|A Visit To The Vet
© Xepher -- all rights reserved
Argh! I hate being sick. I'm lucky, I don't get sick very often, maybe once a year or so at most, but on occasion, I really get it. Nothing is worse than that feeling of having your own body rebel against you. Your mind is up for whatever is being thrown at you, but your body just won't cooperate. It sucks. There's no other way to put it.
This particular "cold" was really a nasty one too. I mean, I can deal with some sneezing, a sore throat, and all the normal symptoms of a cold. Most of the time, they don't even slow me down. I just go about my business as usual, but this one... Whatever this bug was, it was doing a number (probably a waltz) on my immune system. I felt like I could barely move a muscle, much less walk. Gah! I so hate it!
The stupid thing attacked me a couple weeks ago. Didn't really notice much more than a scratchy throat at first. Woke up and just had that little "itch" in the back of mouth. By lunch it was a little sore, but I figured I'd be better by the next day. Boy was I wrong. I woke up the next day feeling like I'd been accosted by several wild boars, possibly a well-armed armadillo. I could barely even breathe.
"Screw this!" I thought, and decided to skip out on my responsibilities for the day. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. It took a while, but I finally managed it. Much to my dismay however, I awoke, feeling yet worse. Realizing it was dark out, I figured I'd slept the whole afternoon. Well, I was technically right, but once I managed to wake up my computer, I realized I'd slept through two entire afternoons. That worried me. All I wanted to do was go back to bed though, so I tried. I couldn't sleep until I forced myself to drink some orange juice, however. Did that, then passed out again.
Next moment of clarity was being awakened by a pounding at the door. I managed, with great pain I might add, to find my way downstairs and opened the door. It was Amy, a woman I knew from work. Apparently when you disappear for three days, people actually notice. I suppose it's nice to be missed, but at the moment, all I cared about was getting back in bed without injury.
"Huh?" I asked, after fumbling with the dead-bolt for a bit beforehand.
"Where've you been? We haven't seen you in three days. People are starting to worry." Amy said.
"You look horrible!"
I managed to pry one eye open to a little past half-mast. "Thanks." I said, then coughed.
"No, really, you look like you got hit by a bus."
"Feel like it too. I hate being sick."
"You been sick this entire time?"
"Yeah. Slept through most of it though. Actually'd like to get back to that."
"You've been asleep for three days?"
"Something like that. What year is it?" Lame humor attempt.
"Ha. Ha. Seriously though, that's not healthy. You been to a doctor?"
"No... I hate doctors... dentists... the whole lot of 'em. Gimme the creeps."
"Well, you really should think about it. Three days is a long time to be in bed."
"Can't, there's not a doc in town that knows enough about scabs. Last thing I want is some local yokel sticking me with shiny metal objects when he doesn't even know what he's looking at. Come to think of it, I hated that when I was human too."
"Poor excuse. You've got to take care of yourself you know."
"Yeah... I... I know... I'll be right back." And with that, I slumped over on the floor.
I woke up on the downstairs couch a little while later. Drifting back from neverland, I heard Amy finishing up a phone conversation.
"Ok, thank you very much. We should be there in about a couple hours or so. Bye."
"Who was that?" I managed to say.
"I found you a doctor."
"Well, sorta. You were right, none of the doctors in town think they know enough to treat you, but there's a vet out at an exotic animal ranch that..."
"Vet!?? Did you say a vet?"
"Slow down there, let me finish. I talked to him, explaining that you were a scabs victim, and mostly animal."
"Mostly animal? Thanks!"
"Shut up! Let me finish. Anyway, he agreed to take a look at you. Apparently he's had a lot of experience with large cats. The ranch itself has several lions, and the clinic there also takes "patients" from private owners all over the state. The guy even said he'd worked with a snow leopard before, so you should be in good hands."
"Good hands? A vet!? He's probably gonna expect me to be muzzled and sedated before he even looks at me. Sheesh!"
