My recent Coronavirus interviewing and the fever sweeping the country for the past week got me to thinking about my own brush with mortality over five years ago. In fact, it was a fever that was the first symptom. Ireland is not a country that is a natural habitat for ticks and yet somehow in the summer of 2014 I managed to contract Lyme’s disease.
I can’t remember the exact day of the week it was but I seem to recall it was early in the week. I remember questioning myself earlier on that morning as to whether I could make it to the weekend. The eventual answer in my head was a big No. I was an IT contractor at the time, working in Dublin, and I was sitting at my desk in a city centre office – it was approaching lunch-time. All that morning I was sweating and developing a major headache. I spent those hours, most of them anyway, trying to pass it off as a simple flu or some 24 hour bug that I had caught. The sweating was profuse though. When I bent my head down it was dripping onto my desk via the tip of my nose. Embarrassment fought with worry for supremacy.
I knew something was really wrong when I tried to get up from my swivel chair and go to the canteen. It took me two or three attempts to summon the energy to get out of the chair. When I eventually succeeded I was dizzy. As I shuffled to the door, I noticed that I had also, somehow, developed a limp during the course of the morning.
I’m not a doctor person. Unless it’s broken and hanging off I don’t go. I’ve always associated doctors with pain. As a kid – I broke my arms three times, three years in a row. By some quirk of fate, these injuries always occurred around Easter. Once I was playing a football game. The second time we were trying to play long jump across a ditch that had 6 foot drop. The lesson of personal safety, was finally learned on the third occasion after a headlong fall from a neighbours crab-apple tree. In short, Doctors or A&E visits, were painful and always seemed to come with a side order of admonishment as part of the treatment plan. Anyway I digress.
On this occasion in 2014 though, I knew immediately, once I got to that office door, I needed a doctor. I was genuinely frightened. Only one problem – I was working about 3 hours away from home and had no clue of where to find a GP’s office. I literally walked out of the office block and stopped two or three different people on the street to ask where the nearest GP’s surgery might be located. I must have looked like a crazed junkie. Luckily, one of the good Samaritans that stopped pointed to a building that was a short stroll or limp away.
The GP as luck would have it, was Australian, and that in hindsight, is probably relevant. After a short time examining me, checking on my flu like symptoms, she did what I considered a very strange thing. She asked me to remove my pants. When I say strange I mean hilarious. Fever has that effect on me I was discovering. Everything is humorous. Any-wiz, I thought this request was uproariously funny and wasn’t exactly hiding my mirth successfully.
” You were limping when you walked in here. Have you been limping long “ she said
Ah yes – the limp – on entry to the surgery I had completely forgotten about it as daft as that sounds. Probably because I didn’t think it was connected to my ‘flu’. I hadn’t even mentioned it to the receptionist or the doctor up to this point. The sweating and palpitations were my primary concern.
” I’m not sure….I walk into things a lot “
I walk into things a lot. Had I just fucking said that…like…OUT-LOUD… I wondered. I removed my pants, jogged my memory and made an executive decision to forgive myself. Fevers are also like a papal confessional blessing apparently.
” Have you had that rash here long on your thigh”
She pointed to an area the size of a 2 euro coin on my right thigh. I looked at her blankly for a moment before adding helpfully
” I don’t really eat rashers “
She smiled and I relaxed. I idly pondered whether I might unknowingly be a comedian. I decided to forgive her for wasting valuable time searching for a Full Irish breakfast on my inner thigh.
‘ We’ll need to get you over to the Mater immediately’
‘ The Mater Hospital – Why ? ‘
” I’m worried about that ra….eh…bump on your thigh “
She went off to her desk and started writing up a letter for me to handover to the good folks in the Accident and Emergency department of the Mater hospital. I know I read that letter at some point shortly afterwards, but to this day, I can’t for the life of me remember what the contents of it were.
” Do you have someone to take you to the hospital – I don’t recommend driving “
” Of course “ I replied.
My answer was in the tone of a man that had a posse of faithful pilgrims waiting outside her surgery doors, lighting candles and chanting decades of the rosary in unison. Just queuing up to whisk me away to the Mater. In other words, I drove myself to the house I was staying in, while also deciding to wait till the following morning to rock up to the hospital.
I plonked on the bed and promptly fell asleep. I must have slept for 14 hours solid because when I groggily woke it was 6:30 am. Still feeling like shit. Except worse. The bed-sheets looked like a silhouette of a murder scene – with sweat substituted for chalk lines. As I limped and stumbled down the narrow stairwell of my boarding house, I reached for my phone, googled a taxi, dialled, mumbled and waited.
As we pulled up to the Mater I looked again at the gadget in my hand, and for all the medical specifics I can’t remember about that day, I can remember the time.
Thus began a combination of the most worrisome, pleasurable and comical day of my life.
24 hours in the Accident and Emergency Department of the Mater Hospital.
To be continued….
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