Day 1: Down in Waco, watching Aayush Jetley graduate, I started to feel a bit funny, the lightheadedness that signals the onset of sickness. Bidding farewell to Anubhav and Akheel, as well as Aayush, I went to What-A-Burger, got a double hamburger, a huge lemonade(I was hoping it was just dehydration) and hopped on the road.
Left at 5 and before I got home at 7 I definitely had a fever, I went to bed with fireworks in my head and vague dreamy disconnection with reality that was actually kind of refreshing. After being so conscious of work, obligations, schedules, other peoples time, it felt good to completely unable to be aware of these things. I went to bed at 7, and in what felt like both a couple of seconds and also a few days it was 8 pm. At that point I called everyone I had plans to see that evening and cancelled my plans, for fear of either infecting them, or dying in their living room.
I take a tylonol that night, a few times I absentmindedly floated into the kitchen, ate something, said something to my roommates, stared at the Christmas tree, and went to bed.
The next morning I sleep in, that afternoon, Mom called after church, it was not like me not to go. At her wise insistence I went over. Now I take more ibuprofen, she prepares some food, and this is the last full meal I eat for the next five days.
Two really weird days of fever happen, varying between 101.7 to 104.something degrees. I have no appetite, and other few symptoms other than a bursting headache a cooking fever. If I stand up I get dizzy, and I take a hardcore cure-all method my persian friends taught me and start eating lemons. If you ever get sick, trust me, lemons work. I noticed when I exhale strongly I can hear a gurgling rattle in my lungs. Also I cough up what looks like a banana slug, a long very neon yellow lump of phlegm. This is a very bad sign, the first hint that it might be pneumonia, a sickness my brother and I had when we were young and nearly killed us. Now it’s back to finish the job.
Also we cancel a roadtrip to see family, I ruined Christmas. Instead of going to Houston, we go to Medspring and a fellow with a moustache books me in, and the ladies, one a doctor the other a physicians assistant decide I have pneumonia. Then they give me a shot and some pills. I take them, and force myself to eat a small amount of potato and an egg. I get half of this down before my appetite leaves. I should point out at this point that by my appetite I mean my ability to force myself to eat something despite overwheleming nausea. Having pneumonia is a delicate balance of eating enough not to die, but if you go one teaspoon over amount you can handle it all comes up. So I take one more spoonful and go to bed.
If I’m going to die this is the last chance pneumonia has, and that night I wake up with that dry metallic taste in my mouth and have about eight seconds to get to the head before I get a good soupy vomit full of yellow phlegm and not much else. It felt great, seguing into a coughing fit then another good powerful vomit with some potato in it. This is the only thing I really solidly remember from being a kid, the persistent dry heaving. Some people get ‘walking pneumonia and what I got was “I am going to kick your ass” pneumonia that bursts into your house with a baseball bat and pounds you about the head and shoulders until you feel as if you are in outer space. If you eat too much, you vomit, if you inhale more than 30% of your lung capacity, you get a massive coughing fit, and then eventually vomit. Big wicked dredlocks; yellow phlegm and nothing else. You eat just so yo have something to vomit up. Mom gives me some kind of anti nausea thing.
We go to the doc-in-box again and they decide against x rays but do say that the vomiting is totally normal, and should be encouraged. I should point out at this time that while I am grateful for all the help my mom gave I am also constantly shouting at her to stay the hell away because I don’t want her catching a potentially deadly disease.
The most fascinating cure that came out of this whole ordeal was a solution a family friend and longtime nurse suggested wherein the patient leans on their side over the bed over a bucket and another person just taps them like a ketchup bottle to knock the ooze out of their lungs as they cough like a maniac. This works and like a rubber tree my sap fills a small catchtray with thick yellow ooze. then we flip me over to the other size and try the other side. It felt great. Plus the doctors said after a day of the antibiotics I am no longer contagious.
Starting Thursday afternoon I was able to add bread to my diet. Friday around 4am my fever broke and I sweat so much I woke up drenched. Luckily my fever was just stepping out for a bit and came back during the day but it only got up to around 101.7. It broke again on Saturday morning and now I’m just riding out the antibiotics until I take the last one tomorrow. I was pretty confident that death was here for me on Wednesday but unfortunately for some people and luckily for those I owe money to it didn’t.
Since Thursday, the stuff I was coughing up started bright yellow, big fistfulls of egg yolk, started changing in color, losing lustre into a dull yellow, then eventually disturbingly red in color(thank god I have learned from deer hunting that lung blood is bright orange) before the globules coughed up began to reduce in frequency and then shrink in size, and now today, oh thank you God, they are clear. I inspected one yesterday. I lifted it with a q tip out of the tray, it didn’t separate, it didn’t clung to the q tip and the globule hung another inch and a half down. I shook the q-tip a bit, it didn’t drop off, it didn’t change form, and I thought for a bit about the bizarre consistency of it, and how it was like that in my lungs, and it had killed people by drowning and suffocating them in it by the thousands for centuries since time immemorial. I’m really lucky, lucky to have it in a world where levofloxacin is available and countless other technology. And there’s probably some guy in a refugee camp somewhere who has the same thing right now, but he doesn’t have the same access to things, shelter or care. Which is sad. But I’m good now.