"Well, the way I see it, you're halfway to sedated already. And, considering it's for your own good, I will put a muzzle on you if I have to. Your appointment is at four, so use the restroom and get a drink if you need to, then meet me at the car. It's a good hour and a half away."
"Well, if you're going to give me such a big choice in the matter..." I tried to smirk, it hurt.
I did as Amy suggested. I didn't really feel thirsty, but I grabbed a bottle of water to take with me. I really should be thirsty after three days. I think I knew how sick I was, but just wasn't willing to admit it to myself at the time.
I stumbled outside, attempting to lock the door on my way out, but giving up after a few unsuccessful attempts. If the universe was gonna screw me on this cold, I figured it was outta ammo for a robbery while I was gone. I managed to get the door to Amy's car open and sat down in the front seat.
"Well, then, off we go!" Amy said.
I sat for a few minutes, but kept falling to one side of the seat or another.
"I'm think I'm going to go pass out in the back, if it's all the same to you."
"Be my guest." She said.
I fell asleep to the sound of road noise, car heater, and low-volume radio. Nothing makes a better sedative.
I was woken by the sound of several passing cattle guards. Well, that and falling on the floor due to the bumpy road. I guessed we had to be almost there, so I crawled back into the front of the car. It took so much effort that I was amazed I made it.
"Oh, good, you're awake. We're almost there." Amy said.
"You could be grateful, you know. I just took my day off to drag your lame tail halfway to nowhere and back."
"Sorry, just not feelin' too great about this whole "vet" thing."
"Fair enough. Speaking of... That looks like the clinic up ahead."
We pulled up to a small barn-ish building. It was fairly new and modern, as barns go. All rough sawn lumber on the outside, a new gravel parking lot in the front. Some large garage-type doors over to one side and a corral in back. Great, I really was at a vet.
Amy got out of the car, and I managed, somehow, to follow her into the waiting room. It never fails, all medical places smell the same. The doctor's, the dentist's, the vet's, they all smell the same. That disgusting, nauseating smell of antiseptic and air freshener. My subconscious called up childhood fears involving orthodontists... most of which involved the word "oops" and pair of pliers. At least one of those fears was an actual memory. Sheesh I hate these places!
Amy walked over to the counter and I took a chair along the wall... which I kept falling out of as I dozed off. "Screw it!" I muttered, and decided to lay down on the floor. I don't care how undignified it was, at least I could pass out without fear of falling. Amy finished some paperwork and sat down near me.
"Feeling any better?"
"Do I look like I'm feeling better?" I said, but caught myself. "I'm sorry, really am. But, no, I'm not feeling any better. Any idea how long we've got to wait?"
"They said it's just be a few minutes or so. Apparently he's finishing up with an emu right now."
"Great." I mumble under my breath.
"Nothing." I said, and curled back up, burying my face with my tail, which did a great job of blocking out those annoying fluorescent lights these places always seem to have.
I heard some footsteps a few minutes later, followed by a voice. "I'm sorry ma'am, but for safety reasons, we have to ask you to keep your pet on a leash at all times."
I was too tired to really care. I did manage a half-hearted "Screw you, hippy," but most of it was muffled by my tail.
"Did he just..?" Said the assistant.
"He's a scab." Amy informed him.
"Oh... I uh... Umm... Sorry!" I heard his footsteps leave.
A few minutes later, I heard someone else come in. I opened my eyes and looked up... not moving my head, of course.
"So, you must be Amy?" He said, approaching my friend.
"Yes. Dr. Davidson I presume?" She replied.
"Why does everyone say "presume" when meeting a doctor?" He waited for the joke to settle in, then continued, "Yes, and this must be Xepher."
"Yeah, that's me." I muttered.
"You know, I'm curious, why do all of you morph-types insist on picking those odd names once you change? Just make you feel better or something?"
