I had it all planned.
I’d venture first to NYC, visit with friends, shop and take in a morning skate at Rock Center, before taking the train to Upstate, New York, to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Both places are charming at Christmastime for different reasons.
The odyssey began after a weather waiver diverted my flight from NYC directly to Syracuse. No Christmas in the City this year. Ok. No biggie.
I arrived Monday and started the hustle and bustle of catching up with family and friends, watching my niece win a basketball game, and SU lose one. Thursday, Christmas Eve, Eve, Eve arrived quickly, and I was excited to have lunch with my sister, Kathy, and our childhood friends, Anne and Lorraine, in support of Lorraine, who lost her beloved husband, Larry, Christmas day, 2015.
As a surprise, Kathy invited, her son, my nephew, Dan, and his 3-month old son, Connor, to join us, knowing it would be the first time we would meet. We had a wonderful lunch, all went our separate ways, and over the next day and a half, did all the holly jolly things you do just before Christmas.
The first ping came late Friday afternoon. Raised in the snowbelt, it’s not uncommon for that first familiar gulp of a sore throat to come out of nowhere, then, if you’re lucky, disappear. Could be allergies or maybe just dry air. I swallowed again. Nothing. Weird, but okay, GOOD. I drank water, forgot about it, and got on to my business of designer wrapping gifts before going to bed, excited to see everybody Christmas Eve. It’d been two years since I’d been home for Christmas. No way would I get sick. I work out, eat healthy, and haven’t been sick in years.
Not so fast.
At 5 a.m. a searing pain in my throat, accompanied with the old familiar chills and gripping headache, jolted my deep sleep. I hadn’t had the flu since the mid-2000’s when my colleague, CBS 5 news legend, Maureen Green, rightfully and abruptly, cut my ‘live hit’ short, apologizing to viewers for the bronchitis I’d hoped no one would notice. I fell back asleep, burrowed beneath blankets, unable to move. At about the same time, my sister, Kathy, woke with the same fate. We’d find out later, my nephew, Dan, was rushed to the hospital Friday with a 103+ fever, testing positive for strep throat. Kathy was managing her symptoms better, likely because she had her tonsils out as a teen.
Several times throughout Christmas Eve day, family offered to take me to the ER, but I refused. My head hurt so bad, I hated needles, and thought, even if I had strep, I could just sleep it off. I’m never sick. Looking back, clearly, my way wasn’t working.
Come Christmas morning, my symptoms hadn’t budged. Again, my mom and sisters encouraged me to go to the ER. I was weak, sick, tired, hurting and just couldn’t do it. Besides, Dan was now home and Kathy was getting better. ‘Just a few more hours’ I thought. Family kept checking on me before heading to my sister Teresa’s home for Christmas dinner. They’d only be gone for a little bit, just down the road. I insisted I’d be fine and would just sleep it off.
What I didn’t know is that strep throat is dangerous, especially, in older adults. Strep is a throat infection, caused by the streptococcus bacteria, and if not treated immediately with antibiotics, can cause potential serious side-affects and complications such as kidney disease, meningitis, pneumonia, even toxic shock.
By 4 p.m. Christmas Day, voices from the living room jarred me. Dizzy, I sat up in bed before bungling my way to the living room to ask them to quiet down. To my confusion, no one was home. I remembered the Chargers were in the Super Bowl, and someone moved my mother’s home to a suburb in Washington, DC where I lived….
At least I was smart enough to text my brother, Mike, visiting from Delaware, for help.
I’m quite sure he was embarrassed by my odd entrance into St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. A faceless ghost with The Walking Dead hair, I sprawled on the gurney like a useless piece of mass. I tested positive for strep. My WBC (white blood count) was elevated to 20. A normal count is 4.5-10. Attached to a heart monitor, I was flooded with an IV cocktail of fluid, penicillin, Toradol, anti-nausea meds, and potassium, and was released five hours later. I retreated back to bed and remained pretty much a sad story until Tuesday night, when finally, things started to turn around.
I had slept through all of Christmas.
In reflection, I realize a few things:
First, our bodies talk to us. Listen. My body was communicating the same message my family was communicating. Go. To. The. Hospital. I wasn’t receptive. I’m thankful for the gift of love and the friends and family who – to paraphrase FOTUS – ‘go high when you go low’. #giveitup #listentoyourmom
Also, I’m grateful for a renewed sense of appreciation for the compassion and dedication of first responders, nurses, doctors, medical and lab technicians, pharmacists, gas station personnel, police, fire, news people, DOT crews, and all others who selflessly work holidays to provide services for people they’ve never met, and probably, will never meet again.
Those are some hefty gifts that don’t fit under a tree. More reminders Christmas doesn’t come from a store.
Nothing can ever out-cool kindness to family, friends and strangers, all year long.
Cheers to all and to all a good night. ☺