The fever hit July 8 during a brief trip to see my parents in Wisconsin. (I had not been in the state long enough to have contracted the virus there.) Eating breakfast outside, the friendly sun suddenly turned menacing, pouring fire on my skin. My body tingled, my head lightened, my neck tightened. I stopped eating. Twenty minutes later, I was flopping in bed, soaking the sheets. My fever spiked to 102 before Tylenol brought it down.
After arriving back in Washington, I figured a few days’ rest would set me straight. I would chalk up the episode to the vagaries of life and move on.
But it persisted, this fatigue, this never-ending hot flash.
I fired my first doctor. “Are you in a hot place?” he asked when I told him I felt warm all the time. Yes, I’m in a hot place, Doc. It’s called Washington, D.C., summer of 2012.
On my third and final visit, he pounded my abdomen for some reason, asked if I was “potent” (yes, thanks) and said all my blood tests were normal. “What do you want me to do?” he asked.
As Washington sweltered, I burned. My body temperature read normal, but my senses screamed “fever.”
I worked when I could, but my productivity plummeted. As I sat in my cubicle, my head would sometimes kind of float up toward the ceiling as the gaudy chartreuse accent wall blared at my hypersensitive optic nerves.
I trundled through the commute. Home. Walk. Train. Walk. Office. Elevator. Sit. Type. I felt disembodied, as if on drugs. But there are no drugs to treat what I had.
I was a West Nile zombie.