Saturday, 19 December 2009
Snow, ice and pneumonia (With a special guest appearance by a fox)
That just about sums it up. But for the sake of word count, let me elaborate.
It's been getting colder here. The winds have definitely shifted. The clouds are no longer coming from the south, but from the north. The winds are bringing cold temperatures with them. It's snowed! Yes, several days this week. Several times without sticking, and then it really started to come down in the most lovely of ways. Snow flakes, the size of dimes but the weight of cotton, floating through the air, being whipped around on gusts of wind, by passing cars. It laid on the ground until the grass was no longer visible, until the paths were no longer distinguishable. Everything on the ground was covered equally in snow. It was lovely.
Thursday I started feeling a little unwell. Not unwell so much as drippy in the nasal sense. My nose wouldn't stop running. I was sneezing. I wondered, is this allergies or is it the start of a cold? I had a cold right before I left for England and it started in a similar way. (There was so much snot, I repulsed my then-boyfriend -- not the best thing to do before leaving for three months.) I was feeling fine except for the runny nose, but I had a feeling something was coming so I drank a big carton of orange juice and lots of water to flush the system, took some vitamin C to boost my immune system, ate hardy meals to give myself the energy to fight it off, and even took an allergy pill--just in case.
Thursday night, when the snow came, it kept coming for hours. I had Anna and Paul over for dinner. I made pasta--washing my hands frequently to avoid sharing whatever germs I may or may not have had. A simple meal, but well received. Then we went off to the Wivenhoe Football Club for a Funny Farm comedy show. The heat wasn't working in the building. I lost feeling in my toes within 5 minutes. They served tea, which was delicious, and had biscuits on the tables. The comedy was okay. But it was great to go to this event which I've heard so much about and to see Anna's friend Hazel on her last night. She's put on the events for the past four plus years. She did a short set in the middle of the show.
Paul was a bit nervous driving there because of the risk of getting stuck, but he braved it. Three and a half hours after parking the car and a full pocket pack of tissues later, we went out to find the car all covered in snow. It had a good 4 inches on it. There was plenty of untrampled snow to play in. Paul made a snow angel that didn't look very angelic but I appreciated the attempt. I was too cold for playing in it. I was looking forward to morning, to a walk along the river, to taking pictures of my little world covered in snow.
Paul started the car and I sat inside, bundled up, watching as he scraped the snow off the windows. Anna and Hazel were still inside the football club. Paul turned the window wipers on and I giggled watching them struggle against the weight of the snow, moving a little bit up and back down. Watching the snow crack. He sprayed some anti-ice solution on it and it started to move with more ease.
Windows cleared and all bodies piled in the car, Paul ever-so-kindly started to drive me home. It was out of his way and I offered to call a cab, but I was very grateful for the ride and the company.
Snow looks amazing in headlights. It was slow going on the way home. The roads were icy. I enjoyed the chance to look out the window and see everything in a new way.
I didn't sleep much Thursday night. Friday I didn't feel too well and it got progressively worse. I went on to campus, spent a little while in the library, went into town to the chemist and to pick up some food. It was freezing. Everything was snowy or icy. The bridge to campus was covered in ice. It made for slow walking. And even slower buses.
Breathing became harder as the night went on. There was lots of coughing and soon I couldn't get a full sentence out without gasping for air. I talked to mom who urged me to go to the doctor. Tomorrow, I said. I'll go tomorrow. It was already getting late.
We kept talking. She kept calling to check in. She was worried by what she was hearing. I wasn't thinking much of it. I figured it was just a full blown cold.
Around 1am, she asked me to go to the hospital. I'm not one to make a fuss over things and I didn't want to go out, but I didn't want her to worry. I called the 24 hour line for the North Colchester Medical Center and was told a doctor would call me back within the hour. I didn't want to go to A&E unless necessary and a doctor would know. So the doctor calls back and after hearing my symptoms says yes, come in. I start calling around for taxis. First, I call the security desk on campus and ask if they can help me get a taxi to the medical center. The guy says, no taxis til 9, sorry, and hangs up. Not what I was expecting, but okay. So then I call all the taxi numbers I have in my phone, without any luck. Some are saying 8:30, some 9, some not until 10:30. I finally reach one that says, yes, am I ready? I'll be ready in 2 minutes, I say, and pile on clothes, put things in a bag and make my way to the laundry room. The laundry room is fantastic in winter. It's open 24 hours a day. It's warm. And it looks out on the road so you can see buses and taxis coming.