He raised an interesting point, but I was in no mood to try and explain the ideas of anonymity, starting afresh, leaving the past behind, etc. So I just replied, "Something like that."
"Fair enough. Now, shall we see about getting you fixed up?"
"If you insist." I still wasn't too keen on this "vet" thing.
"Alright, follow me." He said, leading the way through a set of swinging doors.
We walked down a hallway, brightly lit, just like the rest of the place. We came to one of several unmarked doors, and found ourselves in an examination room.
"If you'll just have a seat on the table here, we'll get started."
"Righto." I said, as I tried to climb onto the table. In my weakened condition it took a couple of attempts before I finally made it.
"Well, Xepher, I'll be frank with you. I've never done this before. You scabs are a new chapter in just about everyone's book. I'm used to dealing with animals, so you'll have to excuse me if my bedside manner isn't up to par."
Honesty, I appreciate that. Well, as they say, one good turn deserves another, so... "That's ok. To tell you the truth, I'm really not fond of doctors and such myself. Always give me the creeps with all those shiny metal sharp things laying around."
I noticed there were several of said "sharp things" lying on a far counter of the room. It didn't help my nervousness one bit. Of course, my nervousness was probably the only thing keeping me conscious at that moment.
"Ok, well..." He put down the syringe he had been filling. "I guess I won't be needing the tranquilizer this time. You don't bite, do you?" He made a lame attempt at humor.
"Only if you provoke me." I tried smiling, but I think it came off as threatening.
"Ah... Fair enough. Well then, why don't you tell me your symptoms?"
"A favorite book of mine said it best. "I feel like a military academy. Bits of me keep passing out.""
"Any particular areas of soreness or pain?"
"Well, my throat, definitely sore. Likewise, most of my muscles ache something fierce. Other than that, just an overwhelming desire to sleep. Even more so than usual for a cat." I smirked.
"Heh. Well, that sounds like a fairly standard flu. I'd worry it was the Martian Flu if you hadn't already had it. Have you been taking anything? Any medicine or herbals?"
"No. Never really liked taking pills, even when I was human. Most of 'em really screw with my system nowadays."
"Well, let me check a few things here. First off, I want to check for swollen lymph nodes. I've got to palpate for those. Is that ok?"
"Yeah, whatever you think you need to do."
He proceeded to squeeze almost every painful spot on my body from my jaw on down. Each time asking, "Does that hurt?" I tried to answer, but most of the time, a hiss of pain had already answered for me.
"Ok, It's definitely an infection of some kind, but I'd like to do a throat culture, just to be sure. Open your mouth and say "Ahhh.""
I never did figure out that part. Why "Ahhh?" Why not "Nahh?" or "Bahh?" Why say anything at all? Oh well, I didn't ask, but did as he said. He poked me in the throat with a swab and I got a gag reflex for my trouble. He took the culture and went to run some tests on it. He came back a few minutes later.
"Well, it's gonna take my lab a few minutes to run the culture. Do you mind if I get a few other measurements while you're here? It could help establish a baseline if you're ever back for something else."
I wasn't in the mood to argue, and the guy seemed nice enough. "Just no more prodding, ok?"
"Deal. Can you step onto the scale over here?"
I did so. It was one of those four-footer models meant for dogs and other medium sized animals.
"206 pounds. A bit large for a snow leopard. I'm curious, what'd you weight before you got the flu? The Martian Flu I mean."
"Umm... Just about the same I think. Why?"
"Oh, just curious. I'm gonna measure you're length... err... height now. You remember how tall you were before?"
"Of course I remember, my mind's still intact."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend..."
"No, my fault. I'm just not in the best of moods. I shouldn't have snapped like that." He nodded and I continued, "About 6 foot, and a couple inches."
"Well, figuring average male torso length... That leaves... I'd guess you're about the same length now, not counting tail. Err.. Umm.... I mean height. Sorry."
