Yeah, that’s right! I survived West Nile Fever and all I got was the better part of a week off work, and the ability to brag about it.
This actually was about a month ago. I am just now thinking about writing about it.
I would like to start off by saying that, contrary to popular belief and the news media, West Nile virus isn’t usually that big of a deal. It isn’t contagious from person to person, only from the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes get infected (actually become carriers, I don’t think mosquitoes get sick from it) by biting BIRDS that are infected with West Nile. (Did you know mosquitoes even bit birds? I sure didn’t.) Only a very small percentage of people who contract WNV get really sick. Those are the deaths you hear about on the news. Most (not all, but most) were either very young or very old, or had some other medical condition that increased their risk.
ALSO, if you live in North Texas, the odds are good that you, too, have survived a West Nile virus infection…and didn’t even know it! That’s because most of the time the sickness caused by it is mild, and often even symptom-free. Maybe you had some nausea or diarrhea. Or a headache with some muscle aches. Or a slight fever that comes and goes, accompanied by chills/hot flashes. Maybe you thought you had a cold or just didn’t get enough sleep so you felt tired. You probably felt better soon enough that you didn’t go to the doctor. Yep, you may have had WNV =) Yay, you! Now you are immune, like me.
I, myself, avoid the doctor as much as possible. I’m a nurse, and I see enough people wasting time and money in the emergency room for things that really don’t warrant an ER visit. I take care of my own sickness at home, with lots of water, chicken soup, apples, and spinach. (Spinach and kale are wonder foods, by the way.) Even when Gordon runs a fever I don’t rush him out to the doctor! What’s the doctor going to say? “Give lots of fluids, tylenol for fever, cuddle as much as possible, call if the fever goes over 103 and doesn’t respond to medication.” Okayyyyy, thanks, that was already my plan! (Actually, I don’t even usually medicate G for fevers unless it goes over 102, or he seems uncomfortable. Fevers are actually *usually* a good thing, helping the body fight off infections). ANYWAYS. Point is, I try to save my money and not go to the doctor unless I have to!
This time, I kind of had to. I say kind of because Lee kind of made me, and also because I knew he was right. I actually had ALL of the above symptoms (nausea/vomiting/diarrhea/on&off fever/headache/body aches). Plus a freaky looking rash all over my back, chest, arms, and upper legs. I knew I might have West Nile (mosquitoes fly in from all parts of Texas and Hell to bite me, daily, no matter how much repellent I use), but I also knew it wasn’t usually serious in young, healthy people, unless you get a stiff neck or severe headache. Yeah, I had a headache, but it was very mild. But then, my neck started to get stiff. Bad sign! So, it being about 7pm on a Monday night, I headed off for the nearest free-standing urgent care facility, which was a Care Now a couple miles away.
So I waited for a few minutes, got called back, got my vitals taken by a very sweet nurse, then saw the doctor. Since I was able to move my neck in all directions, he decided that I wasn’t developing any sort of meningitis or whatever. That was a relief. However, he also thought I pretty much fit the bill for your run-of-the-mill West Nile Fever infection, so they drew some blood to test. The blood would take a week to test. Not very helpful, but by this point I really wanted to know if I had it or not.
The doctor also recommended taking X-ray of my belly to make sure I didn’t have some sort of bowel obstruction, haha. They offer an X-ray practically every time I have come to a Care Now. Even if I am there for some cough medicine, they offer to take an X-ray to rule out TB or pneumonia. LOL. I declined it, like I always do (except for the one time I went for chest pain, turned out I had two broken ribs).
While they were running their in-house tests on my blood, checking my white cell count and all that good stuff, I needed to go to the bathroom. Not to pee. All of a sudden-like. Get it? I ran out of my room and asked the doctor, who was standing in the hall, where the bathroom was. He was like, “right around this corner here.” I dashed into the bathroom and let loose. Oh. My. Gawd. It was awful. I was in agony for like twenty minutes, but when I felt done I tried to go back to my room. Nope, there it was again. Back to the bathroom. Another thirty minutes of crying and cursing while my bowels raged. I also vomited several times into their trash can (which I did politely tie up and replace, thanks very much). While it was happening I was thinking, man I feel bad for the next customer who uses this bathroom. But not too bad, because I know how awful the hospital public restrooms can get, and this was nowhere near that level. Still, though.
When I finally came out, sweating and pale and looking waayyy sicker than when I got to the clinic, one of the techs came around the corner and said, “Miss, you are not supposed to use that bathroom. That’s the staff bathroom. It’s not for customers.”
Oops. Sorry! I tried to apologize, but she clearly didn’t believe that the doctor told me to use that bathroom. She was also clearly upset at what had occurred in there. Not that I could blame her, but it wasn’t my fault! I dragged myself back to my little room and laid down on the table. Then, Dr. Bad-Directions came back in and laughingly said he hadn’t meant to get me in trouble, and should have made it clear that the customer bathroom was actually the second door around the corner. Thanks, Doc.
Anyways, I got a prescription for some Phenergan for my abdominal upsets, and dragged myself home to bed. I had left work that morning because of the rash and fever, and also missed the next day. For the rest of the week I was pretty sick, and just so, so, so tired. That was the worst part, being too tired to play with Gordon. The other worst part was that I had zero appetite, and had to force myself to eat. I ended up being off work for the next five days. By Friday I was feeling much better, and by Sunday I was back to my old self. The rash was totally gone by Sunday, too.
On Tuesday of the following week, they called me with my positive lab results. How helpful, haha. By then I was just like, oh, so I did have it? Cool!
So that’s the story of how I survived of the dreaded West Nile Virus. It’s not that exciting. But it happened.
** I guess I should throw a disclaimer on here: Do what your doctor tells you. Just because WNV didn’t make me sick doesn’t mean you are safe. Even though you probably are. Even though you definitely shouldn’t panic. Go see a doctor if you think you have it. And do what they recommend. **