I am the 2%. What’s the 2%, you ask? 2% represents the fraction of the general population that have unbelievable things happen to them, things that do not happen to the other 98%. Sounds okay, right? Riiiggghhht.
The 2% has two sides, two extremes. One extreme is: unbelievably awesome things happen to me! Things like winning the lottery or never having a sunburn. The other extreme is: I can’t believe this happened… why me… wwhhhyyyy!?!
I have yet to win the lottery and I get a sunburn every summer. I’m the 2% that gets the shaft. Oh come on, I must be exaggerating… just being dramatic, right? Wrong.
One Sunday morning, I woke up on my friend’s couch with a headache. We’d polished off more than our fair share of booze the night before so I wasn’t so surprised that I was under the weather. What I did find odd was my hands. They felt…. weird.
Upon first inspection they appeared to be slightly red and felt almost numb. I was sure I slept funny and it would just take some time for the feeling to come back into my hands. I was right. But what I didn’t anticipate was that the feeling that came back ended up making my hands feel worse. That and they were swollen. And I mean, sausage fingers kind of swollen. I convinced myself that it was normal and there was nothing to worry about. Denial can be a powerful force.
A little while later, I noticed my pants were chaffing me. They really seemed to be digging into my stomach and it hurt. A lot. And they had an elastic waistband. That’s not quite right, so I inspected my stomach and it was also red. Nothing to worry about here. All is well.
A while later, after changing into some larger pants and they too became uncomfortable, I suspected something else might be happening. I, again, inspected my stomach.
Small raised bumps had appeared. The tell-tale signs of an eminent rash. I was convinced I was having an allergic reaction so I popped a couple anti-histamines and hoped for the best.
The following day I woke up, with swollen hands, a rashy belly and sore feet. But that’s what Monday’s feel like, so I went to work. After spending the day at work, I came to the conclusion that I might have more problems that I originally thought.
I still wasn’t feeling well and I certainly wasn’t hung over. I decided to go to the doctor.
I went to a walk in clinic, feeling a bit like a tool. I can’t believe I’m here just because I have a rash and I can’t make a fist because my fingers are so swollen and why do my feet hurt?… The doctor came in and asked why I was there. I think I’m having an allergic reaction. Why? Well, because I have this rash and look at my hands! He looked me over and asked some general questions: how are you feeling? have you been sick? how long ago did you have this cold? did you have a sore throat? how do your feet feel? They hurt, in fact.
He took some notes, my temperature and then looked at me and said: “I don’t think you’re having an allergic reaction. I think you have scarlet fever. Do you know what that is? I’ve heard of it… I think he realized that I had absolutely no idea what it meant because he explained it to me.
Scarlet fever is caused by the streptococcus bacteria (the one that causes strep throat). Now, certain strains of this bacteria secrete a certain toxin and certain people are sensitive to this toxin and it results in a full body rash. This occurs in roughly 2% of the population. Of people under the age of 12.
Seriously. I had a childhood disease at age 27. Fuck you, 2%.
He wrote me up a blood work order, took a swab of my throat and told me to come back in two days. Scarlet fever, left untreated, can cause kidney failure, so he was pretty concerned about it. He had also never seen anybody that picks out their own clothes get scarlet fever before. I went back in two days and he looked me over again and decided that he wanted to send me for more blood work. He wanted to test me for everything that could possibly cause a full body rash (sounds reasonable), illnesses such as mono (okay, that’s not too bad) and syphilis (what!?!?).
Oh, don’t worry, he said, I don’t think you actually have syphilis, I just want to be sure. Okay… sure… no problem… I’m clean…
I went and had the blood work done and went back to the doctor in two days time to get the results. I had to go in the middle of the day, so I had to leave work and go back after my appointment. At first, I didn’t really consider syphilis as an actual cause of my problems. But then the doctor walked out, went up to the receptionist and said “I need an infectious disease agent on the phone now.” Infectious disease agent? Syphilis is probably an ‘infectious disease’. Oh dear God, I have syphilis. How long have I had it? Can it be treated? Where did I get it from? Who gave it to me? Who have I given it to? Am I going to die?
By the time they called my name to see the doctor I was pretty much sweating bullets and had convinced myself that I was a dirty whore. I went into the examination room and waited. And waited. Oh no, he’s probably waiting to talk to the agent before he comes in here. He finally came in and said: I got your test results. Uh-huh. And it came back negative for mono. Uh-huh… And negative for everything else, but we don’t have the results for the strep tests yet. So, no syphilis? No, no syphilis, come back in three days for your strep results.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. No syphilis, I’m not a dirty whore. No awkward telephone conversations for me – success! So I went back to work feeling pretty good about myself and I told the story to one of my work friends. I was kinda ashamed that I had to have the test done in the first place, so I was trying to keep it on the down-low. But when I got to the point where I said he tested me for syphilis, my not-so-subtle friend yelled out “YOU HAVE SYPHILLIS?!!?!?”
Everyone turned and looked. I was mortified. NO! NO SYPHILLIS!! It came back negative. But that doesn’t make it any better, does it?
So I went back to the doctor and got my results. I never had strep throat – my throat culture came back negative. My blood work, however, was positive. The doctor was slightly baffled… how can you have it in your blood if you don’t have it in your throat? Almost no one gets strep in their blood without strep throat…. Almost no one? Like 2% of the population? Sounds about right.
Big thanks to EliseArt for providing the illustrations and being so damn excited about drawing the pictures that I had to write the post.