"Don't worry about it, it's all the same to me.. I'm a talking fluffy cat, and I'm ok with it." I smiled. This time I think he got the proper intention behind it too.
"Understood," he said, "I'm curious, how much of you remained human? No offense intended."
"None taken. Well, going by what they told me in the hospital, not much. Probably something like ten percent, if I had to tag it with a number. Most of that in my mind, thank God. Also kept some slightly odd joints, so I can still kinda walk upright. Other than that, just the thumbs." I wiggled my psuedo-thumbs for him to see.
"That's kind of amazing. Do you mind if I..."
"Be my guest." I held out a forepaw for him to examine. He rolled it back and forth, examining how my fingers worked, paying close attention to the thumb.
"Wow, it's like the dewclaw just moved down and grew a bit. How much can you do with it?"
"Not too much, definitely let's me grab things though, and that's what counts. Never gonna be a great pianist or anything though."
He continued meddling with my paw, forcing it to flex and extend my claws. I tried to keep my hand relaxed, letting him do whatever, but it's really weird having someone else move your hand for you. He scraped at one of my claws with a fingernail.
"Do you clean these much? I mean, like a file or... well for lack of a better word, a scratching post or something?"
"Not really, why?"
"That's what I thought. Cats... well almost all animals for that matter... They've got to keep their claws in shape. If you don't keep the outer layer fresh, it'll get kinda dull, kind of flaky. If it gets too bad, it can actually get infected. While I can't say from experience, I'm sure it's quite painful."
"I'll keep that in mind." Eeek, I had an infected fingernail once as a child. Got a large splinter from a railroad tie stuck under a nail... all the way back to the quick. That sucker hurt for weeks. I can only imagine what that'd feel like with retractable claws.
The vet dropped my paw. "I'd like to take your temperature as well," he said, "even though I'm sure you must have a fever. Normally I'd use a.... well... Hang on." He dug around in a drawer for a few minutes. "Yes, here it is. I knew I had an oral thermometer around here somewhere. Do you think you can hold this under your tongue for a few minutes?"
I nodded, and he put it in my mouth.
"I'll go check on those culture results, see if they're finished yet." With that, he left me alone to think for a few minutes. Not that I had much to think about, but I did so anyway. I thought about Amy, and how lucky I was to have someone who actually cared enough to look out for me, in spite of myself. I also realized I should be grateful to Dr. Davidson, since he was obviously doing something he was by no means obligated to do, simply to help me. Lastly I realized that I can be such a grouch when I'm sick. I made a mental note to apologize to everyone involved once I got better (and coherent!)
I'm not really sure how long I sat there. Time doesn't have much meaning when your brain's on hiatus. Anyway, Dr. Davidson returned and took the old fashioned glass thermometer from my mouth.
"Hmmm, it's high, just as I expected, but I'm not really sure what "normal" would be anyway." He made some notes on his pad as well. "As for the results from the culture, it's not a flu, but rather a bacterial infection. You've got a cold. Specifically, you've got a rare feline strain of bacteria. It's one of those "doozy" sized bugs that no one had even seen until a few years ago. Just leapt out of a jungle somewhere or something."
"Indeed. I'm curious how you got it though, since as far as we can tell, humans can't even carry the disease. You been around any other feline scabs as of late?"
"Not for the past couple of months. Not that I can remember anyway."
"Hmm... What about cats? Any friends of yours have pet cats?"
I thought about it for a minute. "Yeah, now that you mention it, one of the guys I work with keeps a few cats. Actually, he mentioned something about taking one of them to the vet last week or so. You think this is related?"
"Very well could be. Were you ever near the cat?"
"No. The guy's just an acquaintance from work, not really a friend or anything."
"I don't know then..."
"Wait! How long does this stuff last on it's own? Like, on a surface or something?"
"It depends, maybe about 4-8 hours or so. Why?"
