Circumstances Beyond Control

Kage Baker was particularly susceptible to respiratory infections.

Everyone has a special weak point, anatomically. Maybe you get bitten by every spider and insect that ventures by; maybe fruit always turns on you; maybe you attract semi-sentient pollen determined to melt your brain. Maybe you have a trick knee, a weak back, a tragic predilection to being alcohol-absorbent.

Kage had badly-wired bronchi. She had bronchitis several times a year until she finally had her tonsils out at the advanced age of 31. Along the way, she’d also flirted with sub-acute pneumonia, bronchiectatis (that’s where your bronchial tree become deciduous and sheds), and sinus infections so severe she ended up hospitalized. Once, the ER people at the hospital tried to get us to name the man who had beaten Kage up – because the infection was so bad, her sinuses were showing bruises on the outside of her face. Once, she ended up with a sinus abscess knocking at the ivory door behind her eyes, the one that led to her brain …

The abscess lost. It took a tumour to get through that fortress. But in the meantime, Kage was prey for decades to every respiratory infection that hove on the horizon. But she got used to it. She had her coping mechanisms, her Nyquil, her hot toddies …

I never did that. I have, apparently, lungs of iron. Kidneys of tissue paper, but lungs of iron. Not even smoking a pipe for 30 years made any difference. I seldom caught a cold, I could go years without influenza. Until this last year … now I catch everything, and have no defenses at all. I had a cold sore for the first time since kindergarten this winter!

Last year’s flu shot was guaranteed for only 1 of the 4 strains going around; I caught the other 3, one after the other. This year, I got the super-duper heavily-reinforced flu shot with Kryptonite and adamantium, and have so far been spared influenza. So what happens? I catch a cold. An old-fashioned, drippy, sticky, achy rhinovirus.

This is a particular kind of hell when you use a CPAP; you could freaking drown in your sleep. If you don’t, you’ll wish you had when you wake up in your own mini-aquarium full of mucus. When you sneeze – and you will sneeze, dozens of times in a row – you can blow the mask off your face. And because it’s attached to your head with little bungee cords, it then snaps back like a weaponized bra strap and whacks you right between the eyes: SPANNNG!

In case you haven’t guessed, Dear Readers, I have a cold. It seems to have developed in the wake of the recent rain. Also, I went out in the dampness to move my car – we live in one of those neighborhoods where you have to switch sides once a week or the street sweepers get you – and discovered the battery had died in the cold and wet. So I had to get up at o’dark thirty today and call AAA for a jump. It worked, the car is alive, I was spared a ticket: but I’ve felt like someone filled my head with cheap apple sauce and my bones with hot sand ever since.

Hence this lengthy whinge. It’s all to explain why I can’t write. All it really demonstrates, of course, is that I can’t come up with anything original or creative – however, my native over-abundance of verbose adjectives and warped metaphors is perfectly functional. I absolutely flow with description, a veritable king tide of adverbs and similes. And snot.

But, damn it, I will post a blog tonight!


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to Circumstances Beyond Control

  1. Jill Hand says:

    Even Achilles had that dang troublesome heel. I truly believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, that is until something eventually comes along that does manage to kill you.
    Until then, orange juice, chicken soup and hot tea with whiskey should help.


  2. Sheila Fitzgerald says:

    Even better is Kevin Brown’s hot gin punch. If it doesn’t cure you, the gin will make you not care. Feel better soon


    • Kate says:

      I have happy memories of Kevin’s hot gin punch … at he Dickens Fair at Pier 45, the one where the icy wind on the breezeway between the two halls could sweep you into the Bay. And all the windows in the V&A had holes in ’em. Man, it was cold in there! Hot gin punch and French onion soup were life savers.


  3. Lynn says:

    I’ve tried to explain the special level in Hell for those of us with CPAPs and colds and no one gets it. I will simply forward them to this message and they’ll finally understand! Thank you; now I’m part of a real club – an unhappy, sleepless club but one nevertheless.

    Be well soon. And please share that recipe for Kevin’s hot gin punch!


    • Kate says:

      CPAP users lead a fascinating life that is beyond comprehension to those who do not sleep in masks. Maybe really devout B&D aficionados can kind of comprehend; but unless you spend your nights in some kind of restraint, there’s no explaining it One gets used to relaxing all one’s muscles and just *breathing* while asleep – but in a CPAP, you have to learn all sorts of different disciplines. I’ve found some yoga relaxation techniques help relax my neck and upper back, and some isolation exercises from mime training have also helped. The best thing, though, is lots of pillows – I don’t need to be propped up to breathe, thank goodness, but extra pillows help stabilize my head so I can go limp and sleep without the mask popping off. So hell yeah, we’re a club! A fierce and inventive club, too!


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