Hopefully you’ve all been following along through parts 1 and 2 of this piece. It’s a story about mortality, resiliency, the human spirit, and how the worst of times can bring out the best in people. By the end of this, even I had a renewed faith in humanity. To briefly bring you up to speed, my wife had just lain to rest her loving grandmother just days shy of her 98th birthday, I was rapidly developing a medical condition, and in addition to the cavalcade of other small problems going on, our power was nearly cut off. I’ll now pick up where I left off.
It’s now Wednesday morning, and as I promised my wife, I was preparing to visit a doctor first thing. I mustered the last remaining shred of macho that I have living in a house full of females, and insisted that I go alone. If you count the cat, I’m outnumbered 5 to 1. I am a rapidly sinking ship alone and adrift in a sea of estrogen. It took some persuading, but I drove myself and took no one along. I made sure to drive the vehicle with the automatic transmission as I no longer had the use of my left arm.
I arrived at a local medical facility where I would spend the next two hours and 20 minutes sitting in the waiting room with a rapidly increasing level of pain. While waiting, I received a text message from my wife who was less than 24 hours removed from the funeral of a family member. The text was to inform me that she had just learned of the passing of her uncle. I was mortified for her. She hadn’t even had the chance to mourn yet and already had to bury another loved one. My own condition seemed less and less paramount. I’d eventually be okay, but these two great people were gone forever. I tried to keep my focus and perspective and console my better half as best I could through text messages.
She replied with a text citing her concerns that, “these things seem to come in 3’s”. A wave of paranoia immediately shot through me and for the first time in my life, I briefly became a hypochondriac. I started thinking: “wait a minute. What does she know about my condition that I don’t?” She, realizing that I was a bit unhinged at the moment and would take her words the wrong way, immediately sent me another reassuring text before I could even respond to the one that frightened me. I had but a brief moment of overanalyzing my own mortality.
After what seemed an eternity in a capacity waiting room, I was escorted to an examination room. A friendly nurse came in and checked my blood pressure and vitals and then disappeared into the corridor, leaving me alone for another hour and 15 minutes. A female doctor entered the room and asked me what the problem was. I responded as follows: “No offense, but I’m not a big fan of medical facilities. I don’t visit doctors unless it’s something that I’m sure I can’t fix myself, or heal with time. I’m not one of those who has WebMD in my favorites box, but I’m pretty sure I have shingles.” She said: “no offense taken” and asked me to remove my shirt. When I did so, she actually took a step back from me and said “WHOOOA!” as if I had just rattled my tail, hissed at her, and launched a seven inch forked tongue in her direction. Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for from my health care provider. Apparently she was sick the day they taught subtlety, and bedside manner at medical school. It’s not bad enough that I already look and feel like a cross between John Merrick and Rocky Dennis, but now the person charged with fixing me is looking at me like I’m a circus freak. At that time, she said, “oh yeah, it’s definitely shingles” and left the room.
She returned moments later with a much younger colleague. Evidently, my case was severe enough to be used as a teaching mechanism. She pointed to me as if a pane of thick soundproof glass were between us and asked her colleague if she had ever seen a case like this.
The younger doctor responded, “wow! No, I’ve never seen it that bad.”
At this time I spoke up and said, “you guys know I’m in the room, right? I CAN still hear.”
The younger doctor laughed and said, “at least it hasn’t affected his sense of humor.”
I looked at her through the pain and said, “Doc, sense of humor is all I bring to the table, if lose that, I’m done.”
They didn’t really do anything to actually treat me other than tell me what to expect in the coming days, and e-mail my prescriptions to the pharmacy nearest my home. She wrote me a note for work keeping me out until the following Wednesday. To this point, I had only missed five days of work due to illness from 1982 through 2011, cumulative. An entire week off was unacceptable, and I certainly could not afford it. I begged and pleaded with her to let me back by the weekend but she wouldn’t budge. She told me that I had not yet experienced the worst of this and that I shouldn’t rush back. As it turned out, she was absolutely right.
The visit ended with a mutual question and answer period explaining what causes this ailment, whether or not I was contagious, and things of that nature. She went on to explain to me that there was a vaccine available but not for people under 60. (I would later find out that the age had recently been lowered to 50). I then said to her: “So are you telling me I’m an overachiever?” She also went on to tell me that since I now already had shingles that I couldn’t get the vaccine anyway. This prompted me to wonder why she ever brought it up in the first place. I’m still eight years shy of being able to get a shot to prevent something that I already have. Probably could have left that part out.
I stopped at the pharmacy on my way home to retrieve my prescriptions. One was to treat the ailment, and the other to ease the inordinate pain that I was about to experience in the coming days. I was granted zero refills due to the ever-growing trend of idiots abusing prescription meds. If the pills I was given initially didn’t get me through this, I was pretty much screwed. Thanks a lot junkies! I’ll never quite understand how so many people can take prescription pain pills recreationally. Whatever they gave me required me to already be on the piece of furniture upon which I planned to sleep before the pill reached the bottom of my throat. The bottle stated not to operate heavy machinery while on this medication. I couldn’t operate a crayon. So there wasn’t much of a threat that I would run outside and jump in a backhoe. I have a pretty high threshold to pain, but it turns out, these pills ran out about five days too early. I took my medications, and climbed into bed where I would remain until Sunday evening and then, only for brief spells could I get up.
Now, my beloved wife would be left with the daunting task of having to singlehandedly care for me, and our three young daughters around the clock. While accepting the undertaking of this Herculean task (as if she had a choice), she was less than three weeks removed from having to spend more than a third of the month of June bedridden herself. This was the result of a botched anesthesia procedure when she delivered our most recent baby. She was pretty much incapacitated for two weeks and in excruciating pain while I attempted to care for the whole family; a task that apparently wore down my immune system to the point of getting shingles. The ironies in my life just never cease. Now I was about to spend a third of July in bed. Thankfully my wife had just retrieved her super hero cape from the dry cleaners.
I apologize if it seems like I’m making this article more about me and my temporary ailment then I am about the departed. That’s not at all my intention. It’s just that self-deprecation is the only way I can add humor to a story about a seemingly otherwise morose week. Not even a goofball like me can provide a silver lining or humor to recently deceased loved ones.
This story, as I’ve stated is intended to be about the perseverance and resiliency of people in the face of extremely adverse times. It’s intended to illustrate how strong, caring, generous people really come through at even the worst of times. In the end, I’d like to leave you each with a newfound perspective on life that is exactly what I took away from this week. If it seems like I’m dragging this one out, I sincerely apologize. I didn’t originally intend for it to run this long, but I don’t want to leave anything out, and I have a limited amount of space each week. I really appreciate you following the story to this point, and I hope you’ll check back next week to read the rest. It may get a little worse, it may get a little better, but it comes full circle in the end. Some great people will be sorely missed. Some great people show their almost inhuman strength. Some great people do some great things.
So until next week, thanks for playing along.