Long Time No Blog

February 11, 2008 at 5:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Sometimes I wonder if we didn’t get our geography all wrong. Maybe the world is flat, like medieval cartographers once imagined. I certainly do feel as though I have fallen off the edge of a flat planet. But there aren’t puffy clouds and cerulean skies to greet me on the windswept end of the land – only a sick room I’m not leaving, strange manifestations of a strange disease, and my once familiar life becoming more distant, more like a movie I watched a few months ago. The round earthers have never made it to Chronic Town, I guess, where many of the streets drop off into oblivion and the rules that govern the rest of the world don’t apply.

My personal world narrowed even more a few days ago when I was hospitalized with pneumonia. I caught a cold from Andrew, my son, who at four, is a walking virus. The cold became what I thought was a sinus infection, and my doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics. The only weird thing was that I couldn’t breathe walking up the stairs. I’d rest at the top landing, panting, as though I had just scaled the mountain behind our house. I was irritated when my doctor ordered a chest x-ray. How could I have pneumonia when I wasn’t even coughing?

I did have pneumonia. (The coughing came later. And plenty of it.) My doctor called at six in the evening with the results of the chest x-ray and the order to go to the hospital for admission. I was napping, and our babysitter was about to leave. The pneumonia was mild, the doctor said, but the high dose of prednisone and Remicade I take, supposedly to cure my sarcoidosis, make lung infections particularly pernicious and particularly quick to become deadly. She said that once she had dallied a day before hospitalizing a patient with a chest x-ray and a medicine cabinet comparable to mine. In twenty-four hours that poor fellow’s pneumonia had blossomed into tuberculosis and pneumocystis pneumonia (a lung infection more common in AIDS patients.)

So, we went to the hospital. But not before I had to explain to my son in my brightest tones possible that Mommy had to go sleep in the hospital to have special medicine put in my veins. He was understandably resistant. After all, the last time I went to the hospital, I stayed there for days, and came home a changed mother – one with constant headaches and balance problems. “No,” he sobbed, clinging to my leg, “I don’t want you to leave.” That did good things to my Mommy guilt stockpile. Meanwhile, Jay called my parents to deliver the news. Without us even having to ask, they packed their bags and prepared to make the four hour trip the next morning. Upon learning that Grandma and Grandpa were coming, Andrew stopped crying and started celebrating. (I was glad for his mood shift, but, still, is my son so cheap that even the promise of grandparently doting quells his fears of going motherless?) I packed a bag slowly. I even made a pot of coffee and frothed up for myself a passable sugar-free vanilla latte before we headed out the door.

The sheer banality — the lack of sturm und drang — was disconcerting in itself. Usually, trips to the hospital are adrenaline-laced. In November, I thought I was having a stroke as Jay sped down darkened streets in the middle of the night to deliver me to the emergency room. In happier times, we had both sweated and stressed our way to the hospital for Andrew’s birth. But this was so bland, so blasé, so terribly everyday. Then it hit me. Yes, every day. This is my life now in Chronic Town. Routine hospitalizations, constant medical disruptions. Jay told me later that our babysitter, who has only worked with us for a few weeks and doesn’t know how frequently some health crisis erupts with us, was terribly worried and upset. Hospitals mean death and disease. Poor Rebecca must be very sick, right? I guess. But it’s as if all Jay and I could muster emotionally, once we calmed our son, was a shared shrug and a cup of coffee.

I only had to stay in the hospital for three nights. Pumped full of antibiotics I can’t pronounce, much less remember, I returned home to my bed. The irony is that some of the problems that plagued me since my last hospitalization and my latest flareup of sarcoidosis in my brain had seemed to be easing somewhat before the pneumonia. I could read part of a magazine article with only mild sea sicknesses ensuing. I could work at the computer for close to an hour a day and was chipping away at some essays to post here. And doing so didn’t make me either throw up or fall over (as long as I didn’t push it too much). Best yet, the day before the pneumonia struck, I had taken a walk with Andrew and Jay. This was the first time, since before Thanksgiving, that my small family had simply ventured forth for fun – to tromp in the snow, to begin building a snow fort, to make up stories as we walked on the squeaky winter ground. The sunlight didn’t blind me, and my balance was nearly steady.

I feel worse again now. Who knows if my returned neurological symptoms are from the drugs they gave me in the hospital, the stress of being in the hospital, or simply from missing a dose of Remicade? Maybe all the coughing is just making my headache worse, or the quantity of phlegm in my head and sinuses is re-impinging on already inflamed cranial nerves. Your guess is as good as mine – or my doctors’. Once, this loss of momentum would likely have bothered me much more than it is now, and I would have pitched an inner fit. Once, I would have been more concerned that my pneumonia isn’t really improving and that I had to return today to the doctor for new IV antibiotics (outpatient luckily). But all that struggling and worrying feel like too much work, here at the end of one of Chronic Town’s streets. Illness has become our way of life. It has become normal – a virtual routine for me, my husband, my son. And that bothers me more than the thought of free-falling off the edge of our supposedly round world.


  1. Paul said,

    Hi Rebecca

    Great to see you’re up to posting


  2. Alicia said,

    I’m glad you’re out of the hospital with one more crisis averted (hopefully, right?). It is so nice to hear you were able to go for a walk with your family. I hope you have many more walks coming your way. Even if you have to end up back in Chronic Town, it must be nice to leave for just a moment.

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