My Partner Helped Me Survive A Mystery Disease

“Honey, I think there are two doctors sitting here for a reason,” my associate, Andy, stated.

I appeared on the three individuals filling the cramped, brightly lit house round my hospital mattress. The somber, mustached doctor who was accountable for my case had pulled a chair up shut on my proper. Andy had folded his 6-foot body right into a seat to my left, and a younger blond resident sat cross-legged on the foot of the mattress.

“All right,” I stated, “I’ll have the CT,” and started to cry. The medical doctors hurried off to order the scan.

Andy rubbed my shoulder. I questioned why he was so calm. Why he wasn’t indignant with me.

I’d been admitted to the hospital the night time earlier than with a fever of 104 levels. My temperature had returned to regular the following morning, solely to spike once more this night. As it climbed, I’d additionally develop into conscious of a wierd sensation on the precise aspect of my chest, as if my lung have been being slowly squeezed like a balloon, then launched.

With my historical past of pulmonary embolism, and with the reason for the fever nonetheless undetermined (it was 2014, lengthy earlier than COVID), my somber physician needed a chest CT. I refused. If I didn’t have the scan, they couldn’t discover one other blood clot.

That was the clearest reasoning my overheated mind might handle.

But Andy had all of his schools, plus an air of assurance that stunned me beneath the circumstances.

“If they find a problem, they’ll be able to deal with it right away,” he jogged my memory.

He had by no means been so cool-headed throughout my earlier medical crises.

Andy describes himself as a hypochondriac. Though he has by no means been clinically identified with what’s now referred to as sickness anxiousness dysfunction, we each suspect he suffers from some type of it. A fleeting ache in his stomach was doubtless the primary signal of diverticulitis. An oddly formed mole on his forearm was in all probability melanoma till a physician stated it wasn’t. It didn’t matter that he’d by no means had a critical sickness ― “It’ll be my turn one day,” he typically stated.

Eight years earlier than the fevers, once I was present process remedy for thyroid most cancers, Andy was so frightened that he typically misplaced his mood. He cursed once I forgot to inform him about appointments. He generally stiffened once I needed him to carry me.

Sixteen months after the most cancers, once I was admitted with a number of blood clots in each lungs, he went numb and was particularly quiet round medical personnel. The solely time he confirmed robust emotion was when he started sobbing on the too-familiar sight of me in my cotton robe.

Andy started to fret sufficient for 2: Something dire might strike both of us with out warning. This common reality, sometimes absorbed in a single’s 60s, got here to Andy on the cusp of center age.

Clinging to my final shred of denial, I nonetheless noticed Andy because the always-healthy one, however collectively, we infected one another’s fears for my well-being. It was too simple, since we’re each extremely anxious individuals by nature.

Now I used to be within the hospital with mysterious fevers, and Andy didn’t seem like afraid. I used to be stunned, although relieved that I didn’t must tackle his anxiousness together with my very own.

Though he didn’t appear scared, he was involved. Andy noticed that I had a probably critical symptom and that I used to be being unreasonable. After all we’d been via with my well being, I couldn’t refuse him. In our on a regular basis life, we have been equals, making selections collectively. Now, I let him lead me.

I had the CT, and I bought my want: It revealed no clot, no rationalization for the unusual sensation. No analysis, no downside. The tightening in my chest went away. But simply hours after the scan, my fever shot as much as 106, and I used to be transferred to the ICU. For two nights, the ICU group labored to convey my temperature down. It all the time abated by morning.

Andy misplaced his mood when he referred to as the hospital to examine in and discovered that I used to be within the ICU. He was my main emergency contact. No one had thought to cellphone him.

By the time he entered my room, he was once more calm, stopping blue-scrub-clad nurses as they hurried previous, asking questions however by no means in a panicked or indignant tone: “What was her highest temperature?” “What was her heart rate?”

I questioned what had occurred to Andy’s intense anxiousness round sickness. Maybe in spite of everything this time, he’d discovered to handle his fears. Whatever the case, it made issues simpler for me, and I might solely assume that it made issues simpler for him.

My signs met the standards for sepsis — a life-threatening situation — but the supply of my an infection remained unknown. Blood checks dominated out autoimmune problems, HIV, Epstein-Barr.

The writer with Andy on trip in NYC’s Central Park, 2014. “Six months after this photo was taken, I was admitted to an ICU in Vermont with dangerously high fevers” she writes.

