Was it the flu? Was it Pneumonia? Was it Lyme Disease? Was it all three combined?
Or was it the Leviathan? Levaquin. That god damn SOB...
The nightmare began when I - perhaps foolishly - decided to seek medical help at an Urgent Care clinic...for the SECOND time. I had already been to Urgent Care two weeks earlier. I had horrible flu symptoms. This virus I had was a bitch. I'd had flus in the past but they all ran their course after three or maybe four days. But this flu? It lingered like a mack daddy and the symptoms kept getting worse! And worse!
I tested positive for Flu Type-A. The doctor (okay, in actuality she was a physician's assistant, aka PA) told me to get some rest, drink a lot of water and keep popping the Tylenol. I heeded her advice and even started feeling better for a few days.
But then it came back. This "flu". It came back with a vengeance. And it brought along a new cough. A nasty cough. One of those coughs that makes you choke when you wake up in the morning. Even my dog was disturbed by it.
With a temperature of 104 or maybe even 105 at times (when I really felt bad I was afraid to take my temperature in fear it would be so fregging high), I knew something wasn't right. So I returned to Urgent Care.
And this was when I received the doomed diagnosis.
According to the doctor...er, I mean physician's assistant...I had pneumonia. She wanted to pump me full of steroids and chase it with an initial shot of antibiotics, something from the Keflex family. But I told her to pump the brakes. I had experienced adverse reactions to steroids in the past. So I said (and I paraphrase) I was all set with that shit, at least for the time being. And as for the antibiotics, I knew that Keflex made me ralph (i.e. throw up) in the past. So I said I'm all set with that shit, too.
She said fine, "I won't give you any of that shit (again, I paraphrase) but I'm going to prescribe you an oral antibiotic called Levaquin. You must take that shit once a day for five days. We must treat this pneumonia aggressively."
I told her I would take this Levaquin. And that was that. She sent me home. I picked up the antibiotic at the pharmacy. I popped a pill. And went on with my life, which mostly - due to me not feeling well - consisted of watching TV, particularly depressing daytime television like "People's Court" and, even worse, "The View". Yuck! More like "The One-Sided, Mind-Poisoning, Brainwashing View"! The lowest of the lowest form of television! Clearly I had hit rock bottom!
The first pill of this Levaquin seemed to go ok. And by the next day I even started to feel better. Fever was down. Flu symptoms subsided. Even my cough got better. Much better.
I was a little dizzy, though. Muscles felt stiff, too. These were new symptoms, most likely side-effects of this Levaquin stuff. But, shit, small price to pay for getting rid of pneumonia, right? God bless Big Pharma, I said to myself. This Levaquin is a godsend.
Next, came the second dose. So far, things were still good. Flu was just about gone by this point. Coughing was better, too. I felt pretty good...
But how did I look? That was where things were getting weird. Because I looked...
Red. In the skin, that is. Sunburnt-red. And then later it became fire-engine-red. And then, even later that night, Frank's-Hot-Sauce-red. I didn't look right. Something was wrong, I thought. But I felt okay. Right? No, wait, WRONG.
At around 10:30 at night, right in the middle of a Nick-at-Nite episode of "Full House", it hit me. I started feeling so hot. And, then, a title wave of dizziness rushed at me. My heart started rapping against my chest like I had just snorted a potato-sack's-worth of cocaine. Oh, fuck, I thought to myself. This isn't good. This is bad.
Desperate for air, I rushed out to my back porch. Then I started pounding glass upon glass of cold water. I also poured glass upon glass of water over my head. I was fighting unconsciousness. A blackout was imminent, trying to take my body over like the Reaper. I was scared as anything. I didn't know how far this feeling would go. Would I collapse completely? All I could think was, "This is what death must feel like! I'm dying! I'm dying!"
My mother witnessed everything that was happening. I told her I think I needed an ambulance. But then I thought about how creepy it would be riding in an ambulance. Then, I thought about my dog and how she would bark and be scared by the paramedics. I also thought about how much the ambulance ride might cost me. I'd heard stories about being blindsided by bills of $500, maybe even more.
Miraculously, I started to stabilize, but my whole body felt numb and I could hardly walk. I knew I needed to get to the ER but I thought I could get there without the ambulance. I was right, I guess, because my dad drove me and I didn't die on the way. And I'm still alive now. As I write this. Obviously.
Upon my arrival at the ER, I was admitted right away by a nurse who was very pleasant but, unfortunately, her shift was about to end and the graveyard nurses were starting their late shifts. These graveyard nurses were unfortunately very cold human beings and perhaps even borderline sociopaths. Then again, I guess it makes a lot of sense that ER nurses lack the capacity to empathize because they probably see some serious shit, almost on a nightly basis. Patients in pain. Patients suffering. Even patients dying. If the nurses felt empathy, they probably couldn't function well in the ER. They'd be an emotional mess all the time.