"The guy had the cat carrier in his cubicle last Thursday! I'm guessing he'd just gone to the vet."
"Yeah, that could do it."
"Well, after that fabulous detective work... What do we do now?"
"You go home, try to drink plenty of fluids, and take some antibiotics."
"Well, it's actually a tad risky. I really don't know how your system will handle medicine. I'm guessing from your appearance that most of your physiology is feline, correct?"
"That's what they told me at the hospital after I got scabs, but you're the doctor... you tell me."
"Well my guess is yes. Assuming that's the case, I've got plenty of appropriate medicine around here. In fact, some of the stuff I've got is probably better than what you can get at a doctor's. The catch, of course, is that it's not FDA tested, approved, price inflated, etc."
"Sounds like a wonderland of lawsuit, if you ask me."
"Well, that's why I'm asking you. My personal opinion is that this stuff'll help you get better, and quickly. The alternative is probably at least another week of this, but, at least in cats, about 1 in 100 cases are fatal."
"I don't like betting. Especially not with my health."
"Well, it's up to you. Legally, I shouldn't even try prescribing meds to a person, but as you've probably noticed, scabs is throwing all sorts of precedents out the window. Anyway, it's your choice."
I thought about it for a minute. Take "unapproved" medicine, take it with my wacky chimera of a physiology even... or suffer another week of Hades, with a possible trip to the real afterlife at the end. In the end, I didn't base my decision on either of those. I based it on Dr. Davidson. I liked him, and I like to pride myself on being a good judge of character. He thought it'd help me, so there it was.
"I'll go for it."
"Ok. I'll write out a prescription and you can be on your way."
I waited while he scribbled on a small notepad. He handed me the bit of paper, and I squinted at it. I gave up though, figuring I probably couldn't even read the words if they were typed.
"Where do I go to get this filled?"
"Well, we keep some here on the ranch, but there's an ag coop about twelve miles east of here that'd be a bit cheaper. You probably passed the place on your way here. Just look for the feed silos behind a brick building. Can't miss it."
"Thanks... I think."
"You're welcome... I hope." He smiled back. "It was nice to meet you... Xepher," He said, shaking my hand, "Still can't get used to those weird names though."
"I'm sure you'll manage. Thank you for everything Doc."
He showed me out to the lobby, where he found another patient waiting, and went back to work. Amy greeted me as I entered.
"So, how'd it go?" She said.
"Not too bad. Found out I got a rare cat cold from the jungle or something. Probably picked it up from Gary's cats. He had a cat carrier with him in the office last week."
"Wow, that sucks. Prognosis?"
"Sleep, drink, take pills, get better. Speaking of, we need to stop at an ag coop on the way back."
"Really? So you want to ask nicely or you just gonna give orders all day, Mr. Grumpy?"
"Sorry... Do you mind if we stop and get some pills on the way back?"
"That's more like it. Of course not, I don't mind a bit." She smiled ear to ear. Be sick is annoying enough. Being sick around uber-happy people should be reserved for the 5th circle or so.
I gave Amy my credit card and asked her to pay for me. She signed my name (it's useful to have an ambiguous name sometimes) and we left. The coop was exactly what I expected, a feed store that also sold horse pills. Speaking of a horse, that's about the size of the pills I got. Nearly choked trying to swallow the first one.
To make a long story short... or at least shorter. The pills worked, After I broke them in half, anyway, and I got better. It really wasn't as bad as I had feared it would be. The vet was a nice guy, and, while he charged quite a bit, it was nothing compared to what most doctors charge. I felt like it was worthwhile too, since I don't figure Dr. Davidson is the type to waste his money on a country club membership and green fees at some fancy golf course. He worked for a living, and I respected that.
All in all, it could've been a lot worse. I got past my fear of doctors, I found out that my metabolism really is that of a large cat (useful for future illness and emergency), and I found out that Amy really liked me. I had a date with her the Friday after I went back to work. But that's another story!
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