MORTALITY
by Michael Ellis

About 3 weeks ago I was bitten by a Rock Agama lizard while on safari in Tanzania. I deserved to be bitten. I was catching the big reptile to show people on my tripthis guy nailed me with his long sharp teeth. East Africa is the disease armpit of the world. Resistant malaria, chlorea, Rift Valley fever, green monkey virus, Ebola, … the list goes on. You really don’t want to get sick there. Well I cleaned the wound as well as I could. It closed over and infection set in. Back in the US I ignored it.. thinking that, as usual, my body would handle it and I would recover quickly. It didn’t heal but got worse. Little finger swelling, hot, inflamed. So off to Kaiser for some antibiotics. But it didn’t seem to respond to the treatment and suddenly I was hit by my own mortality. Mu body has been good to me. I rarely get sick. But this was different. I began to imagine all sorts of nasty things growing inside me, infecting, spreading out of control and killing me. In short I became irrational about some swelling in my pinky. My left brain tried to take over and calm the right, but when a well meaning friend checked the Internet about Agama lizard references and sent me titles of journal articles about the parasitic nematodes found in the saliva of Nigerian agamas, the dread intensified. I could feel my right arm becoming paralyzed. I called Kaiser for more advise and of course was put on hold forever. Up came one of those recorded messages…. do you sometimes have a shortness of breath, does your heart race for no apparent reason, do you feel suddenly anxious, you could be having a panic attack. Damn right I was give me some heavy-duty medicine, do something to make my pinky stop hurting. Hurry up I’ve got some East African nematode burrowing into my heart! WHOA slow down. What are the lessons here? I’m on the backside of 40 and in the process of decay. I am not in control, I will continue to los things © my vigor, my hair, my health and finally my life. I will die, and now it is time of life to prepare for that, with understandable fear but not with panic. As I record this, my finger is slowly getting better.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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November 5, 2010