the best thing that ever happened to me
i was 18, a senior in high school. ready to get out and go to college, more than ready for a change. loafing, still in school just to keep me off the streets until june. fueled by volumes of Jack Kerouac and cheap gasoline, my chronic wanderlust wanted me to get out and do interesting things, meet new human beings, see new sights. i felt like i was stuck in a rut.
then i got rocky mountain spotted fever.
it started on a thursday afternoon. i was outside, playing with the cats, throwing the frisbee (excuse me, flying disc) about. the next day, i felt like a had pulled a muscle in my leg, near my hip. i also felt kinda hot and a bit sore. not a big deal, i'm a pretty active guy. i just used some muscles i hadn't used it a while. i went to a ska show that night. i still felt hot and even more sore. i went home early, which never happens with a ska show and me.
the next day, i woke up at 11ish, ate some breakfast, and went to work. i worked a 7 hour shift at the radio station (where i was a DJ - that's a story in itself). i felt like shit - feverish, sore (even worse), tired. my palms and soles of my feet looked a bit irritated, but this didn't faze me much. i went home and ate supper. a nap would do my body good, i thought, so i laid down for one at 8 p.m.
i woke up the next morning. i felt so sore and achy, it hurt to stand up. my head felt like it was on fire. i now had tiny purple spots on my palms and soles of my feet and dime-sized spots starting to show up on my arms and legs. my dad took my temperature - 103.2 (F). i went back to bed. i ate half a biscuit when i woke up at 6, but other than that, i slept until 10 a.m. on monday.
i didn't know what was happening to me at this point. one day i'm having fun, tolerating school, ready to go. 3 days later i can barely stand up. it hurt to eat. i felt like i was slowly burning from the inside out.
my dad took me to the doctor monday morning. it took a lot of effort to walk up the steps to the second floor. the symptoms weren't good - some blood and protien in my urine, fever of 103 (going on 3 days now), purple spotty rash. a healthy, strapping young man reduced to a weak shell of what he was a few days previous. he didn't know what was causing it, but he had a hunch it was rocky mountain spotted fever. i was admitted to the hospital "for a few days, just to run some tests."
i was in the hospital for a week. i got better, but only after the IV, hardcore antibiotics, steroids, blood samples taken every 6 hours, etc, etc. etc... my blood had to be sent to California to be tested for the proper antibodies (which is a looong way from Georgia). some friends came to visit me. i read a lot of books. once i started getting better, my doctor brought some information about rocky mountain spotted fever by for me to read. it's some nasty shit. i got well enough to go home. i found out later that i was the second person in the western Georgia area to be diagnosed with rocky mountain spotted fever since the mid `70s. and the first one to live through it.
the next 2 weeks were spent at home, recovering. i figured out a lot of stuff in that 2 weeks and i continue to do so to this day. i very nearly died. i was given another chance. this was my 9 a.m. wakeup call.
i rearranged my priorities greatly. i watched the sunset nearly every evening. when i went into the hospital, everthing was still dead and brown and leafless from winter. when i came out of the hospital (on Easter Sunday), everything had bloomed. that spring was beautiful. i was truly living again for the first time
i still get small doses of this on a regular basis. this is a Good Thing - kind of cosmic post-it notes about keeping my life in perspective.