The doctor of the night was also sociopathic. She entered the room and seemed to stare into space as she tried to assess what was wrong with me. She also had a student nurse standing beside her and, though I didn't say anything about it at the time, I felt uncomfortable being an object of study by a med student. I was essentially on death's door and here was this student using me as a lab rat to educate herself. Or that's what it felt like.
The doctor asked me too many questions and it made me uncomfortable. In fact, I felt as though I was being interrogated, like I was a suspected drug user. I seriously think they thought I smoked some synthetic marijuana or was tweaking out on some bad meth. Molly perhaps. PCP even.
I guess I eventually convinced the space-case of a doctor that my problem was an allergic reaction to a DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED drug called Levaquin because she eventually said she would go fetch some anti-histamine medicine and then she (along with her student) left me alone.
Too alone. I was so lonely in my room and it was so quiet except for the sounds of the nurses gabbing away at the nurse's station down the hall. They were talking about eating at Burger King or something along those lines. The thought of eating Whoppers at that current moment made me want to ralph in a major way, but what made me want to ralph even harder was that the nurses sounded so relaxed and jovial. There they were laughing away in bliss about burgers and kings and they possessed not one flying care about my suffering. Maybe it was narcissistic to think that they would give two cares about me, but I mean, come on, keep the volume at a three (out of eleven) at the most. Sociopaths! But, wait, they have to be! They must turn off the emotions! Too much pain and sadness between these walls! Must lose capacity to empathize!!!
I tried to drown out all the Burger King talk and I accomplished this by looking up to the wall above the doorway. On this wall hung a crucifix and I thought maybe, if I focused on Jesus, it would bring me some comfort. However, I couldn't help but think about all the other patients who had done the very same thing I was doing...sick patients...suffering patients...even dying patients, all looking to Jesus for comfort. Yes, how many doomed souls stared at that very crucifix hanging above the doorway as death took them away to the other dimension? That crucifix was the last thing so many people saw as they died. Really. That was the reality of the situation. So many people had died in the room I was in. Heck, so many people had probably died in the very bed I was in!
Feeling freaked out, I took my eyes away from Jesus and felt so lonely all over again.
But, then, there was a voice.
Not just any voice. A disembodied voice:
"You're gonna be ok."
Wha? Huh? Who said that? The voice was almost a whisper and I had no idea where it had come from. As far as I knew and as far as I could see, I was alone in the room. Was it the voice of an angel? Maybe my guardian angel was manifesting him or herself?
And, thus, the voice spake again:
"Please talk to me."
That was when I realized it wasn't an angel speaking. What I hadn't even noticed was that my room was actually a smaller section of a larger room parted by a long curtain. I had a "roommate" on the other side.
"Oh," I said to the voice behind the curtain. "Hello."
My roomie was a woman, an older woman, with a Swedish accent. I know for a fact that it was Swedish because the woman informed me that she was from Stockholm and she had studied at one of the top universities there. Along with this extraneous info, she also informed me - pretty much right off the bat - that her husband and daughter had died a long time ago.
"Sorry to hear that," I said.
"No, it's a good thing," she said but did not elaborate as to the why.
Overall, the Swede sounded like a creepy ghoul and I only later (into the night) learned that she was drunk out of her gourd. I overheard the nurse say she had a blood/alcohol level of 100. Of course, that sounds unrealistically high but I swear that's what I heard, which further leads me to believe that I may have, indeed, died - just a for a little while - and went off to some strange, alternative dimension.
The strangeness didn't stop with the Swedish woman, though. Just when I thought things couldn't get any creepier, I happened to hear a nurse say from down the hall, "Dr. Rosen, (name changed because I don't remember the real name), are you ok with treating a prisoner from Norfolk Correctional?" The doctor said, "Yes, that's fine."
"Shit!" I wanted to yell. "Hate this place!" First, it was my creepy roommate. Now there was going to be a maximum-security (okay, maybe it's more like medium-security) prisoner just a few doors down from me? Certainly I had died and entered a twilight zone!
That was when a female "tech" came to wheel my bed to the X-ray room. She didn't say anything to me. In fact, the only noise she made was heavy breathing and her lungs rattled as oxygen went in and out of her trachea. I concluded that this phenomenon was probably due to her being a heavy smoker. Helping me make this conclusion was the fact that she smelled like stale Virginia Slims.
