I am hitting every light trying not to pretend that the fact that I’m still sick and the answer lies with this guy is probably not the best scenario. I am sure that I do not want to go to a small space where a bunch of people are infected with God knows what.
As my story breaks to those wondering what edge of the world I’ve fallen off, I hear some thoughts that it may be this or it may be that. Lyme is on the mind. This guy is the rock star of infectious disease and because he has die-hard disciples I know I am in the best hands.
I burn my way through the winter chill between my car and his office, enter the waiting area, check in and take the only seat left. Luckily, it is in a sunbeam. I take a seat and realize, unluckily, that the room is not just warm but about four hundred degrees due to the western wall made entirely of glass drawing in the afternoon sun.
Later, I learn that neuropathy patients all suffer worse from the cold (even those that don’t have cold allodyna that I am suffering) and I wonder if this window is on purpose. After an hour I think it’s just bad damn luck on the part of office space. Whatever is the case, I am now sweating, like pitting-the-frick-out. It’s late November, for Smick’s sake!
I start to remove layers with the speed of someone running and bound for a skinny dip. As I resurface from my flurry of undress, I am temporarily temperature-ly settled and I realize that there is a starving woman in the room.
I know this because she says so. Many, many times, and all while eating chips she calls someone to bring her food. It’s 3 pm and she’s been here for four hours waiting to been seen. She did not have an appointment. She failed some kind of test and might have the blablilly-bloop and has to be seen or she cannot return to work, she recounts this for a third time to the dozing husband of a peaceful woman who spent her wait talking to me about how great Christmas will be with her grandchildren. I nodded to her all through my strip tease. She, politely, did not pause.
Blablilly-bloop goes in and I’m left thinking, she “may not be able to return to work,” for infectious reasons. What does she have? Seems like a tapeworm. My focus now shifts to a tiny, graceful woman in her seventies in a deep red wool dress suit with a matching hat pinned to her perfectly curled hair. Curls the bright, strong shade of the ocean’s crash on the beach. Flanked by a daughter, her driver, who quietly repeats that they’ve been waiting “a loooong time.” Her mother’s response, “We have time. Doctor is very busy helping everyone.” She glances down and rearranges her hands.
This strikes me. Because, not only is this lady a dead ringer for the Queen of Freaking England but, it is one of the only times that I have seen someone waiting entirely too long in a doctor’s office that hasn’t been dripping in “all-pissed-off over it” in my entire life. And, I’ve had some long waits. It is grace. I take a mental picture of her and her daughter. Click-click.
I file it away under the headings “#miscellaneous setting example for child never ends” and “#growing hope” that this doctor will help me.
I can’t help wondering what the hell all of these people have and if I am going to get it too. I had to move out of the sun into the Grandmother’s seat, then to another seat because it was too close to the one that Blablilly-bloop was in. If someone is wondering what I have they probably think I have ants in my sweaty pants.
To me infected means: Hey, I am infected, and this might be my first visit and you who are sick, too, will probably get what I have on top of whatever you have because I don’t know what I have and am accidentallyspreadingitaround…” The movie Outbreak flashes before me and I veer from this scene to sometime back in ’95 when coughs in a movie theatre and turns half the eastern seaboard from green to red dots of doom.
Still waiting, and sweating. Arms are burning. I’m pulled back to the present to notice that the UPS guy comes in and doesn’t use his hands to touch anything. He’s all head-nods through the glass and elbows to open the doors. This may be because he has those packages in his hands on the way in but why on the way out?! He read the office door: Infectious Disease. He knows the deal.
I worry now, not what I might be catching but what I might be giving to others. My family is all well, maybe that’s not how it works. Obviously, what I have cannot be transferred to others through common contact.
As wait continues, I notice a figure in each chair fade slowly away and cross over into the door of opaque glass. All a little stiff and kind of slow. Most, quietly resigned to keep walking on. People in pain.
Just before the Queen crosses over she is greeted by an exiting patient. A friend from church and a fellow in the life after Lyme. An affliction, I find, that comes and goes but leaves in some, a rash of scars and damage that lingers long after the last desperate re-dose of doxy or amox is done.
Dr. D is the go to guy. I dread having something that can’t be cured because I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this. Not only am I in pain, but I am warding off the world biggest breakdown over this, like you cannot imagine. I want something that will go away. I’m not exactly surrounded by a nurturing bunch. Come ooooon, Dengue flu! Momma needs to take care of her babes!
Eventually, I am alone. A lady enters and she sits in the comfy, high-backed chair next to me. It’s quiet and she asks how long I’ve been waiting. I think of the queen and I say, “Oh a while. Not too bad.” I’m pretending to be graceful but at this point, I’m just scared to go in.
She’s relieved. Has been here before and this waiting room earns its title. She asks why I am here. I say, I don’t know, yet. She proceeds to tell me that she was travelling for work in central United States and she got bit by a tick (these bleeping ticks!) and she was sick but was on a research project and out in the field away from health care and was sticking it out then, literally, watched spots appear on her skin.
She was covered in them. I feel like she actually still has one on her face. Nearly compelled to ask if it is one, I refrain from interrupting her because as her story goes on it sort of meanders around the past few weeks, slowly and, obviously, all out-of-order. She has been out of work for weeks with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And while she feels better at times she can’t concentrate (no kidding). So, if there is any distraction she is useless. She’s here hoping that it’s the medication and not some kind of damage. She’s on an antibiotic, she says. Yikes, I think, and lie, “I bet it’s the medication.”
Then, my name is called and I fade to the other side.
Alone in my exam room, the door closes and I hear my chart hit and hang outside my door. I’d run out of space on the three lines provided but made sure to mention my island and that I had bug bites. Bug bites are the key. This guy knows all about them and I want in.
I hear some doctor talking from another room and I wonder if that’s him. I can’t hear what he is saying but I hear melodic hopefulness, resolve and firm positivity. I want him. I listen and wait some more.
It’s quiet and now I am so cold back here compared to that sauna in the front of the place that my hands are burning hard and I am pulling my shirt way down to cover them like gloves. Making my shoulders show. Then the wet, pit stains make my arms burn. I pull the shirt back up. Then back down. Up. But I can’t take it, and down. Then I hear something at the door. Pages rustling. He’s reading. Then, he says this to himself, quietly:
“Humph! Well…How. About. That.” And he opens the door.
He is pretty excited, I mean like, kinda-siked, and before he asks me anything he sits down, in his way, hands crossed over his stomach, legs outstretched, bright eyes reflecting the joy that a doctor has just before the transfer of healing knowledge from brain to vocal chords then into the world. He’s about to tell me how I will get better.
He says, “It’s not a bug bite. I know exactly what it is.”
“You’ve been poisoned you ingested it.”
My mind flashes over all the ticks, mosquitoes, sand fleas and every island handrail and island doorknob carrying all the tropic viruses of all the tropic people, vector born, communicable and otherwise.
I cross all those images out and land on one thing:
Neurotoxin – Any of several natural substances that interfere with the electrical activities of nerves, thus preventing them from functioning. In some cases, neurotoxins simply severely damage neurons so that they cannot function. Others attack the signaling capability of neurons, by blocking release of various chemicals or interfering with the methods of reception for such transmissions, and sometimes telling neurons to send false signals. A neurotoxin may destroy neurons altogether.