I left the apartment around noon, only to discover that seemingly all doctors in Antigua take four hour lunch breaks. I wandered from clinic to clinic. If I could find anyone there, normally a nurse or a secretary, they’d say that I should come back in a few hours or go to the hospital immediately. There seemed a rather strange, and self-serving, dichotomy in the advice.
At four in the afternoon, through the good offices and networking skills of the Surly Girlfriend, I ended up sitting in a doctor’s office feeling none too comforted by the fact that the doctor had forgotten to turn off his computer monitor, which showed a Google page with “secondary infection cat bite” typed into the search engine. This doctor, for Q200 told me I had to go to hospital immediately, as I would need a tetanus shot and treatment for rabies. I explained that I had my rabies and tetanus vaccines already, and what I really thought I needed were strong antibiotics, but he insisted and filled out a form to gain me entry into the Infectious Diseases Unit of the Centro Medico in the city.
The trip down and back cost another Q500 in taxi fare, the bill from Centro Medico: IDU was Q1200 (for a consult that told me that I didn’t need new vaccinations, I only needed strong antibiotics), and the medicine cost Q600.
But at least I was done with the cat.
After five days on the meds I noticed it wasn’t getting much better, but I needed to work, so I began typing again, despite the discomfort. This, I later learned, was what could have killed me.
After another Q200 visit to the doctor in Antigua, I discovered two things. First, I had been “sub-optimally treating” my infection. The doctor at CM: IDU, it turns out, was just filling in for all the real infectious disease experts who’d left town on vacation and had no special knowledge of cats or bites or infectious diseases, nor, apparently, access to Google. So, the doc in town upped my dosages (to the tune of another Q200) and told me that it looked like I may have “driven the infection into my bone” by typing for several hours a day.
“Is that serious?” I asked.
“Very,” he said. “If the infection moves into the bone it can become systemic and is difficult to treat.”
I later conferred with two trusted doctors in the States who gave me the same counsel. They agreed with the doctor in Antigua that I was risking “osteomyelitis” by continuing to type (and maybe by deciding on my own that a few beers a night couldn’t hurt the effectiveness of the antibiotics too much). If that happened, I was told, I could look forward, with some assurance to 4 to 6 weeks of intravenous antibiotics, the potential of “necrosis,” an amputation, possibly a series of progressive amputations, or a pine box.
Surly or not, that got my attention. The Surly Bartender then lived for 7 horrible days, sober and unable to write.
There’s not too much left to the story. After another week on antibiotics the infection is gone and though some soreness lingers, I’m pretty sure I’m on the mend. At least for now, I’ll not have to worry about the eternal humiliation being relegated to a corporate owned and franchised strip mall bar in the afterlife, sipping watered down Appletinis while being hit on by Jagermeister drunk slags who died from equally ridiculous chains of events, though maybe I’ll now have a bit more empathy for the other unlucky fools who inhabit our world.
That, and with a bit of enforced humility in my soul, last night when I got up to take a leak, a gray and black striped Mancat tore through the apartment scaring me straight back into a wall. I banged my head pretty hard when he did, so I was a bit disoriented – but I’m pretty sure he was laughing. Probably because he had just pissed on my favorite pair of pants and hadn’t spent 3000 Quetzales on medications and doctors visits.
Or maybe it was because he knew that in a few months, he was going to be a father.
Shakes, you see, was smiling, too.