Friday, April 1, 2011

Hep A Brad

Three summers ago, Brad contracted Hepatitis.  I remember it like yesterday because I was less than a stellar wife prior to his diagnosis.  To be fair, Brad (and let's just generalize this to ALL MEN) tends to be a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to illness. I can have all three kids suffering with some virus and he is SURE that he is coming down with it, even though he elects to sleep in the basement the second someone feels warm to the touch.  He then immediately "feels a tickle in his throat" and is convinced that we have given him something even though no one has come into contact with him in the last 120 hours.

"What should I take?" he will ask once I have put the children to bed, on my 5th day of sleeplessness.  I will have had at least one child who has constantly coughed in my face for the last week, while I took temperatures and administered antibiotics 'round the clock.

He seems to revert back to when he was a child and wants to the same attention for his "imagined illness" that my children with a numerous bona fide illnesses command. God love him, but the fable, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" was definitely based on his life story, only he did not cry, "Wolf," he cried, "sore throat" or "drainage" instead. 

So keeping this information in mind, he develops what I thought was the stomach flu, shortly after returning from a trip to Tokyo, followed a family trip to the Outer Banks, where we ingested questionable shellfish.  He couldn't shake it after 24 hours, so in true "Brad fashion," he asked me to accompany him to our family doctor.

During the visit, the doctor and I made a lot of meaningful eye contact, followed by my reflexive eye-rolling mechanism, I have honed over the years of my marriage. At one point Brad grabbed the metal garbage can in the examination room and vomited in it.  I saw this, as did the skeptical doctor as an Oscar-worthy performance, but to humor him, we did a urine analysis and blood test to "rule anything out."  It is interesting to note, in the midst of all this chaos, that Brad had the presence of mind to ask to have his ears cleaned out during his visit.  I couldn't help but snicker when the nurse had to come in to squirt water in his ears and then hold the lima bean-shaped apparatus up to the side of his head to catch the fluid when it drained out.  I had not seen this done since my daughter had an ear infection when she was a toddler, and they couldn't get a full view of her eardrum with an otoscope.  I half expected them to take his temperature rectally when he complained of a fever.  

The doctor obviously thought nothing of it, and proceeded to his expensive lake house for the long weekend.  Well, Brad did not get better.  When the doctor returned from his trip, the test results yielded a Hepatitis diagnosis which Brad informed me of, while I was out running errands after a tennis match.

I left Brad and the kids in our regular sitter's care and my last cynical words to him before I left when he asked me what I should do if he choked on his vomit were, "just knock on the wall three times, I'll tell Jenny the code." When he called me, I felt like the biggest asshole in the world.  The boy who cried wolf had apparently contracted the wolf's virus that I learned was life threatening if it was Hepatitis B or C.  If it was Hepatitis A, it would run it's course with a ton of fluids in about 10 weeks - the exact amount of time that was left in the summer.

By this time Brad had turned a dark shade of yellow. I was told that the virus was attacking his liver and that he would be extremely jaundiced for a while.  In my ignorance, I asked the nurse if I should set him out in the sun, like I was instructed to do with a few of my newborns and (I remember this vividly) she laughed in my face.

The doctor explained that he was testing at that moment to determine which letter of the alphabet Brad's hepatitis was, and that if it was "A," his liver would have a 100% recovery; if it was "B," he could expect a 50/50 shot at full liver functionality; and if it was "C," then Brad would likely have liver problems and eventual failure at some point.  Also, "B" and "C" were contracted either by sexual intercourse or IV drug use.

Well, I called my best friend while Brad dry heaved his yellow brains out,  (I have never seen someone so ill in my life.) and proceeded to recite the scenarios. The IV drug use was obviously out, but my mind started to wander.

"What if he got it on his business trip and he cheated on me?! He's gonna WISH he had a blood transfusion when I get through with him!  I am going to go upstairs and confront him right now while he is vulnerable."  I had worked  myself up into a complete and utter frenzy.

"Hold on a minute,"  Alissa soothed, "Brad would never cheat on you.  He has Hepatitis A, which is food borne.  You are getting yourself all worked up.  THE MAN IS SICK.  Leave him alone.  You are fine.  The doctor will call and set all these allegations to rest.  DO NOT GO UP THERE AND ACCOST HIM."

"Okay. Okay.  You are right.  He would never do that to me.  I gotta go.  I better bring him water.  I can hear him hurl from down here."  I let her go.

No sooner than I had hung up the phone, was I rounding the stairs to verbally assault Brad.

He was at the top, wiping his mouth after brushing his teeth for the 100,000th time.

"Did you sleep with an Asian hooker while you were in Tokyo?"  I screamed.  I was frantic and disheveled. "You have about 20 minutes until the doctor calls with the results and then it will be too late!  Too late to save your marriage, buddy!" Not my finest moment.

"I wish." he said wearily and drug himself back into the bedroom.

I was simultaneously relieved and ashamed, so I called Alissa back to tell her what had just happened.

"See.  I told you so, " she sniffed, and tried to muffle her laughter.  "Jesus, you are a truly disturbed individual."

It turned out that Brad's Hepatitis was, in fact, of the "A" variety.  All they could determine was that it was food borne and the incubation period was 2-6 weeks.

To this day, Brad thinks it was when he stayed at the Narita Airport hotel and I think it was this disgusting dive where we ate oysters on the half shell in Duck, North Carolina.  All three children and I had been miraculously vaccinated (Hepatitis A is extremely contagious, as well) so there is no real way of knowing where Brad contracted it. So it was a happy ending because he hadn't had a "happy ending," so to speak.

Apparently, everyone in the South who is close to an ocean knows that you do not eat raw oysters in months that do not end in "R". After research, I found that in the northern hemisphere, raw oysters "are most likely to carry disease in June, July, and August".  This is today's recommendation.  If you LOVE  oysters like I do, and you like to get them on summer vacation, I would just get vaccinated and eat them whenever you feel like it.  Oh, and my other recommendation is to listen to your best friend when she tells you not to attack your husband with accusations of infidelity while he is praying to the Porcelain Gods.  I'm not sayin'.  I'm just sayin'.

Picture above is from the Duck vacation. Like mother, like daughter, apparently.

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