In the X-ray room, I managed to stand on my two feet so the sniffling, runny-nosed X-ray tech could X-ray my chest and check on the status of my supposed pneumonia. Then, the sniffling X-ray tech wheeled me out into the hall where I had to wait for the rattling-lung tech to return and take me back to my room.
There I waited, all alone in the quiet, eerie hallway, somewhere deep into the hospital. Well, I was alone, but I didn't feel alone. Call me insane (and, trust me, I was probably hallucinating at that point) but I felt entities all around me. Lost souls. People who had died in the ER. Surrounding me. Wanting a piece of me. Wanting to suck the teat of my energetic body, my life force.
I felt so horrible and I also felt, damn, this is how I'm going to die! All alone in a quiet, creepy, hospital ward. This is how I'm going to die!
After a few minutes, the raspy, ghost-like tech returned, wheeled me back to my room, told me how to operate the TV remote control (which I guess was nice of her) and, by that time, both of my parents had come to keep me company and, God, how happy I was to see them!
The rest of the night went better. At least I wasn't alone and the doctor seemed to treat me more respectfully with my parents present. I guess my folks validated the fact that I wasn't a drug addict from off the street. I seriously think, up until that point, the doctor was still convinced I had smoked something rotten or huffed something fierce. She did a blood test...urine test...I'm sure she was expecting to see some illegal toxin turn up. Didn't happen, though. Nothing but Levaquin. Yes, your beloved pharmaceutical was the only thing to blame here. Your beloved Levaquin!
They hooked me into an IV and gave me steroids, Benadryl and Pepcid, all three of which collectively help stabilize allergic reactions. My heart rate went down. I felt a little better, at least like I was a few steps further away from death's door.
Finding nothing on the X-ray, the doctor decided to do a CT scan, but nothing was found there either. She ultimately determined that there was no way I could've ever had pneumonia. It was impossible for it to disappear in a day, she said. The Urgent Care diagnosis was likely a mis-diagnosis and I took the Levaquin for nothing. Dammit!
But, for whatever reason, this didn't stop the doctor from giving me two more antibiotics, Ampicillin and Sulbactam, via IV. I told the nurse that I was feeling a little weird again and, "Since there's no evidence of pneumonia, couldn't we maybe stop the antibiotics?" I thought this was a perfectly reasonable request but then the nurse went to fetch the doctor and the doctor said, "You seem uptight. Do you want me to give you something to help calm you down?" I said, "Well, hmmm, seeing that I'm having an allergic meltdown from a doctor-prescribed drug, AND you also just pumped me full of steroids, Benadryl, Pepcid AND two other pointless antibiotics, not to mention that black dye you injected into me for the CT scan, I would say 'no' to that. No, I do not want any more junk in my system." The doctor gave me a look that said, holy shit, a patient's never turned down anti-anxiety drugs before, "Maybe my horoscope today was right about expecting the unexpected," and then she walked away to prepare my discharge papers.
Discharged, yes, at 5:30 in the morning.
Did I feel better? No. Not really. But did I want to get the hell out of the hospital? Yes. I did. I figured I would go home, pop another Benadryl and I would be OK. The hospital was giving me the heebie-jeebies and I did NOT want to spend another minute there. If I were going to die, I wanted to die at home.
So, my parents took me home from the hospital that morning, we stopped at a 24-hour CVS for Benadryl first, then I returned home to my own bed, dropped a Dryl and went to sleep.
One hour later...
I wake up. Room spinning. So dizzy. Utter anxiety. I feel panic. I'm making too much of this, I think. Suck it up. I do NOT want to go back to the ER. No way. Fight this feeling. Walk this off.
And that's exactly what I did. I tried walking it off, right to the downstairs bathroom where, full-clothed, I ducked my head under the shower, dousing myself with the coldest of water. This felt good but I was still fighting unconsciousness from taking me over. It felt like Death, that fiend, was fighting to take control of me. I could literally feel the struggle between life and death, like...like an arm-wrestling match...yes, that's actually a great analogy right there. But Death was strong, man. I could feel its awe-inspiring power.
Again, I did NOT want to go back to the sociopathic hospital. And as far as letting anybody else know (mainly, my parents) about my current condition, I guess I didn't want to alarm them. They were still sleeping since they, too, were up all night.
All I could think to do was pray. I just kept praying for help. If I were dying, then I was dying. I just wanted to make sure I had divine assistance with the process and I wanted to be sure my soul was guided and helped to the rightful place after I died. I didn't want to be a lost soul.
Miraculously, I never lost consciousness, but I still felt Death fighting to take me away. The more I walked around and moved around, the more I felt conscious. So I kept walking. In fact, I walked outside my house, into the backyard, took off my shoes and socks, and then walked barefoot on the cool, dewy grass. I kept doing this for the next 40 minutes. Paced back and forth. I needed to keep moving. I wasn't going to let unconsciousness take me over.
