Last week I was in Las Vegas for the annual meeting of my specialty organization, the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP.  I had a small speaking engagement for our Rural Section.  I also had the opportunity to stand at the Emergency Medicine News booth and chat with many of those folks who read my monthly column.  I shared a room with my dear friend John Short of Olympia, WA, with whom I attended residency at Methodist Hospital of Indiana…’back in the day.’

Unfortunately, I also had some sort of ridiculous virus.  Doubtless something I caught from 1) my children or 2) my patients.  The kids have coughed for weeks; the patients never stop.

So, the Sunday I flew to Las Vegas I worked day-shift.  During the shift I felt chilled and, low and behold, I actually had a fever of 101.5!  You know what I mean when I say that it’s validating.  How many times have you, doctors and nurses, dragged yourselves to work and felt like death warmed-over, only to find that your temperature was 98.5.  That’s a real let-down, I have to say.

So, I had a fever, I treated it, I shivered, shook and chilled and flew to Las Vegas.  Whereupon, I shivered, shook and chilled.  I took enough Aleve to dissolve my stomach.  I drank water (the tea in Las Vegas is not worth a passing mention).  I lay under the covers hoping for warmth. And warmth there was!  Outside it was, oh, 300 degrees F.  Typical Vegas, with young men and women in the pool, barely clad,  I suppose.  Frankly, I couldn’t see that far from my window.  It was simply too cold outside to take a chance on hypothermia in pool.

It’s odd, to be sick in a hotel in a hot environment.  The few times I went out, I shivered through the lobby, then sweated in the line for a taxi.  I never knew whether I was hot due to the weather, hot due to the sun, cold due to my hypothalamus or cold due to the air-conditioner.

I did attend lectures, but with congestion and cough, fever and chills, learning was bit problematic.  I’m pretty sure the entire meeting had to do with emergency care, but I could be wrong about that.  I was busy wondering what it would feel like to freeze to death in a conference center.

Of course, God is sovereign and God is good.   Perhaps it was all for the best.  It’s tough to be tempted to wickedness in Las Vegas when you’re really  just concerned where to find a bottle of water for less than $20, and whether or not you have any Aleve left.  I don’t like to gamble anyway, but I would never have gambled away the money I was saving for fever-reducers.

I survived.  I don’t seem to have had the flu, TB, or anything else immediately life-threatening.  I hope I didn’t spread my infection.  I tried to constantly wash my hands and cover my cough.  I’m home now, thank the Lord, and on the mend from whatever horrible alien bug had infected my body and sabotaged my fun.

But whenever I have an experience like this, I can’t help but ponder.  Around the world, and down through history, men and women became sick and died far from home.  They died on business trips in ancient times.  They died at sea, and lying in rented beds far from loved ones.  They chilled and struggled, gasped and vomited without any of the modern medications we have available.  They crossed mountains and deserts, feeling as if their bones might snap in two.  Sometimes they were left behind to die.

They lay in fox-holes in mud, and in trenches in ice, with only wet blankets and hope as infections spread, as lungs filled with fluid, as muscles and intestines ached, and shells and bullets flew a few feet overhead, all far from anything like the comfort of my Las Vegas hotel room.

The same still happens, as hemorrhagic fevers, malaria and other parasites snatch life.  As tuberculosis smothers and bullets and knives cause slow agony.  All far from home.

I felt lousy.  But I am so thankful to be home.  And I am thankful to God that I live in a time when hospitals may not be perfect, but are not far away.  When pharmaceutical industries may not always do the right thing, but generally do and continue to make medicines that ease our miseries.  And I’m thankful that I live in a time when home is a four hour flight, not a four month sail, away.

Especially when I’m sick.

Fever, Las Vegas!  If I never see you again, that will be fine.


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