When I returned home from the hospital, the extent of my daily activity consisted of waking up in the morning, going downstairs and flopping down on the couch in front of the TV. All day. Every day. Until it was time for bed when I would sluggishly ascend the stairs to rest some more.
I knew I would miss the last month of school, which you might think is every teenager’s fantasy. But two factors made this situation infinitely less than desirable. Like the fact that I couldn’t really eat because my throat was so swollen that simply breathing became a challenge. Or that we didn’t have cable.
I had a set routine, though I don’t remember its exact sequence now. My days were filled with our local Channel 19’s run through classic sitcoms. I didn’t get to hang with my friends at school, so I made new friends to keep me company through my misery. There was Lucy and Gomer, Mr. Belvedere and The Fonz. And especially the Mayberry crew.
Had I been born 20 years later I’d have been texting and tweeting to keep up with the outside world. Instead, I traveled back in time. To simpler worlds and situations that were neatly wrapped up in 22 minutes, accompanied by endless ads for Life Alerts and Life Insurance. My life should have been beginning, but it felt like it was ending. I had to go on that trip, but how could I plan to go hiking through the desert when a trip to the bathroom left me winded?
I took my recuperation very seriously. I drank at least two giant jugs of Gatorade per day for their electrolytes. I ingested steroids in the kind of doses that people with serious maladies are given. Over the next few weeks I lost 30 pounds, which would be wonderful now but was scary then.
The doctors tried to give me hope that I’d make it onto that plane, but I doubted them. I was pessimistic and felt entitled to be given how miserable I felt every day. Since talking was painful, I limited mine as much as possible. The anguish of isolation did not help.
Finally, with about 10 days until the trip I went to see my Infectious Disease doctor to get the verdict. Nurses checked my vitals and drew 11 vials of blood. Then the doctor ran the most important test he could: asking me if I wanted to go. I did. And so I went.