I wish mac ‘n’ cheese had all the essential nutrients and vitamins, because it’s the only thing I’ve been able to eat since Monday. I’ve been coughing much, much longer than that, and had made a doctor’s appointment for Tuesday to see what rattled in my lungs. Monday my health rapidly plummeted from a disgusting yet livable cough to hellfire and a throat full of barbed wire. I measured my fever at 101.2 degrees Fahrenheit. This was after I’d taken a cold shower, convinced that my brain was boiling in my skull.
Fortuitously, my mom tele-worked on Tuesday, so she took a long lunch and drove me to the doctor’s. I’m pretty sure I would have killed myself and at least 2 other drivers if I’d tried to use a car that day.
The receptionist asked if I wanted to add my picture to the file; they had a camera right there and the doctors use the pictures to…. I made my face into a disgusted shape and she understood immediately that I don’t normally look like a 14 year old boy with hygiene problems and bad hair. “Not today.”
The doctor poked the flashlight-hammer thing into my facial orifices and asked me symptoms-questions, putting an emphasis on fatigue. I knew she wanted it to be mono. They always want us to have mono, because everyone who is young and promiscuous deserves mono. But she said my throat bumps or whatever medical term she used for them were so “red and beefy” that it could be strep. She darted two cotton swabs in my throat at the same time so she’d only have to gag me once. How kind.
“What if my girlfriend doesn’t get hers treated,” I planned to ask, “will she just pass it back to me when I’m done with my antibiotics?” This would be a white lie – my girlfriend seems to have skipped this round of contagion. I wouldn’t have been asking for her, not exactly. Although I can count on just one hand the number of women I made out with during last Saturday’s party, any number felt like too many to confess in that white interrogation room. How do you tell your doctor that you may be responsible for spreading a nasty disease with a Jameson fueled make-out binge? (Forgive me, for there was a dimly lit bounce house on premises.) But when the doctor popped back in and announced, “it’s strep,” she also told me she’d be giving me a shot and I forgot all my questions.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a bee sting. But you’ll feel better faster, and the swelling in your throat will hopefully have gone down enough by tomorrow to make it easier to swallow these horse pills I’m prescribing.” Welp. I numbly rubbed my shoulder. I felt my arm getting heavier, willing itself to die so it wouldn’t feel the pain. I practiced not clenching my muscles.
The nurse came back, told me the shot will actually be going in my butt. She didn’t say Gluteus Maximus, she said butt. A shot. In my butt.
“It would hurt too much if it went in your arm,” she explained, as if that would actually make me feel better. I think she noticed my eyes flaring and my head wobbling on my neck like a ship listing in the waves. “You can be lying down for this.” I started to think it wouldn’t be so terrible until she added, “I just need to get someone else to help me position the needle. The anatomy of the body changes when you’re lying down.” She told me to pull my pants down to my crack. I laid face-down on the table, waiting for them to return, sure that she sought a helper to pin me down so she could harpoon me with the syringe on the counter next to me. I felt like the albatross from the Rescuers Down Under, my shame exposed to the cheery nurse mice, who almost seemed to look forward to my suffering.
(Watch the first two minutes for a scene re-enactment.)
When the other nurse came in, there was no time to reason with them. They wiped me down with an icy square of disinfectant – higher up than I expected – and I think the shock of yet another surprise location and the idea of the needle potentially hitting my hip bone made me start to panic. “That’s not my butt?” I said into the pillow, and quickly they shot me, and I whimpered and freaked out. “Don’t touch it!” I gasped, because my nurse was grinding it in with her fingers. I started to cry a little. She pulled my pants up and rubbed through those, and started talking science to me, which calmed me down a bit. 1 minute of this, and she’s done, and she didn’t even stay to cuddle.
I stayed on the table for a little longer. (I had to wait in the room for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t have an allergic reaction.) Once I overcame my feelings of degradation and self-pity, I moved to the chair and actually felt a little better after that adrenaline rush. My ass is still numb though.
Don’t Apologize & Never Say Sorry – San Diego Survival Guide
Sick of Partying, Pt. 2 – San Diego Survival Guide