“Gather round ladies and gentlemen. I will give you a short report on the patient you will be visiting this morning.”
“This should be good,” one of the anxious rookies chattered.
“Yes she is remarkable, and so is the case study.”
The cocky side-kick lifted his hand to offer a gesture of support. The chief ignored him. The student was way too arrogant for his taste.
Dr. Burk cleared his throat and covered his mouth to hide his amusement, as his arrogant intern’s face burned with embarrassment. “Ok… so, patient suffers from Valley fever. She does have a feeding tube, she may be able to speak, however keep your questions to a minimum as the tubs are irritating to the nose and throat just the same. She suffers from severe nerve damage due to the disease, heart murmur as a result to damage to the heart, lymph nodes have swollen and are very painful. She is not yet able to walk alone, but she is able to use the restroom on her own with the help of assistive devices.
The Valley Fever has spread rapidly through her body, but it has disseminated. Slight evidence shows entry into the brain, but nothing conclusive just yet. The fungal infection is not contagious. I hope you all have taken some time to review her chart, recent surgery’s, biopsy’s, lab work, list of medications, and results of her MRI. If she gets any inclination that she knows more than you during your interview, you may be asked to leave. That’s all you need to know for now.”
“Does she know we are coming?”
“She has not been informed formally, but she knows you are coming. You are not the first bunch of white coats that have done their report on this case. Good luck!” Dr. Burk nodded and smiled uncomfortably, before he tucked his clipboard under his arm and briskly walked away.
The group of residents gathered around to assign their team captain. After a brief election process the team headed down the hallway to conduct their interview. Gina took a deep breath and held her clipboard close to her chest. She was nervous about leading the team.
“Relax! You will do fine.” a colleague reassured her.
Gina nodded confidently and knocked on Ms. Butler’s door. After a faint whisper of approval, Gina and her team entered Ms. Butler’s room with caution. Ms. Butler was quiet as she stared at the bright white lab coats.
“Can I help you? Have you come to take me home?”
The group of concerned newbies looked at one another, confused and discombobulated. Gina cleared her throat in an attempt to calm her nerves, “Um…no Ms. Butler we were wondering if you would mind answering a few questions? We are very intrigued by your case.”
Waving her clipboard and flipping loudly to the next page, she and her lab partner requested to ask me a few questions. I buried my chin to my chest and looked up. I was quite dispassionate to their inquiries but I decided to oblige.
“You know I was joking about you arriving to take me home, to the promise land. I haven’t completely lost my mind. I just like to play around with my guests from time to time,” I smirked. Quickly I scanned the room and noticed the residents hanging back. “Front and center ladies…”
“If you must…,” I was totally ignoring him. He rubbed me the wrong way instantly, standing against the wall as if he were the flavor of the month on some calendar.
“I don’t suppose you are here to get the story behind my miraculous survival are you? I am not completely out of the woods yet; but I have to say I am winning. The medical staff had me tapped out about a month ago, at least.” I smiled and it felt good. My sarcasm blew right over their heads, which made the conversation amusing. “So…shall we begin?” I sat up and adjusted my tubing and Gina was kind enough to come around my bed and fix the pillow for my back.
“How is that?” Ms. Butler.
“Yes fine thanks, and please…please, call me Aija.” I was weak with exhaustion. The heaviness on my chest was a bit much to bear; but I continued on. I took pride in sharing my story with others. I lived each sunrise and sunset, passionately. I was a fragile and emotional sight, I admit, a mere 76 pounds, knobby knees, and what appeared to be a broken soul. Although I winced with pain, I was victorious. Pumping my fist to warm lights of my patient room I’d chant, “I am taking my life back. Do you hear me out there? I am taking my life back.”
I closed my eyes as if trying to find the missing pieces of my shattered memory. My life seemed to skip back and forth years at a time.
“Last July, I was traveling through
. I had delivered Jazzy-baby aut 6 months prior. My
younger sister and I decided to go down to see my daughter’s father and family.
We took the train for about four hours. We then transferred to a bus in the
city of San Joaquin
the scorching city of death. Oh, how I
loved LA, and its busy streets, loud obnoxious vendors, and smog filled
air. The bus took us straight into the
Los Angeles Union train station. A trip
I had taken a million times.” Bakersfield
“So…where was the point of transfer? I mean, where did you board the bus and train?”
I looked towards the sky and rolled my eyes with disgust. I hated when I was misunderstood or when people just couldn’t comprehend English, “Please don’t interrupt, it’s rude.” I said with my forehead creased. “You may not get the chance to cover this story again… I may not be around to tell it.”
I laughed out loud. It hurt like hell but, it was worth the look on their pale baby faces. The fresh white lab coats suggested they were still wet behind the ears, and earnestly wanted to make an impression on their superiors.
“For your recording purposes,
is where we boarded. Antioch,
California was our point
of transfer from train to bus. It wasn’t until October that I started showing
signs of illness, flu-like symptoms to be exact. Coughing, achy body, loss of
appetite, I was miserable. I also developed these soars on my face, right
between the eye and the nose, on both sides. Hideous they were, and very
painful. I couldn’t help but pick at them. One of the soars began to form a
hole in the core of it. You could see my skull!” I sat up abruptly with all the
strength I could muster, for effect. I enjoyed scaring them. I was entirely too,
easy. The students both male and female, shifted their feet as other students
poured into my room accompanied by a nurse. Bakersfield
“Ms. Butler, are you feeling okay to continue? I’m here with your meds.” The nurse stepped forward, shoe-flying some of the students out of her way so that she could do her bid.
