September 21, 2003

Evil Antigen

JAIPUR, India -- Food poisoning hit me like an 18-wheeler driven by a speed-crazed I-80 truck driver. After rumblings I should have seen as warnings it crashed down upon me at 2 a.m. and forced me to run into the bathroom with vomiting and diarrhea constantly for the next five hours. I was so weak just raising my hand to answer the telephone near my bed was a gargantuan feat. And yet the consequences of lying there while an overpowering wave of diarrhea and vomiting passed over me were unacceptable. I'll refrain from more graphic description.

The next morning a doctor came, took my blood pressure, my temperature, asked me questions, felt around my abdomen and prescribed a handful of medicines which he provided. When I got the bill I did a triple take. First I saw the number 600 and my eyes widened. Eek! I felt my bank account draining through a large hole. All the fears of ruination that have hovered around me since childhood clustered closer. But in a second I realized it was not dollars, it was rupees. It came to about $10. A house call, for $10.

Well, it's not the USA, but you can't have all the comforts of home when you're abroad. Comforts like massive HMOs that milk the medical profession -- what they call the "healthcare market" -- for every dime they can short of actually exterminating the population and losing their potential customers. Good old bottom line corporate pragmatism.

I had to leave for Rohet the next day and there was no getting around it. I could barely get out of bed, but I roused myself, took a shower, took my antibiotic, my pills for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, some powdered electrolyte replacement fluid and got into the back of a bus where I could stretch out and try to rest.

The doctor had read my temperature at 101, but I hadn't noticed being hot, only in pain. In the back of the bus it was drafty because some monkeys had shattered the glass in the night. I felt cold and tried to cover myself. The bus bounced over the bumpy roads and my raw insides felt like they were being shaken by a very vigorous bartender watching a boxing match on TV. I literally bounced up off the seat hundreds of times. I went from cold to hot. At times the nausea built up so much I was relieved to know that the window was broken out so I could pulled myself up and heave out the window if I needed to. But the dear doctor's medicine worked, or else there was just nothing left to come up, and I held out.

At a rest stop a couple of hours into the trip the bouncing stopped and I finally got a moment of peace. I wantted to sleep, but I realized I had better take advantage of the toilets, which were holes in a concrete floor. I lifted myself with great effort and walked like a 90-year-old man (I'm really considerably younger) out into the air and light and dust. I was dripping with sweat. I was happy about that, actually, and cheered on my antibodies for sweating out the evil antigen.

For the next few hours I rode up in the front of the bus where I couldn't lie flat, but it didn't bounce so much and I finally got some rest. My breath must have knocked flat anyone who dared ask me how I was doing. I could taste a rank, acidity in my mouth, but was too weak to do anything about it.

That day the slightest movement was nearly impossible, but it was much better than the night when my body was frantically acting to expel whatever was in it. At night I couldn't sleep, but just lay in bed, as if under the weight of an elephant, too weak to move, my head in crushing pain. I kept taking my pills, and added a couple for stomach and head pain. Then suddenly at one point, I noticed that the headache was gone and a spark of animation was returning to my limbs. I felt the desire to live again and not just be squelched out of my misery.

I looked at my watch. It was 2 a.m., almost exactly 24 hours since the evil antigen had first visited me like Ghengis Khan crashing through my door saber in hand. I figured then that it must have been not a bacterium, but a virus, one of those 24-hour viruses. It left abruptly, and punctually, as if it had an important appointment to ravage another human system. It left me a frail and reduced man, but I am regaining my strength. It was my India baptism of fire.

  • Now, back in the "real" world (maya) I see that Tony Blair has received a trouncing in what has been a sure Labor district for as long as anyone walking remembers. It's an undeniable sign that the British public is sick to the teeth of his war doubletalk and his embarrassing subservience to the insane US neocons. Right on! Even Blair's spinners admit they got a "bloody nose. This is a sign of things to come. Even the sleepy US population is coming around. See Indian Express and The Guardian.
  • On the opposition side, some real opposition is appearing to coalesce in the Democratic party with General Wesley Clark adding his anti-war message to the pack. This could neutralize some of the bogus Bush "military leader" crap and give the frightened masses a strong man to rally around in their antiwar convictions without falling prey to the phony patriotism and masculinity brainwashing. See the New York Times for "The Fight for the Democratic Party" and San Francisco Gate for "Poll shows Clark moving quickly to top tier of Democratic presidential candidates". According to a Newsweek poll, Clarke is already the frontrunner and nearly beats Bush. More now disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq than approve now and a 57% majority disapprove of his handling of the economy.
  • More on 911 widows fighting heroically against the coverup of the tragedy, on NPR. This is very powerful stuff. These women are driven, passionate and are speaking plain truth.

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