There was something about being barefoot, naked feet against the damp grass, that made me feel better. I think it made me feel more rooted to the earth. On some primal, instinctive level, I felt like the more rooted I was, the more grounded I was and, the more grounded you are, the more alive and attached to this earth you are, and the more attached to this earth you are, the further you are from DEATH!
But, man, if there were a video camera filming me that whole time, I must've looked like a zombie. Or maybe a rabid animal. My blood felt so poisoned. I can't tell you how many times I got to the point where I wanted to scream, "Help me! Help me!" off the top of my lungs. I felt so hysterical, in utter fight-or-flight panic. I saw a woman walking her dog in the neighborhood and I wanted to run up to her, grab her by the shoulders and scream "Help me!" But I knew I would totally freak her out. I knew I looked like a rabid zombie.
It was about 7am in the morning, July 25. I will never forget July 25, 2017, because that was the day I - for real - thought I was going to die. There's that cliché that says your life "flashes before your eyes" when you're faced with death. Well, it's a cliché because it's true. I don't even know how to express the feeling. It was like I could see my childhood, family vacations, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, then post-college and then I could see my death and I could see my life wrapped up in the final package. Yes, 35 years bundled into a package. It was seriously like a life-review. I could see the theme of my life and, what the main "point of it" was.
I could also see my wake in my mind's eye. I could see that people were sad because I died so young. And then I saw my funeral. I could hear my eulogy, what would be said about me. "He was passionate about writing, blah blah, blah...went down a unique path in life, blah blah blah."
Pardon my Mandarin, but it was so fucked up, seeing all this - the life review and the impending wake/funeral - so vividly. I thought to myself, "Wow, this is the process everybody goes through in the end. This is what death feels like. It was all so abstract before but now I'm experiencing it myself, *living* through death, as much of a paradox as that may seem to be."
I kept praying and praying to the Lord. I felt like I was bargaining with Him. "There's so many more positive things I can do, God. I can do so much more. I don't want to go right now. I'm not ready. I have so much unfinished business. Show me how to help you, God. I am your humble servant."
Eventually, I realized I could only pray so much and I was avoiding the inevitable. I knew I needed to go back to the hospital. That was the logical thing to do. That was the wise thing to do. I wasn't "walking this all off". I needed professional assistance, even though it would most likely come from sociopaths.
So I (calmly) woke up my parents (didn't want them to freak out), told them I needed to be driven back to the ER, but that was when my dad reminded me that the doctor had prescribed steroids and maybe those would make me feel better? Oh, right, the steroids. I guess that sounded reasonable. I should probably try what the doctor prescribed to me before I go back to the ER. The doctor prescribed the Roids for a reason.
My dad kindly made the trip to the pharmacy (I obviously wasn't fit to drive), procured the steroids - prednisone or something similar - I popped two of them and, oh...I did actually feel better, a little more stable. Maybe that's what I needed the whole time. Of course! I was still fighting the allergic reaction, after all! God bless steroids! All would be swell now, right?
Not quite. I took it easy during the day, popped another steroid later on, but, by afternoon, I felt horrible again. So friggin' drained. All the pacing must've caught up to me, I thought. So I took a nap, and then I woke up, ate a little food, most of which I could hardly get down, AND...
Crap, it was happening again. Are you kidding me?! My skin was turning tomato-soup-red, just like the previous night. I started getting hot, too. Heart rate went from zero-to-sixty. Numbness. Tingling. The whole nine yards. Now there was no debating it this time; it was back to the hospital for me. There was no other logical alternative.
Back to the ER I went and I was once again admitted pretty much right away. There was a different doctor working the graveyard shift on this particular night but she was just as sociopathic as the one from the previous night, if not more sociopathic. She basically assessed my situation, put an order in for another cocktail of anti-histaminic medications and that was it. I didn't see her for the rest of the night.
Fortunately, the (male) nurse who administered the medications via IV was extremely caring and his non-sociopathic personality basically made up for two-nights-worth of medical pathologicals. The only downside was that he did take a while to start treating me with the medicine but this was because he was busy treating a patient across the hall who had Lyme disease. Though I was blind to it at the time, this was the universe probably giving me a sign, because little did I know that I also had Lyme disease. That's right: it wasn't until another three weeks or so after my nightmare with Levaquin that I officially got diagnosed with Lyme disease and this may have been what was causing all my issues to begin with - the alleged "flu", "pneumonia", and the like.
But I'm getting just a tad ahead of myself here.
