Kage Baker caught influenza with a graceful inevitability. Once a year, usually, the last weekend of a Dickens Fair, she would start to glow with fever and ache in every joint; her sinuses would silt up like the lost drainage of prehistoric Lake Agassiz, and she would take to her bed to sleep off the virus.
I never caught any. The great, named, world-wide influenzas (Hong Kong, Swine, H1N1, Media Frenzy …) nabbed me once in a while, but I usually neatly missed the annual strain. Which is good, but bred in me a certain viral arrogance. I did not get the flu, I thought smugly.
However, when I began to ache and radiate heat like a melting bar of cheap iron in a furnace, I figured my luck had run out at last – now influenza was to be added to my zoo of maladies. But it didn’t go away. And nothing actually hurt. And the fever got higher and higher, and the cycle got shorter and shorter … by October 30th, I was hitting highs of 101 every 6 hours or so, interspersed with lows where I almost dissolved in rank sweat. I was dizzy, seeing double, profoundly unsteady in my walk and increasingly incoherent.I figured I was turning into a zombie.
Kimberly finally had enough of my desperate and demented gaze over the edge of my blankets, and dragged me off to the ER at Cedars-Sinai. They are very nice there; I recommend it for sudden plague needs.
My temperature turned out to be 103.8. My heart beat was somewhere in the 200’s per minute range. Other than suggesting a slow case of spontaneous combustion, though, I was not excessively peculiar; so they made me comfy and we spent 5 hours watching while they fought my heart-beat down to a range where it might be trusted not to leap out of my chest like an alien. Many blood and urine samples were taken, to test for interesting micro-organisms – whatever I had, it wasn’t flu … I slowly got cooler and less demented. I felt merely blurred by the time I was sent home to sleep off what the ER doc determined was a UTI with an odd paucity of normal symptoms.
The next day, Halloween afternoon, he called me back. He told me I had a blood infection with something called Klebsiella and had to return to the hospital at once. No excuses. No delays. Right freaking now. Be prepared to stay a while, he added. (Theramin music, please.)
Note to those in the L.A. area: Cedars-Sinai is a wonderful hospital. Don’t go there on Halloween, though, if you can help it. They are the nearest medical facility to the enormous Halloween Party that is West Hollywood, and the other people in your waiting room experience will be … odd. They’ll be odd enough to make you wonder what your temperature is if you aren’t running a fever; and if you are, you will really be astonished …
The Tippi Hedron from the Trauma section of the ER was inspired, though, I must admit. Wonderful tailored suit, ravens in her blonde hair: a classic.
Anyway. I was returned to a wired up, taped up, stuck with needles state; they resumed pumping me full of antibiotics and fluids and morphine (by this time, everything from my clavicles to my pelvis ached). Kimberly stalwartly stayed with me for a 4-hour stint in a corridor, entertaining me by describing the costumes I couldn’t see coming in the ambulance bay doors behind me. But they finally found me a room (they were really, really busy, with patients from all adjacent universes) so Kimberly got to go home …
I was technically admitted at midnight. I have spent the last 4 days eradicating Klebsiella pneumonea from my blood stream. Klebsiella is a useful little bacterium, in its proper home in the gut; but when somehow loosed into the bloodstream – like, maybe, trauma during an unusually sanguinary pelvic exam) it can raise hell. And your temperature, your heartbeat and your blood pressure. And if it makes it to your lungs or brain (which it did not, with me) it can have a 50% mortality rate. Hence my doctor’s haste and hysteria.
So that’s where I have been, Dear Readers, fighting off a bug that made me imagine tiny middle-aged Lotte Lenyes running around trying to kick me in the shins. Trying to discourage the interest of bored residents in the eccentric history of my kidneys, the 5 stents in my chest, and my concrete-firm refusal to permit a pelvic exam of any sort.
Through this, I have clung to the goal of making it to the cardiologist who will certify me as fit for anesthesia, so I have a uterine biopsy under less-than-Red Sea conditions, so they can determine what is thickening my endometrium, so I can get a cure for the mystery bleeding that started this whole freaking thing in the first place! And I am pleased to say that I have succeeded in keeping it on schedule. It got moved to November 10th, but that is not too bad – much better than the 6 weeks originally suggested, although the appointment clerk still doesn’t understand why a 6-week delay in finding out what the answer is to my pelvic bleeding might bother me … I may have made that plain to her today, however.
And in the meantime, I do NOT have the flu. And I got a flu shot, too. So there’s that. I cock snooks at you, Klebsiella!