Courtesy of Marcia Trahan

My physician defined that my affliction was almost definitely some sort of virus, however they may by no means decide which one. Even as I lay within the ICU, I needed no analysis, no new label added to my complicated medical profile. Each day, I used to be protected against worry by sheer exhaustion, and every night time by fever.

For Andy, the concept of not figuring out was unacceptable. So was the truth that I used to be solely getting IV fluids, ice packs and Tylenol.

He informed my physician, “We want you to treat Marcia’s condition more aggressively.”

Andy says he mentioned this with me first; I’ve no reminiscence of it, although I’m sure he wouldn’t have solid forward with out consulting me. I do bear in mind being astonished that he was telling a medical skilled what to do.

The physician agreed to start a course of antibiotics, which reassured Andy barely (cultures would later reveal that there had been no bacterial an infection).

After 5 nights of excessive fevers that disappeared by morning, my temperature stabilized, and two days after that, I went residence. The solely analysis I’d ever obtain was systemic inflammatory response syndrome, an acknowledgment of my physique’s response to a still-unknown stressor. We had no solutions, however I used to be relieved to be let out from the hospital.

I used to be stunned by Andy’s nervousness as soon as I used to be residence, given his demeanor within the hospital. “Will you please take your temperature?” he requested many instances a day, and I did. It was all the time regular. When he remarked in an alarmed tone, “You’re still losing weight,” I started consuming a field of natural pasta with cheese day by day to realize some again.

It can be months earlier than I knew the reality of what Andy truly went via throughout my nights of life-threatening fevers.

I sat in my residence workplace, medical data from the hospital keep spilling throughout my desk. Andy stopped by the open doorway, and I requested, “What were you thinking all that time?” It had solely now occurred to me that I didn’t know.

“I thought you would likely die,” he stated.

I ended stacking papers and stared at him.

His anxiousness round sickness hadn’t disappeared. Andy’s dread of illness had been exacerbated by a state of affairs that may have terrified anybody.

He informed me how frightened he’d been whereas my temperature climbed. When knowledgeable I used to be within the ICU, he panicked. He thought my fever would exceed 106. He thought this unknown invader would kill me whereas medical doctors have been nonetheless scrambling to establish it.

He had shielded me from his fears once I was sick. Once I used to be effectively, it wasn’t a subject he needed to revisit.

I’m stunned that I ever believed Andy was as calm as he appeared that week. We satisfaction ourselves on how effectively we all know one another. While I’m grateful to him for not overwhelming me once I was weak, I really feel I ought to have found out the truth as soon as I’d regained my well being and will assume clearly once more.

I used to be — and am — immensely moved, not simply by how he advocated for me whereas I used to be ailing, but in addition by how tough it will need to have been for him, given the depth of his fears about illness. It demonstrated how selfless he was — and is — as a result of regardless of his terror all that week, he made me and my restoration his first precedence.

I imagine that real love requires this kind of selflessness. As we proceed to make our approach via this life collectively, I attempt to comply with Andy’s instance and provides him as a lot as he offers me.

I’ve been with Andy for 23 years, and our love has solely grown deeper over the a long time. But it took a 3rd brush with demise for me to comprehend simply how devoted he’s, how robust he’s, and the way a lot he’s agonized over the prospect of dropping me. This terrifying expertise illustrated the facility of our emotions for one another, as romantic companions and because the better of buddies. And due to my nights within the ICU, I’ve begun to face the prospect of dropping Andy: As he’s identified, someday, he may undergo a plague that arrives with out warning.

Back after we first began courting, I used to be grateful that I’d discovered my without end associate. Now, as cliche as it might sound, I do know that love means cherishing each second collectively. It’s “forever” till one in every of us leaves this Earth.

Next time I’m significantly ailing (and it’s hardly irrational to imagine that there will probably be a subsequent time), I’ll be looking out for that telltale wildness in Andy’s eyes. And I hope that when it’s his flip to be sick, I’ll be robust sufficient to be his stoic advocate, his consolation, his security in that world of limitless needles and relentless mild.

Marcia Trahan is the writer of “Mercy: A Memoir of Medical Trauma and True Crime Obsession.” Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, CrimeReads, Catapult and quite a few literary magazines. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing and literature from Bennington College and offers modifying companies for inventive writers. She and Andy reside wholesome lives (with fingers crossed) in South Burlington, Vermont. Learn extra at

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