I knew it was a bad fever. My sack was made of Silly Putty™ left out in the sun and my balls were soft-boiled and sore. I figured self-medicating wasn't cutting it anymore so I went to the VA hospital. I hadn't been able to swallow for days. I went to primary care and they immediately sent me to the area where I am usually seen for a different, chronic condition. I knew it wasn't the right place, but I went. It's funny how quickly the uniform slips back on when you're in the realms of Uncle Sam. You do as you're told; you go where you're told. And you do it with a snappy "thank you". I told the guy at the reception area that I had been sent there, knowing it was wrong, but maybe he could call down and say something to primary care. He told me to sit, so I sat, and I see him talking on the phone. A nurse comes out and calls me to go have my vitals taken. A few minutes later a very attractive doctor comes out and she tells me that she's got another patient she's attending, but that she will see me. Her genuine look of concern and the way she put her hand on my cheek both comforted and worried me.
It wasn't a doctor's hand. It was a mother's hand. Do I look that bad?
About twenty minutes go by and she comes back out and doesn't call my name; instead she comes right to me and helps me up. Yeah, I must really look like shit. We go to the consult room.
We sit. I have a temp over 40º C. I stare at her.
"I don't understand Celsius," I rasp.
"Almost 105," she answers.
"Fuck," I say. "Sorry," I say.
"Tranquilo," she says. "You are sick. I assume it's your throat," she says. I nod. She looks in my mouth, using the light from her iPhone. "Wow, Texas Chainsaw Massacre," she says. "That infection is really bad. Really, really bad. Use your fingers, how many days have you been like this?" I hold up 4 fingers. Her look of disapproval is unfiltered. "Why did you wait so long?"
I say that I got ampicillin from the local pharmacy and thought it would take care of it. An even deeper look of disapproval from her. Her opinion of OTC antibiotics in Puerto Rico is clear.
"You need to go to the E.R.," she says.
She walks me there. Luckily, it's almost empty. I'm seen immediately. You hear terrible stories about VA hospitals. I'm left to wonder where those hospitals are. This hospital is nothing like that. I'm attended with military briskness. Through the fever I feel nostalgia for the good old days when it was so easy to know where you stood with anyone just by looking at their rank insignia.
The ER doctor is briefed by the doctor who brought me down, the latter explaining my current issue and also giving the new doctor what she needs to know about my other, longstanding chronic condition. The new doctor examines my throat and her eyebrows hike an inch up her forehead. I'm taken to another room where I'm sat in a chair next an older vet who seems to be in the middle of a glucose test. He's got the jug of liquid they use for that test at his feet and a cup of the stuff in each hand. The nurse in that room starts to get out all the vials for the many tests they're going to run. This is all routine for me. What's not routine are the four much larger vials that are already partially filled with an amber liquid. They're the size of small condiment dispensers. I ask what those are are and she tells me they're for blood cultures. She sticks me with the needle that's needed for these various tubes and vials (I don't know what it's called) and goes to work emptying my reservoir. This is all routine for me. I do it every three months. No big deal. She finishes with the normal tubes and starts with the larger condiment dispensers and they start to fill. Jesus, there's so much.
That's when it goes tits up.
I become nauseated. I tell her. She quickly opens an alcohol swab and holds it to my nose. I breath in. It doesn't help. I tell her I'm going to throw up. She grabs the trash bin and puts it in front of me.
A granular, electric sensation crawls up my neck, face and head and I take my leave to parts unknown. If you've ever done whippits, it's like that.
The room rematerializes and the nurse is holding me asking my name, asking me if I know where I am. "
Of course I know where I am. I'm at the VA hospital, obviously." I swear I said those words but she keeps asking me the same thing. Did I not answer? I'm guessing not. It feels a little fuzzy and uncertain. The whole thing is really embarrassing. I'm realizing that I passed out. That has never, ever happened before. Ever. I feel a tight grin on my face that doesn't match how I feel.
The rest of my brain starts to reboot and I break into a flop-sweat. The nurse calls for help and two fellahs show up with a large wheelchair that looks like it can unfold into a small bed. Hard to explain. I'm taken deeper into the ER area where I wait for a while and then the doctor tells me that they're just waiting for a room assignment and they'll move me upstairs.
I'm being hospitalized? For a sore throat?"
The doctor explains that the infection is bad and that the fever is very, very high, especially for someone of my age (how I hate that phrase), so yes, I'm being hospitalized. Is there anyone we need to contact? I tell him that I have my phone with me and I text William as to what's happening. Twenty minutes later William is there. I'm always tense in moments like these that we're going to be given a hassle as the gay couple. There's no hassle at all. We wait. I'm taken to my room. That was Friday. Today is Sunday....
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