For my niece’s sixth birthday, she got an LOL cake, and I got pneumonia. At least indirectly.

This is something I don’t understand. I missed the Pokemon craze. And the Pokemon Go for that matter. I don’t even know their official name; my niece just calls them “LOL.” As in, “I want LOL, Daddy!”

I was tempted to tell her a dirty joke and say, “There’s your LOL, missy!”

Alas, I showed considerable restraint.

They are dolls within balls. With accessories. Maybe it’s a scaled-down version of Barbie. Instead of anatomically incorrect Ken doll, they get little girl dolls with creepy anime eyes.

The stuff of nightmares

I first read that as peeling. I don’t know what’s worse: peeing or peeling.

My brother’s a champ, though. He ordered the LOLgame and used the playing pieces to decorate a sheet cake.

Not that she eats cake. Not real cake–the kind with icing–anyway. For her birthday—any family gathering which she attends, really–there’s the cake-cake and then there’s the pound cake, separate and unadorned, just for her. Because she doesn’t like icing. You would think she’s being asked to eat poo. She doesn’t even like cake that has had all of its icing cut off.

But she must have a themed cake-cake, even if she doesn’t even touch it.

Of course, on her first birthday, she ate her entire “baby cake,” icing and all, and made herself sick.

Maybe she’s just bound by childhood trauma.

But we attended her birthday, this niece of mine who is all blonde curls and big bows and sassy mouth. She’s grumpy on her best days, and sometimes I wonder how she isn’t my kid. But then there’s the cake thing.

“Are you done yet?” she asks, one eye on the presents while one arm is on her hip. She had already eaten her vanilla ice cream, eschewing the pound cake. The rest of us are still eating cake. We weren’t on her time table, and she isn’t one for patience. “But I want to open presents…” the last word trailed off, as her Daddy told her “Let’s wait for people to finish their cake.”

“But I didn’t eat caaaake.” Her eyes fill with tears, and she’s looking entirely abused. Her little heart-shaped mouth flares with pouting.  Every person there still eating cake personally offended her.

We did finish our cake, and she did open her presents.

Two days later, she tested positive for influenza B, but I didn’t find this out for a week later.

But a day after the day she tested positive, unbeknownst to me, I felt icky.

One more day after that, and I felt like I couldn’t hold my head up. I had all over pain—something that’s not all that unusual—but I just couldn’t get it together. I muddled through, feeling like my head was going to explode and that my neck was too weak to hold it.  I told my boss I wouldn’t be in the next day. As it turned out, that evening I started with fever and chills. I called in for the next day, a Friday, as well. My fever was even higher, spiking at a little over 102.

This was me. With a less groovy blanket. And facing the other way. Currently watching Battlestar Galactica.

By the time I made it to the doctor, the fever had passed, but I still felt like  Rocky Balboa without the win at the end.  I thought I’d get better without intervention.

Mick: “You need to go to the doctor!”
Rocky: “But I’ll get better in a day!”

That’s how my life used to be: I’d get sick every once in a while, and a few days later, I’d be better. But since my immune system decided it wanted to kill me, things really aren’t the way they used to be.

I really should know better by now.

It never occurred to me that I may have the flu. Despite its epidemic this year. Despite knowing that it’s going around nearly every where I’ve been.  It was Saturday, I think, when I learned that my niece, in all her birthday glory, had tested positive for the flu.

I had tried to go to a clinic on Saturday, but they stopped taking patients half an hour before their posted hours. So I had to wait til the next day, stuck with going to the only walk-in clinic I knew was open on a Sunday: the local Wal-Mart clinic. As it turns out, that was a lucky stroke of luck.

I waited in line an hour before I was even signed in, waited longer before I could sit, and even a bit longer before I got back. That wasn’t the lucky part.

The lucky part was in meeting the Nurse Practitioner, Kayla Fleming, APN.

I tested negative for the flu, but the nurse practitioner felt certain that the results would have been different a few days before. She could hear that I had bronchitis.  “I want to order a chest x-ray just to rule out pneumonia.”

I forgot to ask her if I was still contagious, and so, the next day, I went for the x-ray after work. The NP called me within 2 hours of having the x-ray.

“You have bilateral pneumonia and interstitial pneumonitis. I’m going to extend your antibiotic and I want you to follow up with your doctor.  I haven’t seen this before.  I think I should refer you to a pulmonologist.”

She called me the next day. She had called the Nurse Practitioner that worked under my regular doctor, and they agreed, I should see a pulmonologist. “I slept on it,” she said, “because I really haven’t seen this before. I really want you to see a pulmonologist. They’ll call you to schedule an appointment. We’ll follow up with another chest x-ray in a month.”

She told me she hadn’t seen it before. She’s young, and, given her concern and compassion, I’d say that she was a fairly new Nurse Prac.  They hadn’t worked the caring out of her yet.

And so I continued antibiotics, putting off my return to my RA meds for another four weeks. Two weeks for antibiotics, two weeks after.

Getting sick is no joke when you have any disease that requires immuno-suppressant therapy. The very thing that’s supposed to help you fight off things like the flu are too busy fighting your own body, and so you have to take medicine that’s like ativan for immune systems: makes them chill the fuck out so you can have a somewhat normal life.

But it’s not all that normal. Even ignoring the fatigue and low-grade (or higher) pain that has become “acceptable,” even ignoring the fact that, if we still work, work takes ALL of our spoons and then some, we still have to deal with the risk of getting sick-sick. We’re already sick, but we really fear getting sick-sick.

We have to gauge whether risk is worth reward in attending events where many people are, especially people who are often sick.

We’re like super-magnets for germs.

For all of her effort, pulmonology didn’t follow up.  They didn’t call to schedule an appointment.

But that’s okay. I asked my regular doctor if I really needed to see them, and he said that we’d revisit it after my follow up x-ray in a few weeks.

If you’re in the Gulfport area, though, this woman rocks.  Kayla Fleming is the bomb-diggity. She’s at the walk-in clinic at the Super Walmart on Highway 49. The setting is less-than-ideal, but, in the end, it was far better for me than going to the clinic where I knew the doctor from my days working with her.

I’ll take a Nurse Prac over that doctor any day.

[Image 1: LOL dolls from

Image 2: Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash

Image 3: Image from Rocky Balboa, found in  “Running with Butkus: Animals and Animality in Rocky” by Jason Price via Humanimality.]

Flu? LOL no, Pneumonia!

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