We’ve all had the flu, right? I haven’t had it for ages, so that’s what I thought I’d caught when I got the shakes and sweats last Sunday night. Boy, was I mistaken. I should’ve known better. After all, I did sleep for forty of the next forty-eight hours. And that was just the beginning.
Last Sunday I went to the annual Improv Everywhere No Pants Subway ride and had the usual amount of fun. Took lots of pictures, didn’t get trashed and was home at a reasonable hour. Around 2am I went to bed and started shaking uncontrollably like I had chills but I didn’t feel cold. Monday morning I woke up and promptly passed out again. I made it as far as the living room couch and passed out. Again. My friend Debra came over in the afternoon so I could take some pictures of her for LinkedIn profile and I was still passed out on the couch.
We agreed to postpone the shoot until another time as I couldn’t even lift myself, never mind the camera. She got me some banana’s, headache pills and flu medicine (thank you Deb) before leaving around 6 or 7 and I passed out again having vainly (and stupidly) tried to eat some curry she’d had delivered. I felt like this flu really was taking a tougher toll on me than normal so when I surfaced for a minute around 10pm I posted on FB from my phone that I’d slept for about 20 hours. Next time I woke up around midnight there were well wishes and a few comments that other people had similar experiences or knew people who had etc etc. I passed out again and woke up around 3am vomiting, which really was not pleasant.
I made it through the night alive and Tuesday was pretty much more of the same. I called my Fulbright Scholar friend Stephanie (who makes me feel smart without trying) around noon and when she heard how weak I was started laughing and taking advantage that I couldn’t fight back in conversation. She also foolishly suggested I eat some soup and as I didn’t have any I asked her to bring me some from Wholefoods. She agreed and said it would take a while as she had some work stuff to do. I had half an apple and passed out on the couch.
Stephanie made it over around 7pm with some soups, organic yoghurt (acidophilus natch) and organic fruit. And her seriously demented sense of humour. I was happy to have some company even if she was laughing at how pathetic I was being. She heated the veg soup and we agreed it was possibly the most bland and inedible soup ever. I had about 2 spoons before I gave up on it. And passed out for a minute. When I woke up, I talked the daughter for a minute. I told her I was really sick with what I thought was the flu, but I’d never been this wiped by something like this before. I asked her to call me back the next day.
I’d noticed earlier in the day that the bottom half of my left leg had swollen to twice its normal size, so whilst Stephanie was there I asked her to have a look. It’s worth noting that as well as being a Fulbright Scholar with a serious intellect, amongst other things she has also been a personal trainer and currently designs her own line of gym wear. She recoiled from the sight of my leg and immediately notified me I should see someone. Now.
But I was passing out so it was impractical in that moment. She also told me I needed to break the fever by overheating my body, so ran me a very hot bath which she filled with ginger shavings and as soon as I got out she forced me to go straight to bed fully dressed and covered me in several duvets. After she left the cool Kate swung by with a couple of big bottles of much appreciated green juice, which felt like the only food I could actually get by my throat.
Around midnight my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize and as I happened to be awake, I answered it. My very old friend Tenar who was coming to stay from Australia and I was expecting the following day, was already here. And had been for about an hour or so. She’d been banging on the door, but I hadn’t heard her, as I was passed out. She’d just given up and was currently in some guys car who’d offered to take her to a hotel and she was using his phone. I told her to come back and I’d let her in. Ten minutes later she showed up enormously relieved and regaled me with stories of how all the locals had completely looked after her in her moment of need. Her first trip out of Australia was to NYC and she’d already fallen in love with the place. We hung out for a while and I passed out.
Stephanie was right. I sweated all night (in between bouts of vomiting awake again) and woke up Wednesday morning still weak but feeling better. More aware of my faculties. I became a little concerned about the leg but figured it would go away. I made it as far as the office for the first time where I sent out some much needed emails and passed out in the chair. I decided to take it easy and caught up on some cool TV (Justified/Girls/Shameless/Vegas etc) whilst Tenar wandered around and got used to the idea of being in NYC. She brought me back the always magnificent Curry Veg Broth from Republic in Union Sq which I wolfed down as it was the first meal I’d had since Sunday.