After that second night in the ER, I fortunately didn't have another hospital-worthy "reaction". I kept taking the steroids for another four or five days, though I probably only took half the dose of what I was supposed to. This was because the steroids themselves seemed to give me potentially harmful side-effects, the most significant of which was ear pressure and eventual popping, like I had just been on an airplane with a head cold. You know the feeling.
For the next week or so, I experienced several different symptoms, one right after another. First, it was chest pain...or, actually, it felt like lung pain, which made me freak out because I thought I still had pneumonia. I gave the pain a few days and it eventually disappeared. Weird.
Then, I couldn't open my jaw. The jaw joint, or hinge, was all inflamed. I had trouble eating anything that required me opening my mouth wide and I had to chew with very small bites. Weirder.
After my jaw pain subsided, my throat swelled up. I thought for sure I had a streppe and I would have to take more antibiotics, which, for obvious reasons, made me panic because I did NOT want to take any more antibiotics. However, after three days or so, the sore throat disappeared.
Three days. That's how long each of these symptoms seemed to last and then it would be on to the next weird symptom. Muscle pain. Back pain. Kidney pain...
On top of everything else, I could hardly walk...I mean, I could walk but I couldn't walk, as in exercise-walk. If I walked more than 50 yards outside, I would come back home, completely crash and then...THEN...came what-I-will-call the "episodes".
Yes, the episodes. The episodes would happen at unpredictable times but usually after significant physical activity and when I say "significant", for me that meant a brief (less than 20 minutes) walk or oftentimes something as simple as giving myself a haircut or even taking a friggin' shower.
Said "episode" consisted of me suddenly being hit with a wave of dizziness, extreme shakiness, heat and an overall feeling of needing to fight for consciousness. In other words, it felt like I was having a reaction to the Levaquin all over again, though I'm not quite sure this is what was happening. Whenever I felt these episodes happening, I blasted the air conditioning in my house and proceeded to pour glass upon glass of water over my head. Besides cooling me down, the cold of the water shocked my nerves and kept me conscious. I did this more out of instinct than out of conscious decision. It felt like something I needed to do and something that would help me. I think I was right.
Anyway, the episodes became frequent and happened at unpredictable times, eventually prompting me to see my newly-acquired primary care physician. Yes, I hadn't needed a PCP before then because I hardly ever needed to see a doctor, I was always healthy, whereas now I was suddenly Mr. Health Problems.
After explaining my various symptoms, my PCP and I decided it would be good if I got tested for Lyme disease, though both my doctor and myself thought it was extremely unlikely I had Lyme since I had tested positive for the flu. Could I have had both Lyme and the flu at the same time? Sure. But, c'mon, the odds of that were pretty slim. I figured I had a really bad flu virus and then things got way worse because of (needlessly) taking a very strong drug (Levaquin) that messed me up something nasty.
To my surprise, a few days went by and the test results came back positive. According to my doctor, I had "acute" Lyme disease, the "acute" part meaning that it was a recent infection, as opposed to "chronic", which means the Lyme had been in my system for years. So was the "flu" not a flu after all but Lyme disease the whole time? Could the flu test have been wrong???
Well, according to my doctor, the answer to that question was 'yes'. He said that there was a 30-to-40-percent chance of getting a false positive with the flu test, especially when your body is in the middle of fighting off Lyme disease. This was all news to me and it meant that Urgent Care probably gave me a false diagnosis not once (with pneumonia) but twice! In other words, Urgent Care did nothing to help me at all whatsoever. In fact, they only served to destroy me. Thanks, Urgent Care!
Okay, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Urgent Care. I'll give the physician's assistant a pass with the flu test. If the test was positive, I can see why she said I had Type-A flu. Why question it at that point? The PA had asked me if I was bitten by any ticks recently and I hadn't been bitten (that I knew of). Why WOULD she expect something like Lyme?
But the pneumonia? All right, she probably DID see lung inflammation in the X-rays. This inflammation was likely due to the Lyme and I did, indeed, have a bad cough so she must have seen SOMETHING in the lungs. Did it look like a really bad pneumonia, though? I mean, did it warrant an "aggressive" (PA's words) treatment, with steroids, an initial shot of Keflex and the super-strong beast of an antibiotic that is Levaquin? I wouldn't think so. I don't know, I'm not a doctor, but that seemed reckless to me.
Anyway, as I write this, I'm battling the Lyme disease with a four-week round of Doxycycline. Was I nervous about taking the Doxy? You bet your bottom butt I was. However, I decided to consult with yet another doctor - a more "alternative" doctor - who told me to take the vitamin supplement Molybdenum (1600 whole micro-grams daily) to help my liver process the Doxy. He said, otherwise, the Doxy would make me sick. For whatever reason, my liver wasn't functioning well. Could have been the Lyme that messed it up. Also could have been the Levaquin. The jury's still out on that one.
