Okay, Universe, I would like to call a truce. Ever since I declared my formal departure date from work, it’s like you’ve been trying to prove a point. I get it. You are the universe. I am just a tiny, indistinguishable speck, lost somewhere within your boundaries. You can stop being a jerk now.
It started with my credit card statement, which I had been nervously watching, waiting to get punished by the Argentinian rental car company for leaving their car in the Patagonian wilderness. And then it came: $165.13. Seriously?? That’s it?? We can totally handle that! I patted my decision-making skills on the back. Until a second charge filed in: $469.72. Apparently the first charge was for extra kilometers (like I said…we got a little lost a few times) and the second was, and I quote, “for the complete destruction of the windshield,” making this the THIRD windshield I have replaced in three months. Complete destruction? That’s a little harsh, don’t you think? It’s not like we took a baseball bat to it (though that’s kind of what it looked like) or something. I still think we got screwed…what kind of insurance doesn’t cover windshield damage when you’re driving 100 kmh on gravel roads a majority of the time? The silver lining? Our decision-making skills do deserve a party, since we weren’t charged a dime for desertion. Universe 1, TK 0.
And then I woke up a few Sunday mornings ago with a fuzzy left eye. For 22 years, that was how I woke up every morning, with fuzzy eyes. But when I remembered LASIK fixed that fuzziness over seven months ago, my hypochondriac imagination took over and I lost it. I must have ripped out my cornea flap in the middle of the night. Or my vision was rapidly failing. Early glaucoma? I tried eye drops. I tried blinking 100 times fast. I tried crying. I sent my sister neurotic texts informing her I was going blind. This was the end. Defeated, I climbed back into bed and worried myself back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later, too scared to open my eyes to see what kind of fuzzy world was waiting for me behind my lids. But I was miraculously cured. Whatever it was was gone, and I asked no further questions. I chose to believe it was a bad dream, but those texts to my sister are dripping with reality. Universe 2, TK 0
And then I got yellow fever.
I sat in the clinic waiting room for the mandatory 15 minutes after getting immunized with whatever they inject you with to protect you from yellow fever, meningitis and rabies, began to feel a little weird, but not weird enough to say something. I woke up the next morning with a pounding headache and aching body. I went to work, mostly to take my mind off the pain. Then I made the mistake of reading the “Yellow Fever Vaccine: What You Need to Know” information sheet the nurse handed me, specifically this portion:
What are the risks from the yellow fever vaccine?
- Severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component (about 1 person in 55,000)
- Severe nervous system reactions (about 1 person in 125,000)
- Life-threatening severe illness with organ failure (about 1 person in 250,000). More than half the people who suffer this side affect die.
I know what I technically read. But here’s how it translated: your organs are failing and you are going to die.
Of course I would be the one out of 250,000 to die from organ failure. And actually, those odds seemed terrifyingly good in a bad way. So to take my mind off of dying, I thought it would be a good idea to buy my one-way ticket to Rovaniemi, Finland. Worst idea ever. The second I completed the purchase, I felt my body go cold, a little numb. I rocked slowly back and forth in my chair repeating to myself, “You’ll be ok. It’s ok. Everything is fine. You’ll be fine. You’re fiiiiiiiine.” I paced circles in my office, walked down to the cafeteria humming some Christmas tune to myself. My heart was beating so fast I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I tried to take my pulse, ballpark 116 bpm. My resting heart rate is like 64. I was clearly dying of yellow fever. I started checking with everyone I knew who had received the vaccine. They were all in the 249,000 unaffected bucket, confirming my imminent organ failure. I pull out that oh-so-informative “What You Need to Know” sheet.
What should I look for if there is a severe reaction?
Look for any unusual condition, such as high fever, behavior changes (rocking like a crazy person in my chair while talking to myself), or flu-like symptoms (pounding headache) that occur 1-30 days after vaccination. Signs of an allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing (uh, now it seems a bit hard), hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness (white as a ghost), weakness, a fast heartbeat (almost double!), or dizziness (the room is spinning) within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot.
I called nurse triage. After getting the basics out of the way, we had a conversation I wish I could have recorded:
Is your speech slurred?
Well, yeah, like on a daily basis. But that’s just how I talk I think.
You sound fine to me.
Thank you. No one has ever said that to me.
Does your neck hurt?
I mean…the room was spinning for awhile.
How’s your pulse?
Through the roof. Like 100 now.
Well, that’s the high end of normal, not through the roof. We consider the roof to be 140.
What about shortness of breath?
I am breathing quickly. I think I might be having a panic attack.
Have you had anxiety attacks before?
I don’t know.
Did something happen that might have triggered this?
I mean (I almost start crying), I just quit my job a few weeks ago and then today I bought a one-way ticket to Finland and I almost went blind on Sunday now I’ve pretty much convinced myself I am dying of yellow fever. I feel very light headed and I can’t stop rocking in my chair.
(Long pause) So it does sound like you might be having an anxiety attack. What you are feeling is very real. Would you like me to make you an appointment to address that?
No. I don’t think so? I mean…are you sure my organs aren’t failing?
You know your body best, but you would definitely be in more pain or feel something is very off.
But how do you know? Have your organs ever failed?
No, no they haven’t. Good point. No one’s ever asked me that before.
That went on for a while. I imagine it’s extremely entertaining to be a triage nurse. It’s day six, and my organs are still functioning, but I won’t feel out of the woods until day 30. Note to self: don’t taunt the universe or it might steal all of your money, blind you and try to give you yellow fever. Universe 3, TK 0.