I guess four posts from Detroit in the seven days I was there isn’t bad, but I meant to do more. The second week of my trip, I was outstate (DeWitt and Hamburg), and didn’t have consistent internet access, so there were zero posts. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty to share with you! But here’s what happened. While in Detroit, I was not only busy (though, as you’ll see, not as busy as I would’ve liked); I succumbed to that pesky little streptococcus bacteria I’d apparently (based on the incubation period) brought with me from California.
At first, I thought it was an allergy attack: unless strep begins with an itchy face, eyes, and nose, and the opening of a spigot from your sinuses, I really did have an allergic reaction to my former-now-annual roommate’s cats on the Wednesday night of my stay (I flew in overnight on Sunday, arriving Monday).
Thursday, I woke up with a dry, raw throat, as you do after serious post-nasal drip, so I didn’t think much of it. But it became sorer and sorer as the day progressed. By Thursday night, I couldn’t swallow without flinching (and tearing up a bit), and my tonsils, glands, and neck were quite swollen. (In my defense, my tonsils are always pretty big, and they never developed that distinctive appearance you associate with strep. And because it was August in Michigan, and I’d just come from temperate Northern California, I had no idea I had a fever! I just thought it was hot outside.) I spent Friday mostly in bed, having canceled lunch plans with a dear friend I haven’t seen in years. In the evening, I stayed home from my former choir director’s birthday party in Lafayette Park. My roommate had brought me saline nasal spray and Chloraseptic spray when she came home from work, and I spent the evening flushing my sinuses and trying to get that red liquid to stay where it hurt for at least 15 seconds before spitting it out (per the directions). I also took lots of acetaminophen, as hard as it was to swallow. I might have gone to a doctor, but being in a different state from my HMO complicated matters. I emailed my allergist and described everything (stressing not only the cats, but that I’d been on a plane where it’s easy to pick up nasty stuff), and he also thought it could be allergies. He said if it didn’t improve over the weekend I should go to urgent care. I figured getting out of the house with the cats in it might help sort that out.
So Saturday morning, I felt only marginally better, but would not be deterred from my plans to spend the day at Eastern Market (before heading to Lafayette Park for another party—this one a housewarming. I’m tempted to claim there’s a party of some kind every night of the year over there, but it’s actually a rather quiet neighborhood).
Sunday morning, I felt so lousy I almost wanted to skip church. Seriously, I was contemplating skipping the highlight of my annual trip home, going to Mass at my home church, where I became an Episcopalian—the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. But my sister was coming with her new boyfriend (“I wanted him to meet you in your natural environment,” she’d joked) and we were going to brunch afterward across the street at Maccabees at Midtown (in the Maccabees Building, where you might expect it to be). Needless to say, I was glad that I went to church and brunch (although I could only manage to swallow one of the three pancakes I ordered). I so love the liturgy at St. Paul’s, and it was good to see everybody. There are more people there I don’t know now than that I know, which strikes me as a good thing. It means new people have been coming since I left!
Anyway, after brunch, I decided it was time to go to urgent care. Well, almost. First, while my roommate went to fill her gas tank, I popped into the DIA to exchange a t-shirt I’d bought on Thursday (not noticing the handwritten amendment to the size on the tag). I noticed the Scarab Club was open, so I walked over to take a peek inside to see what was going on (just a gallery show, pretty quiet)…and twisted my ankle a little in a pot-hole on the way back. Pro tip: clogs are great for plantar fasciitis, but not so much for walking outside when you’re prone to tripping anyway.
Where to go for urgent care on a Sunday? Well, the DMC campus was right there, so I wound up in Emergency at Detroit Receiving.
I’d never been there before, although a friend of mine works there as an OR nurse. From what I could tell, it’s a pretty large, potentially high-volume facility. It wasn’t terribly busy, or terribly well-staffed in triage (only one nurse), but even though things moved along pretty slowly, the staff were all very professional, friendly, attentive, responsive, and thorough. Once I was getting treatment, I was chatting with another woman, who was there with a foot injury. She’d dropped a glass vase on her foot, and cut it open. After the stitches, they also caught a small fracture in one of her foot bones and sent her out with a splint and crutches. In my personal experience (breaking my elbow last year), that sort of thing can be easily overlooked. There was also another woman there with strep, only she was clearly sicker than I was. Now that I know I probably contracted it in California, what are the odds of that?
The doctor gave me some liquid codeine and a prescription for more, which I didn’t fill (it wasn’t miraculous enough to waste money on). The nurse offered me the choice, for penicillin delivery, of a short course of pills or a one-time shot. One-time anything sounded good to me, and I certainly didn’t want to swallow any more than necessary. She said, “Oh, I’d take a hundred pills to avoid a shot.” As I started to point to my tattoo and say, “Ah, I’m not bothered by needles,” she uncapped the thickest hypodermic needle I’ve ever seen, which was also at least an inch and a half long. I actually had to look away for a second. I felt the poke, and then watched her insert the whole length of that needle into my mid-thigh.
(Aren’t you glad there’s no photo?)
I wound up with a humongous bruise, but the sore throat faded within about 24 hours. Ahhh….
I felt bad, though, about all the people I’d unwittingly exposed, even before I’d started to feel sick. Not only had I met with many friends, I’d taken the #16 Dexter bus a few times from my friend’s house to Midtown or Downtown and back, and public transit is a great place to spread germs. I started to imagine myself as a strep version of Typhoid Mary. I’d return to California while public health officials in Detroit continued to try to understand this outbreak:
“We’ve narrowed the origin down to the Dexter bus line, somewhere between U of D and WSU,” they’d announce, and someone—possibly the guy who actually said to me on the bus, “Look at you, lookin‘ all vanilla”—would report, “Well, there was this white lady on the bus we’d never seen before…”
But that’s not at all the way I’d want to become a legend.
Luckily, no one seems to have caught my strep (as far as I know). It made me miserable, but it didn’t ruin my trip home. Nothing has that power. So I’ll continue with the posts I would’ve been making a week or two ago, had I not gotten sick.