I woke up finally feeling really good on Thursday but the leg was still red and throbbing, I decided it was time to check what might be actually be wrong with it. Stephanie had recommended a Doctor so I called and left a voicemail asking if I could come see him. To my surprise a couple of hours later he answered by text asking about my symptoms. So I told him. He asked to see pictures, so I shot some with my phone and sent them back. He responded that to him it looked like it could potentially be either Cellulitis (which it is), a Vascular disease from smoking or a Blood Clot reducing return flow to the heart. And that I had to get myself to a hospital or emergency room.
As well as becoming suddenly VERY concerned about the state of my health, I also had visions of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars I don’t have disappearing on medical bills. That was seriously scary. Especially as I’m still waiting for some people to pay me for shoots I did last year. I asked if I could come see him, but he didn’t reply so I hightailed it to the NYC Free Clinic, which is part of the NYU Langone Medical Center near Union Square. After waiting a while I saw a Social Worker to determine my eligibility to be seen by the Free Clinic. Unfortunately, she informed me that as I’d already been there twice in the last seven years, I could no longer be treated by the Free Clinic as somebody high up had decided a couple of years earlier that the Free Clinic would only see people twice in their lifetime, not twice a year. (REALLY???? Like poor people/students/unemployed/freelancers/pensioners/children etc etc etc only get sick twice in their entire lives? REALLY??????? Throw that dog a bone won’t you).
However, after looking at the grossly swollen and mishappen leg she told me I should see a doctor immediately and pushed me into the NYU Langone system, telling me I’d only need to pay 10-20% of the cost if I came to see her with my bill. I was happy enough with that and elected to stay and see a physician immediately.
The receptionist advised me the wait was considerable, so I went and grabbed some more Curry Veg Broth around the corner at Republic as I was starving by this point. Upon my return I was ushered into a cubicle with an admissions nurse who decided that I should indeed see a doctor as in her opinion it looked like a very serious case of Cellulitis and that I might well have to go to hospital and have antibiotics on a drip for 24 hours to clean it up. My initial euphoria at not having a Vascular disease or a Blood Clot disappeared at the thought of having to pay those kinds of hospital costs. I was led back out to the waiting area for a shorter period of dodging trails of coughing fits across the room. My next interrogator was another nurse, but this one took my pulse (normal), blood pressure (also normal), temperature (normal) and weight (not quite what it was but probably standard American at this point in time). After declaring herself satisfied she moved me to another cubicle, where I awaited the doctor. With bated breath.
After a while he finally wandered in to wash his hands. And then wandered out again. He returned about 30 or so minutes later and asked me “how’s it going”? As he sat down. I told him I find it ironic that it’s a question always asked in these situations and the truth is always that I could be better, otherwise I wouldn’t be there. He appreciated the irony and then asked what was wrong. I showed him and after some prodding and pushing and pulling and poking he concurred with the nurses opinion that it is Cellulitis, a bacterial infection. But that I DON’T have to go to hospital for a drip of antibiotics. I could taste the palpable relief in my mouth. He also informed me on Sunday I must have grazed or cut my leg and that caused the infection which knocked me out so badly.
I smiled and took his prescription of serious antibiotics and nodded like one of those dogs in the back of cars when he told me all would be well in just a few days. Grinning shamelessly and feeling like I’d stolen something good from someone bad I made my way to the pharmacy where the discount pharmacy card that I hadn’t even applied for but I’d received in the mail some months earlier from the Musicians Union (??!!) worked it’s charm and got me 50% off on the medicine. A remarkable day of ridiculous drama and a total result at the end of it. And for those who are wondering, I spoke with a self employed friend last week who told me she spent a day crying when she realised that she has to pay $990 a month for health insurance. So no, I don’t have any. And this time, I lucked out again. Thank you God.
Yesterday I jumped on a train and came down to DC to do a shoot with Thievery Corporation today. I thought I was better but realized as I was dancing around in the photo pit last night with my camera at the 9.30 Club that I was mistaken. So I quit taking pictures and rested my leg for the remainder of the night. But not before taking this last picture in the dressing room.