Currently, I'm on my fourth week of Doxy and, though I feel better, I'm still far away from normal. I still have dizziness, shakiness and overall lethargy. I also still can't walk much without feeling awful afterwards. I used to run pretty much every other day, several miles, do bleacher work-outs, push-ups, the works...but now I can hardly walk more than 200-300 yards at a time. Now, it very well could be true that this is still the Lyme kicking my ass in. But my fear is that the Levaquin did some hardcore damage and it's the Levaquin that's still making me feel so bad.
In fact, many of these fears were confirmed after doing some Googling and stumbling upon a condition known as "fluoroquinolone toxicity". Levaquin is part of this fluoroquinolone family, as is Cipro and a couple other hardcore antibiotics. Basically, it means that you've been poisoned by the antibiotic and you will perpetually continue to feel poisoned unless you do something about it.
One thing I was directed to do (by my alternative doctor) was to keep taking the Molybdenum, even after I finish the Doxy. The Moly will help my liver manufacture the necessary enzymes to aid in my detoxification process. In other words, it will help my liver get back to a state where it's functioning normally and I'll feel more normal again, at least in theory. Hopefully.
As for what else to do? Well, I'll continue to see the doctor for guidance, the alternative doctor that is. He'll tell me what vitamins and minerals I may need to help build my body up to the state it was in before I encountered the Leviathan that is Levaquin with a twist of Lyme. Only time will tell whether I have fluoroquinolone toxicity or whether all my problems are due to Lyme. I wish I could separate one culprit from the other but, unfortunately, every problem I have could be from either poison. The symptoms of toxicity and Lyme are virtually identical to each other.
At any rate, I would seriously recommend to anyone reading this to think twice before taking Levaquin or any other fluoroquinolone. Even if Lyme is my prevailing problem now, Levaquin seemed to almost kill me and, if you do some browsing online, you will find a whole slew of similar horror stories. In some cases, I'm sure the benefits of taking a drug like Levaquin outweigh the risks but I would imagine that would only be if you have a very serious, life-threatening infection, such as a serious case of pneumonia, which I did not have. And again, even if I did have pneumonia, it must've been mild, so throwing Levaquin at me was reckless and stupid.
To her credit, maybe the physician's assistant that prescribed the Levaquin didn't even know how dangerous Levaquin actually is. Maybe she's ignorant, but, shit, if she has the power to prescribe it, she ought to know what the drug is capable of. Even if she's mindlessly following proper protocol, that doesn't mean she still can't kill people.
Of course, if I were to have died at any point this summer, the official death certificate would have said, "death due to complications with pneumonia," not "death due to the Leviathan that is Levaquin." In our society today, pharmaceutical drugs are to be unquestioned and uncriticized. Pharmaceutical companies are gods and laying any blame on their drugs for any amount of destruction that you may endure would be considered blasphemy.
Our response to this should be that we need to be more vigilant. We need to question the doctors much more than we usually do, not place so much trust in them, because they have, in a lot of cases, become puppets for the profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry. If they give you a drug and your gut says something doesn't feel right about it, you shouldn't be afraid to say, "no way am I taking that shit, doc." It's your body and your body is YOUR body - emphasis on YOUR body, not the doctor's body - and allowing some of these drugs into your body is like allowing pure evil into them. They can be such destructive substances. They can absolutely ruin you as they did me...at least temporarily and I'm hoping it only stays temporary. Only time will tell.
So beware! Take care!
Six Weeks Later (November 2017):
I finished the Doxycycline towards the end of September, started a regimen of vitamins (as "prescribed" by my doctor) and started improving for a period of a few weeks. Feeling better, I started doing some video work in Boston, which apparently put too much stress on my body and my health started going downhill again.
This downward spiral started on one particular night where I suddenly felt as though I was losing my mind. It's very difficult to explain the sensation but it felt like something was literally trying to suck my brain out of my head. I also had this weird feeling of dreaming while in an awake state. Every action in my waking life vaguely reminded me of a dream that I felt like I'd just had but I didn't really just have because I had been awake for more than 12 hours. To put it another way, I would say that I had a constant feeling of deja vu and the natural response to a deja vu is for your mind to retrieve the "memory" that you're vaguely remembering. My problem was that I could never retrieve this memory, mainly because it never existed in the first place.
Along with the deja vu's, my short term memory seemed impaired and I had the worst case of brain fog I think I had ever experienced. I could hardly concentrate on anything. Simple tasks like reading a news article, watching TV or even cooking fried eggs became very difficult for me. Again, it literally felt like I was losing my mind or at least becoming mentally handicapped. I think it was a taste of what dementia felt like. And I did not like this taste. It was terrifying.
