer.
- When you eat half as much, there’s TWICE as much food!
- Never take for granted the love and support of your family when it comes to a crisis.
I’ll leave you with the following exchange that actually happened. My wife was sitting next to me when a nurse entered the room and handed me a generic card before saying, “Happy Father’s Day” (FYI: we have no children). Pleased with herself, the nurse waited on some kind of reaction. I turned to my wife in confusion, back to the nurse (who was looking concerned) then back to my wife again and asked, “How long was I out?”