“I’m okay, I am enjoying the company, but we better hurry along with my story.” I directed my attention back to the students. “As soon as this medicine hits my blood stream, I am going to be out like a light.”
“Ms. Butler, what other symptoms do you remember having, that prompted you to see a doctor?”
“Well the damn soars, for one thing.” I laughed so hard my stomach heaved in and out showcasing my boney ribs. “I had never had a problem with acne. The fact they weren’t coming to a head and dissipating was the problem. They were growing and clustering. The Flu symptoms also worsened. I developed a very high fever. I was vomiting more frequently even if I hadn’t eaten and losing weight at an abnormal rate.”
Halloween night is when I finally decided that something was really wrong. I could barely walk as we strolled through the neighborhood. It was my daughters first Halloween. With the meds and everything going on, I am saddened that I can’t even remember what she was that year.
I was sweating and Fall was coming to a close. It was freezing out. My mom sat with me on a bench in the park where we lived as my siblings rolled Jazz around.
The next morning I went to see a doctor. I wasn’t there thirty minutes before the EMT’s were called. The next thing I knew, three doctors came in with astronaut looking suits on and a gurney. Scared to death, my first thought was to run. My mother began to cry immediately. I suffered through isolation for three days. I had very few visitors, and the first set of antibiotics had failed miserably. Lupus and TB were ruled out. So I was released from isolation, glad to reunite with the land of the living. However, I was getting worse.
After a few weeks, which turned into roughly three months, I jumped ship and was transferred here to
, live and in color
here for your listening and viewing pleasure.” San Francisco
One of the interns giggled, but quickly stifled herself when bumped by a fellow student.
“It’s ok,” I chimed in. “It was a joke. Your superior officers have been running tests to see how to attack the disease. It has spread throughout my lungs and filtered my body. My lymph nodes have swollen, and some of the nodules have burst and crusted over.”
“Has Lymphoma been ruled out?”
“Yes! I have Coccidiomycosis, better known as San Joaquin Valley Fever.”
One of the male interns whipped out his PDA, like a western gun slinger, and began tapping on it swiftly. “Right…Got It! Valley Fever, also known as Cocci correct?”
I smiled at his desperate need for attention. He hadn’t paid much attention to anything I said, “I believe Coccidiomycosis, is the correct term. Coccidiomycosis is an infection caused by inhaling the microscopic spores of the fungus Coccidioides immitis. Spores are… the tiny, thick-walled structures that fungi use to reproduce.” I paused again to catch my breath as the students looked in amazement in regards to my knowledge of the disease. After all, if I was going to die, I should at least know how and by what cause. I sighed and began spewing scientific facts once more as if reading from a medical book, “Coccidiomycosis exists in three forms. The acute form produces flu-like symptoms. The chronic form can develop as many as 20 years after initial infection, and the lungs, can become inflamed. The injured areas fill with pus (abscesses). Unfortunately, my form of fungus has disseminated. Disseminated coccidiomycosis describes the type of coccidiomycosis that spreads throughout the body affecting many organ systems and is often fatal.”
Without bothering to look up, I began to tell him about the disease and describe its derivatives. I didn’t want to see the shock and sadness in their eyes.
“So you inhaled toxic soil correct? I remember my mentor mentioning it when we were briefed on your case.” The gentleman smiled gustily at his inquisitiveness, as he put his pocket pc in his lab coat and began to write.
I pinched my lips, a form of expression that seems to be universal for the African American culture, when someone is doing entirely too much. He was killing the mood. None of the students could get a word in edge wise between my own barking and his interjections. “Yes, that is correct. I am plagued with knowing every detail of the disease.”
“Hey… Miss Thing!”
One of my favorite nurse’s flip flopped into the room. I could tell it was her. She had this laid back walk. Like she was the shit and in no hurry. Still I liked her. She was kind to sit and listen to my gripes.
“Y’all gotta get up outta here, you see she’s dosing off.”
I was happy to see her. I had a surprise under my silk bandana I wanted and entrusted only to show her.
“Scoot… Scoot…she will be here tomorrow.” The nurse scolded waving her hands for the interns to leave. Slowly but surely the students began to disappear into the white light.
“So…, hey girl, what did you want to show me?” The nurse tapped my leg to bring me back to life.
“Oh… yes, take a gander at this.” I slowly pulled my scarf back to reveal my short soft curls.
“Awe you cut your hair.”
“Might as well, it was falling out anyhow. So why not?” I said laughing brilliantly.
“It looks good girl.”
“Thanks, this is my form of liberation.”
“Well when you get out of here maybe you can add a hair club to your organization.”
I looked up as the tears welled in my eyes, and snatched my scarf from the nurse. “If…I walk out of here.” I mumbled through clenched teeth. I don’t know why I was so angry; but my chest burned. My throat began to close. I wasn’t sure the journals I spent countless hours writing would ever see light. It was simply my form of counsel, for I was seconds away from going insane.
“What kind of life? What kind of life will I have, life after all this...honestly?"
Perhaps a life of reformation, growth, inspiration, or will I wither away in pain in depression searching for air. Who knows? All I know is that the fight is on. I will fight to the finish.