I have always been acutely aware of the frailty of human life. Growing up with a father who saved lives, and endowed new lives on others, I wanted to be like him. Play god.
The full moon rose over the Connecticut landscape, beautiful and bland. A little girl leant on me, snuggled close. We were on our way home after dinner, content. What happened next, I have no memory of.
I awoke in a hospital, twelve hours later. My father, stroking my hair and holding it back from my clammy face.
"Something's not quite right, is it?" I asked weakly.
He smiled in spite of himself and said, "It will be."
"Human tapeworm infestations are most common in regions where there is fecal contamination of soil and water and where meat and fish are eaten raw or lightly cooked.
The fish tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum, transmitted to humans from fish, especially pike, is common in Asia and in Canada and the northern lake regions of the United States. This tapeworm has a more elaborate life cycle, involving both a fish and a crustacean as intermediate hosts. The dwarf tapeworm, Hymenolepsis nana, is transmitted through fecal contamination and is common in children in the southeastern United States. There are also several tapeworms for whom humans the usual intermediate host; among these, the dog tapeworm, Echinococcus granulosis, spends its adult phase in the intestines of dogs.
The most serious tapeworm infestation in humans is caused by the ingestion of T. solanum eggs through fecal contamination, which results in the person serving as the intermediate, rather than the primary, host. The embryos migrate throughout the body, producing serious illness if they lodge in the central nervous system. The embryos of the dog tapeworm encyst in various internal organs of humans, most commonly in the liver. The cysts produced by these embryos are called hydatid cysts, and the infestation of the liver is called hydatid disease."
Spring had come to Delhi. I was in my second year of university, young and content and learning. My flatmate, with whom I had a rather tempestuous relationship, brought home a puppy one day. This little animal melted my heart. The flatmate discarded her soon enough, child with a new toy syndrome. I cradled her, trained her, scolded her, took her to college...she was christened Lamb as she followed me everywhere. She used to latch onto my skirts so I couldn't go into class without her. Soon she grew too big to stay with me, to stay a secret anymore, so she just stayed in the college grounds, where everyone knew her and looked after her. My boyfriend at the time who lived in the college grounds informed me when Lamb had whimpered at his door...and he opened it to find she had given birth to eleven puppies. She was taken away by the dogcatchers the next day.
Baba told me that I had experienced a full blown seizure, similar to the kind epileptics experience. What compounded the problem was I had also simultaneously started to vomit, and since I had no control over my actions, my windpipe closed, and I stopped breathing. My heart stopped. My father gave me cardiac massage and, simply, brought me back to life. A CT scan and subsequent MRI showed a solitary lesion in my left fronto-parietal lobe, diagnosed as a tapeworm larva. I was put on Albendazole for two months and Phenytoin sodium for the next four years.
My life changed, forever. I wasn't allowed to go back to university for a term. I was alone, angry, confused. One strange consequence of the seizure was that notes made more sense to me than letters. It was frustrating and fulfilling at the same time. I was instructed to do crossword puzzles to make connections between words and things constructively. I wasn't allowed to indulge in any form of intoxication as it would exacerbate the effects of my medication and knock me out entirely. I slept long hours and was told to stay away from my computer and bright lights. But slowly and surely, my life came back to me. More enriched, more beautiful and more magical than before.