My Trip Down Pneumonia Lane

Todd just came down with walking pneumonia.  Let me tell you, having had it, walking pneumonia is pretty fricken awful.  Todd’s been such a champ with it.  He’s been going to work, though coming home early to rest.  I’ve seen this man sick as hell and still get to work and kick ass all day at work.  I don’t know how he does it, as I get a sniffle and I am a drama llama about it. 

But there was a time a few years ago when I was sick as hell and I had to go kick ass.  It was back when I was about to sign with my publisher.  I had spent five years of my life trying to get an agent or a publisher interested in Beside the Music.  And I had finally done it.  I remember vividly being in bed and going through my emails on my iPad.  I sat upright in bed and said “Oh my God.”  I scrolled through the email, looking for the catch.  “OH MY GOD!  OMIGAWD!!!” 

“What?” Todd asked looking up from his own tablet. And I told him, and we both freaked out.  Then I booked airline tickets to visit Seattle for the sole purpose of determining whether this publisher was legit.  I spent days annoying them with emails trying to prove their legitimacy.  “Do you accept everyone?”  No.  “Who is your most successful author?”  Nobody I’d heard of.  Etc etc etc.

I was due to depart on a Thursday morning in February.  Of course the week I was due to set out I had contracted my annual sinus infection.  I went to a walk in clinic that opened in town and got antibiotics.  I got cough medicine.  The whole nine yards.

Thursday morning I parked the car at the airport.  I didn’t want to bother filling the tank on the way and figured I’d just do it on the way home when I got back.  I got on my plane and flew to Philadelphia for a long ass layover.  I wasn’t paying attention to the time frames when I booked my flights, and paid the most attention to price.  I sat in Philadelphia for hours and hours.  I got a manicure.  I was exhausted.  I’d started coughing a lot.  I took a nap in the manicure chair.  I stumbled through the airport, coughing until my lungs ached.  I slurped a smoothie in hopes that it would relieve the pain in my throat.  It was proving to be a miserable experience, holing up in the Philadehphia airport while sick.

I got onto my plane and learned it would have to make a stop to refuel in Kansas City.  I almost started crying.  I just wanted to get into a hotel bed and sleep.  I finally made it to my hotel in downtown Seattle, just a few blocks from the Space Needle.  My clothes were drenched in sweat.  I opened the window to my room, found a window fan and put it in the window, and slept naked on top of the covers it was so damn hot in that room.

The next day my meeting would be at 1.  I got up, showered and dressed then hit the streets to fint breakfast.  I found a café, but nothing on the menu appealed to me.  I wasn’t hungry.  I always wake up starving.  How could I not be hungry?  It was 50 degrees, I wasn’t wearing a jacket.  There was no need as it was so damn hot I was sweating.  I couldn’t stop coughing.  How would I get through my meeting if I couldn’t stop coughing?  So much coughing.  And it was the lung scraping kind of cough where you’d think that internal organs would fly out of my mouth and go splatting on the sidewalk.

Todd called and I started sobbing on the street.  “I feel terrible I can’t stop coughing, why am I sweating, what the hell is going on?”

“You didn’t go all that way to blow off this meeting,” he said.  “This has been your dream.  Get your shit together and achieve your dream no matter what it takes.” He was right.  He was 100% right.  1000%.  I turned around and saw I was standing in front of a walk in clinic.  So I walked in.

“Your fever is 102,” the doctor reported.   Ah, that would explain the sweating.  My body was baking itself.  Made total sense.  “Here are antibiotics that are so strong we use them on rhinoceroses.”  OK, she didn’t say that.  I was delirious.  They were gigantic pills, though.  Oh, and she also said the words “Walking” and “Pneumonia.”  I called Todd, who was in Florida while I was in Seattle, and he wondered what that would mean for my flight home.  Would I be able to fly home being that sick? 

“Well, it’s not like I am going to tell the airline,” I said.

“No, I mean with the pressure on your ears and stuff.  That could really mess you up.”

Great, another thing to be paranoid about.  I walked back to my hotel.  The plan was for a cold shower, hot tea, and drugs.  There was a Rite Aid 2 blocks in the other direction, I went there and beelined for the cold medicine aisle.  I swear I bought one of everything on the shelf, and promptly consumed one of everything.  There was a microwave and fridge in my room.  I bought a cup, tea bags, cup o ramen soups and stumbled up the stairs to my room.

Cold shower.  Hot tea.  All the pills.  Review my notes.  Must maintain.  Googled the directions.  Attempted grilled cheese for lunch.  Threw out grilled cheese.

The publisher didn’t have their own office.  They used one of those work share spaces.  It was hip.  I coated myself in Purell and tried not to cough.  I took notes.  I listened.  I tried not to cough.  I was a hot mess I am sure.  I left the meeting, drove back to the hotel.  I stripped down got into bed and didn’t leave that bed until Sunday morning. 

Kind of.  I went back out and walked the two blocks to the Rite Aid.  It may as well have been walking to Japan.  I had to stop and sit on a bench one block in.  My energy was gone.  I had nothing.  I bought popsicles.  Lots and lots of popsicles.  I ate them in bed as I watched Netflix.  Todd video chatted me to check in on me and confirmed that I looked terrible.  I coughed and was still surprised that bits of lung didn’t come up.

I made plans with friends who live in Seattle.  I cancelled them.  I slept.  I spoke to the guy I’d hired to plow our driveway back in Rhode Island.  A big storm was coming in, my flight was sure to get cancelled.  I changed my flight from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon.  My flight was the only one that had managed to land in Rhode Island.  All the ones before and after mine were cancelled, including Todd’s.  He would remain in Florida for three days past when he was due to get back.

I stepped off the shuttle to my waiting car.  When I got in the tank was on E.  It was midnight.  It was approximately one degree outside.  I had to fill the tank to get home.  I sobbed the entire time the pump poured gasoline into my car.

I stumbled into bed, I put a breathe right strip on my nose.  I had the kind that had Vicks vaporub on them.  I rubbed my eyes and then howled in pain. 

My bout of walking pneumonia was bracketed by two sinus infections.  I was sick for almost two months.  It incapacitated me. 

Having had walking pneumonia I don’t know how Todd is even standing, let alone driving to work and making rational decisions to run his company.  Maybe that man is the rhinoserous that they were trying to cure with those giant pills I got in Seattle. 

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 01.15.18

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