More effective than pleading a headache

So six weeks or so into the Legislative session, I became Patient Zero at the Capitol.

I roamed the hallways and committee rooms, hacking and wheezing, with handfuls of tissue stuffed into my purse.

Those lucky enough to encounter me on a regular basis soon succumbed. I infected co-workers, lawmakers and reporters.

One day, I approached a member of the Democrat-Gazette’s Capitol Bureau to ask if his roommate, a mutual friend, was feeling better.

“I heard she was sick,” I said.

“So it was you,” he said, backing away. “You’re Patient Zero.”

“It’s OK,” I assured him. “I don’t think … *cough* … that I’m contagious … *cough* … anymore.”

“Uh-huh,” he replied. “Riiiight…”

And then he vanished into the media room. Which locked emphatically behind him.

Weeks passed. Still, I continued to collapse into coughing fits. When I ran out of cough drops, people from other state agencies gave me peppermints and candy. Anything, really, to shut me up.

Now just a couple of years ago, I would have high-tailed it into the doctor’s office, where I would have presented the staff with a list of possible diagnoses, all of them dire and, usually, terminal.

But that whole near-death-in-the-wilderness thing cured me of my lifelong hypochondria. Because really? If you can go out for what’s supposed to be a pleasant hike and find yourself in the throes of renal and heart failure a week later, you realize that there’s not much point in trying to pinpoint what might be your ultimate cause of death.

It could be a spider bite. It could be lung cancer. *cough*

In our household, I am normally the one nagging Rick to go to the doctor.

This time, it was my husband issuing pleas that I make an appointment.

For myself.

“I don’t have time,” I argued, honking into a Kleenax.

He looked at me and shook his head.

“What?” I protested. “It’s my new mating call.”

I honked again and arched an eyebrow.

“You’re already keeping me up all night,” he noted dryly. “And not in a fun way.”

I felt his pain. I wasn’t getting much sleep either. Did you know it’s possible to reverse-snore? Like, instead of making noise when you inhale, you make these hideous mucousy sounds when you exhale?

Yeah. I’ve been all sorts of sexy, let me tell you.

Anyway, today I finally ventured into my doctor’s exam room.

“This has been going on for how long?” he asked incredulously.

Bear in mind, I have more than once burst into his office in a panic.

(Questions I have asked my doctor: “Are you sure I don’t have lymphoma?”

“So these are migraines and not a sign that a bulging brain aneurysm is about to burst?”

“Are you sure it’s mono and not Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Tuleremia?”)

Now here I was, all sorts of casual, lounging on the exam table while he looked at x-rays of my lungs and sinuses.

“Given how you sound and the fact that you’re running a fever, I would have sworn that you had walking pneumonia,” he mused.


“Well. I’m going to start by treating you for bronchitis and sinusitus.”

“OK,” I replied.

People, I came home today with a whole passel of drugs, which will either knock me into sedated oblivian or turn me into a ravenous, raging fiend. Or maybe they’ll just cancel each other out.

Regardless, I promise: The days of Typhoid Cathy are coming to an end.

It will be safe, once again, to enter my office.

And my husband might actually find me somewhat attractive again. Unless, of course, he’s too busy catching up on all that missed sleep.




She called me mija … ‘My daughter’

1379680_10151919907945239_1506049872_n“It’s OK, mija,” crooned the petite, dark-haired woman as she scrubbed nearly a week’s worth of grime from my battered body. “You will feel better when you are clean again.”


My daughter.

The woman’s hands were firm, yet gentle. She plucked the twigs from my snarled hair. And then she washed it three times.

“Look,” she said, showing me the rinse water after the third shampooing. “It is clean now.”

All morning, she had lurked outside my hospital room, thwarted time and again by doctors and nurses who insisted on blood draws, breathing treatments and tests.

Finally, when the medical staff departed, she shooed my husband from the room and set to work.

Often, I flinched and moaned when her washcloth skimmed over the cactus needles still embedded in my hands, torso and legs.

“I am sorry, mija,” the woman murmured. “So sorry.”

But she wasn’t just sorry for the pain she inflicted. She was sorry that I had suffered at all. I could hear it in her voice.

Word had spread quickly through hospital hallways that the woman lost for five days and four nights in the Chihuahuan Desert was in the Telemetry Unit at the University Medical Center of El Paso.

My caregivers didn’t judge me. That first night, they kept me alive. And then over the next several days, they tended to my wounds. They marveled that I had survived.

When I walked again for the first time in five days, one of the physical therapists asked me to autograph the cane I had used.

All of these people believed that if I had been given a second chance, well … then there was hope for all.

Not everyone shared this attitude. Over the next year, even as I thanked God daily for my second chance, I learned what it is like to be second-guessed.

“But why didn’t you …?”

I get it. It’s totally human to want to second-guess others. Doing so makes us feel better, safer.

“Well, that would never happen to me because I would never…”

Yeah. Well. Until it does. Because you did.

We are none of us infallible. And most of us, most of the time, are pretty good at figuring out where we went wrong. And we accept responsibility for the consequences.

Your pointing finger does nothing but remind us of our own former smugness … and how it leads to downfall.

My arrogance almost cost me my life. Karma? She’s not just a bitch. She’s a bitch on wheels with lightning strikes etched on each spoke.

When I think of the woman who washed my hair, my body … apologizing as she did so … I marvel at her grace.

I was lost and then found. I was dirty, and then cleansed.

On this Easter, my advice to you … to me … is this:

Don’t second-guess the actions of someone who — trust me, here — already has been thoroughly humbled.

Instead, help that person appreciate and take advantage of his second chance.

After all, second chances are few. They should be celebrated. Not questioned.