I survived through that night and, although the deja vu sensation grew less intense, it still lingered throughout the next couple of weeks along with the short term memory problems and especially the brain fog. I managed to do some research on the Internet and stumbled upon a phenomenon known as "Lyme brain", which is essentially stage 2 of Lyme disease, the stage immediately following the fever/flu-like/joint pain stage. Stage 2 is a neurological stage. Your brain and nervous system are affected. Every symptom I was experiencing sounded like this Lyme: Stage 2. What did this mean, then? Did I still have Lyme?
Or was the Levaquin still a factor? Upon doing more research, I learned that every symptom I experienced also resembled symptoms relating to fluoroquinolone toxicity.
But, no maybe it wasn't the Levaquin, either! Upon doing even more research, I realized my symptoms also could have been Candida die-off. What's Candida? It's a fungal problem that results from taking too many antibiotics that kill off your body's good bacteria. Brain fog and mental confusion were two big Candida symptoms. I, of course, took a shit-load of antibiotics -- Levaquin, Doxycycline, even the steroids I took are known to exacerbate fungal problems. Maybe I had Candida!
Aside from all the mental symptoms, my physical body started feeling more and more 'off' again, mainly fatigued and toxic-feeling, kind of like there was poison in my blood. Again, these feelings could have been attributed to Candida die-off...OR fluoroquinolone toxicity...OR Stage 2 of Lyme. It was impossible to pinpoint the root-cause of my problems.
My physical unraveling of health lasted about two weeks and, finally, on a Friday afternoon, I got to the point where I could barely even walk, and I'm not talking exercise-walk; I mean I couldn't walk, period. I was so off balance, uncoordinated, dizzy and my muscles felt so weak. I also had the worst case of anxiety I'd ever felt, kind of like there was something pushing an anxiety button inside of me. No matter what I did, I could not calm down. I had no control over it. All this anxiety completely killed my appetite. I could hardly get any food down.
Since walking was such a chore, I basically stayed put on the couch all day and I was so depressed because it seemed like any progress I'd made had, for whatever reason, been reversed. Not only was I back to square one but I was worse than I had ever been throughout the whole 3-4 month Lyme experience.
At this point, I was literally coming to terms with the fact that there was an extremely good possibility that I was going to die. In fact, I was literally getting myself death-ready, tying up little loose ends in my life as best I could. It was the most -- pardon my Spanish -- fucked-up feeling in the world, thinking that you're living out the last few days of your life. What saddens me is that many people out there must experience this feeling all the time, whether they've been diagnosed with cancer or some other disease, or maybe they're being held hostage or they're a prisoner of war etc. You can't fully understand how fucked-up a feeling it is until you experience it first-hand. Staring right into the eyes of death, seeing the Reaper drooling over your soul, eagerly anticipating the act of taking you out of this earthly dimension...okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic but, yeah, it's so messed up.
Anyway, I was just about ready to let it happen, to let death take me away. But I wanted to have one last conversation with God. And this is what I said to Him:
I said, "God, if this is the end, then I accept it. I just want you to know that I really want to live. I realize I've been a schmuck and I've taken both my health and my life in general for granted. I've never been happy in the present moment. I've always been dwelling on the past, or thinking about the future, but I've never been in the present moment. There were countless moments where I would be walking outside or running in the woods with an energized, healthy body, and I've never knelt down to the dirt, felt that dirt in my hands and said, 'This right here, this dirt I'm feeling and this air I'm breathing...this is good enough. This is good enough right now.' I never did that and I'm so stupid for never doing that. Health, life, the present moment...it was all overlooked, all taken for granted. Please, God, please give me a second chapter to appreciate the present moment. I may not deserve it and I understand if that's the case, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask."
I sat still for a moment and let the prayer sink into the cosmos. I started thinking that, if I DID, indeed, end up living (which I genuinely thought was unlikely), this was maybe all a blessing in disguise. Maybe I couldn't appreciate the present moment until I saw what it was like to have that present moment taken away from me. I felt ashamed that I needed to have my present "destroyed" in order for me to appreciate it. But maybe that was the only way. It's our human nature to take things for granted. We don't know what's right under our nose until it's removed from us.
Honestly, I didn't think my prayer to God was going to make a difference, not because I thought God would ignore me, but because I thought my fate was already sealed. Maybe I wasn't thinking very clearly and, trust me, I WASN'T, but I thought it was more than likely "my time" and I unfortunately wouldn't have a second chance to live more in the present and appreciate the oxygen under my nose and the dirt that's beneath my feet.
