My Little Dance With Death

Ok, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but maybe it was depending on whom you ask. A could of weeks back I was feeling run down and feverish. But my wife Linda had been sick with the flu that Sunday so I figured I just had a touch of that. By Tuesday night I was fighting a pretty bad fever. Oddly enough, I didn't know how high it was until I finally took my temp on Wednesday. 104. Not good. By Thursday I was in the ER with daughter Audrey, and after a few hours they sent me home with Motrin and instructions to alternate that and Tylenol every four hours. The fact that I'd had 104 temp for a few days - and had been bitten by three ticks in the last couple of months - apparently wasn't a concern. The biggest problem being that most everyone at home, and at church, had also been sick a few days back. But they got better, and I wasn't.

Two days later I'm back in the ER with Linda and my three-year-old son. For two days I'd popped my pills and fought the fever. Every four hours the temp would drop to 101, then roar up to 104, once cresting 105. Until the thermometer died. Then I was just guessing based on how I felt. By Saturday I had curled up, seeing my world only as a melting sliver of ice getting smaller and smaller. Accepting the worsening condition as only someone in the delirium of fever can.

Honestly, with no doubt, if I lived alone I would be dead now. The fever and, as we learned later my nearly depleted white cell and platelet counts, would have triggered a seizure or heart attack. At least, that what the infectious disease specialist that was brought in told me.

Thankfully I don't live alone so I was back in the ER on Saturday with Linda and little Elias. The young 'un couldn't handle being calm that long, so Linda left​ with him and a couple of awesome dudes from church took shifts sitting with me in the ER, then eventually the hospital room when I was finally admitted. The way I got admitted, after hanging in the ER hallway bed for an hour or two, was to ask a nurse to take my temp when it felt the fever had returned. She did and said three words which in that moment were music to my ears: 'Holy shit, 104!" It got everyone's attention, especially after I reiterated that this had been happening for days.

The reminder of my past tick bites prompted them to schedule me on dioxicyclene (or whatever the antibiotic was called).

That night, an hour or so after finally getting a pill and having taken my Motrin, I was delirious with a 104 fever, and it was getting worse. My world was only one remaining speck of hot ice. I was babbling to myself, deciding that the only way to ride this out with any sanity was to talk out loud. The nurse took my temp, didn't say anything but looked pretty worried (I assume it had passed 104 at that point). She gave me Tylenol (two hours early), not seeing what else to do. A little while later, I'm assuming when the Tylenol and antibiotic teamed up, the fever broke completely for the first time in almost a week.

Broke so bad they had to change my clothes and sheets because I'd sweat the fever out so much.

So: long term fever, lowered white cell count resulting in a compromised immune system, platelet count in basement, so no ability to heal, lowered potassium so no energy and lowered something else so something else bad happened.

Jump to end: I had contracted Anaplasmosis, one of three ticks borne diseases common in this area (the most common is Lyme disease though Anaplasmosis is gaining traction).

Basically this disease knocks out your defenses, then moves in and does its best to kill you. This puppy almost did, apparently.

Over next few days they kept an IV in to resolve my severe dehydration, and the antibiotics kept the Anaplasmosis at bay. When my blood counts we're almost back to normal that Tuesday I was sent home.

The thing that struck me when my brain wasn't so fried was, during that time of fever, how helpless I felt. Helpless in that I didn't consider that things were getting so bad I needed to take charge of the situation and get it corrected. I simply accepted every diminished state I found myself in and ran with it. I meant it when I said that if I had lived alone I might easily have died. But others, like my wife and daughter, and some great friends from church, took control of things for me. Special shout out to Dave Kane and Steve Hutchins, who took turns sitting with me in the ER and beyond, and Sue Walker who kept harranging her contacts in the ER to make sure I got admitted! Times like this, I consider it a good thing to have friends and family around. If you isolate yourself too much, you always at the mercy of your own perspective. When that perspective gets messed up, without other people to see the truth around you, you can wander down some pretty dark roads.

Major life lesson, that, and not just around this specific situation. There are times when being entirely alone is a good thing, for a short time, recharge and reboot, connenct with God, sit in silence. But in life, overall, make sure you have people who love and care about you nearby. They're there for a reason.


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