It was probably the shittiest time for him to pick almost dying on me, us, himself–our marriage was going through a particularly rough patch, work found itself more than challenging, and my mental health had steadily been in decline for the past year and a half. Not that it was his fault, my husband I mean, how was he to know his immune system was left wide open from his chronic Prednisone use for something totally unrelated to meningitis?
I knew though. And what ensued I can only categorize as a seemingly life-changing experience for my whole family, our friends, co-workers, and our, well, how many people go through something as out of the blue traumatic as what happened to my guy and come out, well, back to normal…so to speak–cause what the fuck is normal anyway? I can’t stand most ‘normal’ people, they’re too damn crazy if you ask me. I mean, is he totally over his ordeal? Pretty much. However, when you almost die of meningitis, it kinda freaks you out for a while. But only for a while.
You wanna know something really insightful though? How should I put this so I don’t sound like an ungrateful ingrate—Ok…you know how you always see those interviews of like, survivors n’ such n’ how they’re always pontificating on the aftermath of this and that, n’ how after the said traumatic incident left them in utter appreciation for every waking moment there after? Nonsense. Things just go back to the same for the most part, you make concessions for the new way of life, n’ you know…that becomes the new normal. life just went right back to life. At this point? It’s like it never happened except for the stupid puzzles I bought him to do for brain plasticity exercises when he got home from the hospital. 3000 micro piece puzzles not even the person who designed the thing could put together. Lisa was the one who came over that day I got my guy home from the hospital, had the puzzle all spilled out on the coffee table, invalid barely able to blink let alone put two pieces together, n’ me standing over him like a dictator commanding ‘Do the puzzle! Do. The. Puzzle. Brain plasticity. It heals the brain motherfucker, do it!” I was crazed from 6 days of no sleep from the ICU of course, (I’ll get into my stint as his unforgiving hospital staff advocate later) so no, wasn’t thinking too rationally. Lisa took one look at the pieces falling off the table all piled up like ashes from my mom’s old Nova cigarette ashtray pull out thing, and scoffed. “Kelly! A 6 PIECE puzzle you fool!!! One made for 3 yr olds n’ autistic kids! What the hell?!”
“Oh…Well, I did not realize that, Lisa.” I apologized to my husband who couldn’t reply anyway thank god, for he would of gladly told me to shove every single jagged edge puzzle piece up my ass if he could—he couldn’t though, so opted for a stink eye kinda blank stare instead. In fact, he had no expression for the first week home at all, common of brain injuries even meningitis. Called ‘flat affect’. Creepy is an understatement, his nick name became ‘the walking dead’ till it subsided.
How you ask? Well, it’s kinda a long story, but basically, he got bit by a West Nile Virus carrying mosquito somewhere by our home, the Prednisone had his immune system suppressed enough to let the pathogen take hold in the meninges of the surrounding brain tissue, and voila! Meningitis. From a mosquito bite. Motherfucker. Almost a $200,000 hospital bill later (thank god for insurance), n’ all caused by a parasite via a simple steroid used to treat pretty much every inflammatory condition including a swollen toe. Dumb.
I guess that’s where this story begins essentially, or on the night he collapsed off the john, face first, semi paralyzed onto the hard travertine bathroom floor at 3 o’ clock in the morning. I was already up getting dressed right before, he’d woken up about 40 minutes earlier nauseated and dizzy as hell, double vision, and as he tried to walk to the bathroom to hurl, it was like watching a drunk falling down a flight of stairs. See, we thought 2 days earlier, it was just the flu…his general doctor thought so too–dude started him on Tamiflu and my guy threw that shit up instantly. We decided to wait the flu out together in bed. I’d change his soaked clothes and sheets, talk to him, watch TV, do a few errands, and hoped his mounting fever I’d kept checking would go away. But by the day of the night he ended up, well, almost dead, it was the highest it had been n’ I was set on the ER.
The scream from the toilet came furiously and it wasn’t a normal like, yell, it was a shriek of someone falling off a building. Or a toilet, face first.
I’ll never forget it, the yell—I’ve known this guy since 8th grade, and let me tell you, he ain’t ever made that sound before. I ran back in just as I was done getting dressed and letting my live-in sister know I was taking him to the ER and to console the kids in the morning–take them to school, n’ that everything would be OK.
Oh were it that easy. No. For what I saw following the scream, on the floor next to the john, was my husband of almost 18 years, half naked, face down on the tile floor, utterly lifeless, a shade of blue-green, and covered in sweat. The scariest thing about it was, well the whole goddamn fucking thing was devastating, but his eyes in particular sent shock-waves–eyes wide open with a blank stare, but lights out, literally. I called his name, placed my hand on him, tried to get him up, help him, do anything I could to coax him to respond, but he couldn’t talk. I’ll tell you this, besides the initial scream that had no resemblance to the guy I’ve known most of my life, this was not my husband, this was a person–dying.
(To Be Continued….)