120 Minutes

Dengue Fever – an infectious disease of the tropics transmitted by mosquitoes and characterized by rash and aching head and joints.

Later, Day Four

Ka-pow! [The smell of smoke and the sound of me blowing the ER nurse’s mind with these symptoms hangs in the air] Doc comes in to tell me that they tested for all that they can and I am clear. Clear?! Clearly WHAT?! He shares he believes that it’s some kind of “dengue-like” fever.  Weeks ago, a person that had been on an island presented with classic symptoms. What the what is he talking about? A virus hallmarked by a fever and a rash.

I remind him, “I didn’t have a rash.”

[Clearly, this dude is very proud that he knows what dengue fever is] He says again, dengue-like fever, meaning, “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you and goodbye.”

I am moved to the “waiting to be kicked out” curtain area and I don’t even get to finish my IV bag.

Knowing that this guy feels that I am going to live to see another day puts me slightly at ease. And, according to him, unless I run through a sudden swarm of mid-Atlantic, winter mosquitoes on my way home, everyone else is safe, too. But this burning is stressing me.

At home, I still have trouble holding the baby. He’s crying. I am trying to comfort him, bouncing on my hip, patting on the back. Shh.shh.shh. He is screaming and screaming and I call for D.  I am burning the baby. I can feel that I am holding him and whatever is on my arm is hurting him.

I yell at D, “Feel my arm, is there something on it?” (We’ve been through this a few times already).

“No,” he says. And he looks sad.

Whatever. I will not hold that baby. And I cannot worry about your feelings right now. I know that I am burning him. If it’s travelling up my arms and the sweat coming from my arms is burning me, then it is burning him. That guy in the ER was like 10-yrs-old. What the hell does he know?!

I am done.

D settles the baby and takes him to bed. I recline on the couch. So tired. Feel like I am under water and in slow motion. Stretching out after the longest day. My leg is really weird. My knee…Oh no! It’s happening again! And this time it hits faster and is way worse. I scream for D and tell him that I need him to rub my calf. I am rubbing my thigh and yelling at him to rub the shin. No! The calf…I am crying.

This “cramp” doesn’t stop like in the island condo. It goes on. At its height, I want to simultaneously rip my skin off and smash my leg against the wall, only, I cannot move.

Back is on fire and I feel the leg pain start to fade. Heavy, whole notes of pain drawing back down a scale. I see the edge of relief coming my way.  So glad that it is over. I really need to get that checked out. What the heck is that all about? I have never had a…

It is starting in the other leg! This is faster. It rises, like a drug-free labor at 9 and a half.  We attack the other leg with greater force. We are soldiers in combat with the pain. And I can’t identify what muscle it is in. It’s all over. Like an egg of pain cracked on my knee and dripped all through my leg and is squeezing its way out through my skin.

I am told by my primary doc that I have a high tolerance for pain. Prior to my wedding I sprained both ankles over-training, waited 4 days, called her and hobbled in for a sick call just before a holiday weekend because I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. That was 9-yrs-ago and she brings it up each time I see her. She tried to do me a solid and bring it up again, just prior to giving birth to the twins, saying I will be fine. Well, my epidural didn’t work and she was obviously following the “don’t tell soon to be first-time-moms the real horror” code, but that got real with a quickness.

So, when I tell you that I am in pain. I mean it. Even a contraction doesn’t last this long and I am closing in on an hour of this. It’s winding down and I need to escape. D goes for a break into the other room.

I am alone. And, again, it starts. It is radiating off that original knee and I realize: I need out.

Out of the room. Out of my skin.

Out of it all.

I start up the stairs, alone, sobbing and begging at the pain. It has become another person in the room. It is bigger, stronger and crushing my mind into a child. Ripping away all the reason, hope, and logic gained over half a life of living and I believe this will never end.

Crawling up the stairs, I use two hands and a good leg while dragging the dying one behind me. Crying, no…exploding in fluids. Snot-bubble, drooling cries. I beg Pain to stop, “Why is this happening? Why did I go there? Pleasepleaseplease…What did I do? I am sorry. Sorrysorrysorry. pleasepleaseplease…” I reach the top.

I move along the floor to the shower. Get in. Turn the shower head to massage and the faucet to full hot. All the way, hot. In there, I move the shower head all over my leg chasing the pain in triple-time from my thigh to my toes, down and up and back again. I focus on the pulse as it hits my leg and falls away. It is being chased by welts from the scalding water. A poisonous, red snake coiling all over my leg. Red snakes twisting like tattoos of blood on a sandy, white beach.

The water turns cold before I find relief. It is stinging me which is a slight distraction from Pain. Defeated, I turn the stream off and drop the shower head. I am quiet now. Seething in hatred for Pain and what I did to deserve this. I open the door and see D scraped to the quick and staring. I keep it in. Heading to the bed I know it MUST end soon.

“Are you having another one?”


“What can I do? Please?!”

I need a solution for him. I find in the future, that is important for people. A solution. An action. An explanation.

I tell him to get the heating pad. I prop up my knee up on pillows in the bed. I am gripping at my skin with exhausted hands. Sobbing hysterically, I tune him back in and yell: “No! Do not call the ambulance!!”

What will they do? Admit me and wait for me to have another “muscle spasm.” I WAS JUST THERE! They cannot help me. So afraid. All gone. What, what, what can I tell you to do for me…

I want my mom.

He murmurs, “She’s already on her way.” I am winding up the pain. It has been over 120 minutes. I am weak and stuck to the bed. She enters the room. She sits in the rocker, feigns casual and looks me over, rocking, rocking, rocking.

“I am here.”

I rock to sleep.


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