Hot flashes and Kleenex

Posted by Ken Campbell November 2, 2010 2 Comments 705 views

I remember one February, in the middle of a blowy, rainy afternoon, when I was dropped off in Neah Bay to begin what I hoped would be a solo winter kayak trip down the Olympic peninsula’s roadless coast. I packed the boat and headed out into the gale, eventually making it as far as Cape Flattery, where I set up camp as the day turned to evening. There was no sunset, just a gradual darkening of the mushy gray sky and a wish that I could somehow light a fire. As I recall, I ate my freeze-dried whatever and had a slug of rum before turning in early, serenaded by the crashing of the waves and the steady howling of the wind.

I woke up the next morning with a cold. The mother-of-all-colds, as it were. Chills and fever, sweat running down from my forehead as I packed, impacted nostrils and a searing cough. The original plan had me getting at least as far as Shi Shi Beach that day but as I got underway, I knew that was no longer possible.

The conditions had improved a bit, but it’s always a little lumpy at the Cape in February and there were a few times when I thought I was in more trouble than I could handle. I had less strength than normal, my strokes were tentative and off-balance and it took everything I had just to make it to the northern edge of Makah Bay, to the mouth of the Waatch River. After hauling up my kayak, I called Mary to beg for an unscheduled ride home and then collapsed on the bank and fell asleep in the sand. She arrived four or five hours later and we loaded up and returned to Tacoma.

When you’re sick, nothing else matters. There’s a reason why people say, “I don’t feel like myself,” when they are ill. It’s because the weakened invalid that you become in your infirmity doesn’t even remind you of the person you thought you were. The things that are usually important disappear in a rain of tissue and OTC medications. Jobs, deadlines, responsibilities of all kinds cease to exist, at least in the feverish mind of the suffering. And, most importantly, the last place you want to be is outdoors; it’s bed that you crave, and some kind of cure.

I’ve been pretty sick here the past few days. It started to hit me on Saturday morning, I could feel it coming, and I knew there wasn’t much I could do. I took everything I could, including orange juice and Robitussin, but by Sunday morning, it was clear that I was losing the battle. If mucus were money, I’d have been Bill Gates.

I’m still ishy, but I can tell I’ve turned the corner. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be out there again, but today looks like more OJ and quack medicine. It’s amazing what passes for health care in this country.

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