But, miraculously, I started to improve. The anxiety lessened and I actually felt hungry, specifically for spaghetti, but at least I was hungry for something.
With spaghetti in my belly, I felt even better. Was this all a trick? More torture? Get my hopes up and then crush them all over again? No, I really seemed to be improving. Maybe I wasn't going to 'snuff it' after all.
Part of my improvement was triggered by a shift in my attitude. And this shift in attitude came from an unlikely place. While I was feeling oh-so-sick, I watched an episode of Stranger Things (season 2), which had just been released on Netflix for Halloween weekend, everybody was buzzing about the show, it was all the rage etc. I think it was in episode two or three (again, season 2) where Sean Astin's character, Bob Newby, describes a recurring nightmare he had as a child. A creepy man named Mr. Baldo haunted him in his dreams and Bob was always afraid of this man, ran away from him etc. But then he eventually realized that this Mr. Baldo in his nightmares fed off of his fear. So, in the next nightmare, he decided to stand his ground and tell Mr. Baldo that he's not afraid. Mr. Baldo backed down, boom, just like that. Bob never had another nightmare with Baldo again.
While watching this scene, I heard a voice in my head say that the Lyme disease fed off my fear and I needed to stand my ground, tell that shit to fuck off, and then I would start feeling better.
Well, that's exactly what I did. I said (somewhat aloud), "Fuck off, Lyme disease! I'm not letting you kill me! I'm in control here, ya limey bastard, and I'm going to live!"
It sounds melodramatic but I felt much better when I said that aloud to myself. If you really think about it, Lyme disease (like any disease) is just a bundle of negative energy, like...like the Mind Flayer entity in Stranger Things (wow, the parallels keep presenting themselves). This negative energy wants to destroy you, that is its mission, and the best way to battle this negative energy is with positive energy. If you show fear, that fear only feeds the negative Mind Flayer that is Lyme and only makes it more powerful.
Now, I know what you're saying: oh boy, here's another dude saying "positive thoughts" can make everything swell. That's not completely what I'm saying. I still think you need the right medicine and vitamins etc. But all I'm saying is that positive energy can help change the momentum of a disease and, with the help of more practical things like the right doctors/medicine/vitamins etc., it can get a pesky disease like Lyme to fuck off, go back to its negative dimension in the "upside down" and, yes, I'm still using Stranger Things analogies here if you're not familiar.
Anyway, long story short, I've been doing better. I'm still nowhere close to being 100% better but I'm at least going uphill once again as opposed to downhill. My shift in attitude helped but I also revisited my doctor, altered my vitamin regimen and specifically focused on supplements that would help boost my liver function (more molybdenum but also alpha-lipoic acid and Tocotrieonols). Again, positive thoughts are helpful, but you still need to be practical as well; you know, you can't just sit in a room and think positive. You need to take practical steps to make yourself better but the positive thought helps steer you in the proper direction so you can better see those steps that need to be taken. Am I making sense here? I think I probably am.
As far as what my core problem is, the medical consensus (according to both my conventional doctor and alternative doctor) is that I do not have Candida and I do not have Lyme and, though the Levaquin still might be a problem, it's more likely that I'm simply being affected by -- not the Lyme itself -- but the damage Lyme left behind, hence the neurological, Lyme: Stage 2 symptoms.
But maybe the "damage" isn't the only factor at play. Like I said before, maybe the Lyme is not just a physical pathogen but a negative energy and that energy can destroy your body and mind just as severely as the pathogen itself. What I'm getting at here is that this is a spiritual battle between good and evil, positive energy and negative energy. I'm sure you think I'm nuts and I am probably being a tad dramatic here but I do feel there is some truth to what I say. The Lyme disease is the shadow monster in Stranger Things lurking in the "upside down" dimension using the Lyme as a gateway to invade my body, take it over and destroy it. That's what it feels like anyway, and, to some extent, I think I'm onto something here.
Either way, it's good to stay positive, folks. And don't take your health for granted! Don't take life for granted! Don't take the present moment for granted! When you're outside in nature, take a moment to smell the oxygen beneath your nose and also take a moment to crouch down and feel the dirt with your hands. Appreciate what's right beneath you.
Of course, showing appreciation for the present moment is easier said than done, no doubt about that. In fact, it's only been a week or so since I've been feeling better and already I've caught myself thinking too much about the past and/or the future. It's hard to stay present but I think it will be a little easier now since I've seen what it's like to have that present be on the brink of obliteration. Lacking the present (i.e. being dead) scares the crap out of me. I'm all set with death. For now, at least. Screw death, man. F that noise.