The taxi arrived within twenty minutes. All the way to the medical center the driver talked about the weather and the roads and how long it took to defrost the car and the cars that were stuck and how it's rate and a half due to the weather. Turns out, England--at least the Essex part of it--doesn't get weather like that often enough to invest in the infrastructure to maintain the roads. So when it's cold, icy, snowy and the roads need to be gritted or salted or plowed, you just have to stay home, or walk, or wait ages for a taxi. (Just my luck to need a taxi at a time like that.) He talked about how they're not making reservations for anytime before 9 am, but he was going back to the city to try to pick people up and make some money. As we approach, he asked if I wanted to go to A&E, I said I have an appointment at the clinic. He says it's not open, I must mean A&E. I said, they told me clinic, but I don't know the medical center at all. He said, it must be A&E and dropped me there.
In A&E, I wait for a few minutes for someone to come to the desk. When she arrives, I say I called and they made an appointment and I'm there. She says oh you must mean the clinic. I said the driver told me the clinic was closed. She says yes, in general, but they have someone on call and that's where I want to go. I ask how to get there. She says are you driving? I say, I took a taxi, but the taxi left, so I guess I'm walking. She hesitates. I'm fighting tears. She says you have to walk back out to the main road, then down the road to the second drive way.
There was a man in the door way, wearing a hospital gown, smoking a cigarette covered in blood.
I walked 1/2 a mile in snow that covered my shoes. I huffed and puffed the whole way. It was freezing.
On my way to the main road, I saw a fox crossing the parking lot. I was really excited. What a magical sight to see that shape, that silhouette, that bushy tail that could only be a fox's. I saw it and expected to see it again, but didn't. Then I wondered if foxes are dangerous. Are they like coyotes? Should I be worried? Should I be worried that I was walking across fresh snow with no clue what was beneath it? Hopefully there were no water features to the campus.
When I got down to the main road, there was side walk and road and I stayed on the side walk for safety, but it was all ice. Slippery walking.
I was so relieved to get to the second drive way and see a sign for the place I was going. Then to see the right building. Then to ring the bell and be let in to the warmth and told I was in the right place. Seeing the doctor took all of 5 minutes. She already had antibiotics on her desk for me. She told me it was a lung infection. I asked what kind, she wouldn't elaborate.
I asked if I'd make it on the flight I had on Monday. She hesitated but said I should be able to. Then she asked how long the flight was. I said 11 hours. She said, oh. Do you want steroids? I asked what they'd do. She said they'd make me better faster. I said, please, I want to be better faster. Will I make the flight? She said, if not, your GP can write a letter to the airlines so you won't be charged. Not very reassuring. The doctors visit took about 5 minutes.
I went back to the waiting room, popped some antibiotics and steroids and started calling around for a taxi. One operator said the earliest she could send one was 9:30. I said okay. She said that's 4.5 hours. I said, if that's the earliest you can send it, I don't have much choice do I?
I kept calling, hoping for something sooner. Hoping not to spend 4.5 hours in the waiting room. I finally reached the company that dropped me off. They said, is this Mary? I said, yes! They said, we'll send someone right over. It'll be 30 minutes. I said, great. I'm at the clinic, it's icy, I can walk out to the street if your driver doesn't want to come down the road. She said, honey stay where you are in the warmth, I'll send my driver. Aww, some kindness! I cried. (Pathetic, yes, but in a weakened state. My body ached, my head hurt, my back hurt, my lungs hurt, I kept coughing and my nose kept running. I hadn't slept more than 10 hours in two days. I was done in.)
An hour an half later, no taxi.
I called to see if maybe they'd forgotten about me. Is that Mary? the guy asked. Yes! We came but you weren't there. I've been sitting here the whole time, I said. He said, where are you? I said the clinic. He said, we sent someone to A&E. I said, Oh. I wish you'd called. I could have told you where I was. He said, I'll be right there.
And he was, within 20 minutes. I was so relieved to be going home, to be going to bed. Whether I could sleep or not, I needed to be horizontal.
I called mom to let her know I was home safe, with drugs, and was going to sleep. I saw the sunrise. I saw more snow fall. Eventually, sleep.
Under different circumstances, that walk in the snow would have been a lot of fun. Under different circumstances, I would have crouched down and watched the fox. My first wild fox! But I also know that I wouldn't have done either if the circumstances were different. And while I was crying my way across the medical campus from one place to the next, very short of breath, I was also aware of how beautiful my surroundings were. Everything quiet, in the still of night, covered in white, it was quite literally breathtaking.