As I was getting ready for work on Friday morning, a spot beneath my left knee started to itch, and I noticed what looked like a routine bug bite. I put some hydrocortisone on it, pulled on my tights, and went to work as usual. When I got home that afternoon, the bite seemed to be itching more than usual, and so I kept on putting hydrocortisone on it and went to bed. The area started to swell, but I am sensitive to just about everything both inside and out, so I didn't bother too much about it. When I woke up the next morning, it had swollen to a red, hot spot about the size of a third of a grapefruit. I did a little Googling, and decided that since I didn't have a fever or trouble breathing, it must've just been a doozy of a bite. I took some homeopathic pills that I read might be effective for bug bites, and then I put on exercise clothes to go meet my friend Deb for our routine Saturday morning walk along the East River.
We started out as usual, but by the time we made it over to the riverwalk, something didn't feel right. I showed her the bump, and we agreed to talk to the pharmacist at Target once we got up there. (Sidenote: We discovered that there is no pharmacy at the East Harlem Target.) Our stroll along the river was stopped short by carnage from Superstorm Sandy that had just passed through town on Monday night. Trees were down everywhere, and yellow caution tape stopped us from using the walkway. We were both surprised at how much of the park had been cleaned up already. There were fallen trees cut neatly into uniform length pieces stacked up along the sides of the green areas.
We continued on up 1st Avenue and witnessed the patient drivers in line at the gas stations that seemed to still have some supply left. We watched less patient drivers back up and make U-turns to exit on the entrance ramps to the FDR. Patience is not a virtue in NYC, that's for sure. Where else could mass transit be back up and running (even at 40% capacity) within 48 hours? Not in Atlanta, that's for sure. People walking across the Queensboro bridge to get to work on Wednesday because the buses were too full? New Yorkers are tenacious, and I guess that's what gives this town its paradoxical notorious and glorious energy.
I suppose I should back up and talk about the hurricane that swept through town on Monday night. Subways closed down at 7pm last Sunday night in preparation. Stores and shops were quickly out of supplies, and I observed some really atrocious behavior as Upper East Siders fought over the last gallon of milk at Duane Reade on 1st Avenue and 76th St. I decided to forgo the insanity and walked across the street to the health foods store that seemed to have endless supplies of overpriced milk, bread, and foodstuffs that promise all kinds of miraculous health benefits. I grabbed one of each, and made my way to the counter. I also grabbed a few bottles of water, which were oddly, not overpriced at all. In my opinion, that's the stuff to mark up, because you know, there was a hurricane coming. I always have extra water in my apartment, just in case, but I grabbed a few more bottles jumping on the mass hysteria bandwagon. (One time I had to brush my teeth with Evian b/c they decided to work on the plumbing in my building with no warning. This is when a gym membership comes in handy for showering.) Then I went back to my apartment and just waited for Sandy.
The clouds had been ominously churning overhead since Saturday, but Sunday afternoon, the temps rapidly dropped and you could feel the gusty wind chill your bones. I couldn't stop watching the local news either. I tried to watch DVRed shows, but I couldn't concentrate on anything really. I was panicked that I had to try to go to work in this mess because my managers decided that since I lived in Manhattan, I didn't need a hotel near the office. So I was super anxious about that as well. I knew I wasn't going to sleep much, and that work was going to be a total trainwreck every day. I wasn't wrong on any level.
Monday morning was pretty uneventful. I ran home as soon as my show was off the air, and I didn't wait around to finish my shift. (This is when being salaried comes in handy. TTYL, fools.)
Monday night was terrifying because I couldn't stop watching the local news reporters that were out in this mess broadcasting from dangerous locales. I finally went to bed at 8pm when the storm had arrived in Manhattan. To me, it seemed like a really bad rainstorm just outside my window, but I knew Sandy was causing all kinds of havoc in more open areas. I had to go to work at 2am the next morning, which was originally the predicted peak time of the surge in Manhattan. My managers didn't understand why I was worrying so much about being asked to go in at that ridiculous time mid-storm surge, and fortunately for me, the surge happened earlier than predicted, around 10pm that night. It was all over by 1am.
Tuesday morning at 2am, my co-worker Roger, a CNN cameraman who is also an auxiliary police officer, picked me up at my apartment. He had a decked out Suburban and a whole lot of common sense, so I felt we would probably be ok. Two of my co-workers were in the same boat and live in my neighborhood, so Roger picked us all up and then drove us to work with the police lights on. It was pretty damn fabulous, but only because we were no longer in danger. I think all three of us went to bed terrified the night before because we were being asked to risk our lives to get into work on time. Our managers were so proud of themselves for working out this “excellent solution.” But the three of us were super pissed about it. Thank God Mother Nature's timing worked out for us. Or else we might have become the news.
Quick sidenote of heroism – Roger had been up all Monday night helping evacuate NYU hospital patients, and he was in most of the b-roll video that we aired of the story later during the morning show. The dude is seriously awesome. He hadn't slept all night, helped those patients and EMT crews, and then still came to pick us up and deliver us to work on time. And then he worked a full shift at our news org before heading home to sleep.
And then came the most emotional week of work I've had since 9/11. (Jen Belknap, I really thought of you a lot last week.) Not because it was any more or less devastating than the South Asian tsunami, Katrina, or Rita. Sandy certainly was handled better by the authorities, and for that I commend them. But this time, it was completely personal. I had visited so many of the storm-ravaged areas that are now completely unrecognizable. I have friends and co-workers that live in many of those places who lost not only water and power, but their homes in many cases. I couldn't believe how many people at my office decided to come to work despite the carnage at home. I do think a lot of people felt they didn't have a choice, although, others in our office seem to live for this kind of storytelling. I do not. I am selfish these days, and I value my safety entirely first. And I very much resented having to go in without any reasonable protection.
Watching the city clean up and endless press conferences giving updates on power outages, food supplies, gas shortages, etc etc etc made the week seem endless. And I couldn't just leave it at work. When I came home every day, I watched local news constantly until it was time for bed. I was happy to try to resume some normalcy when the weekend arrived, and I was exhausted from the adrenaline rush of the week's coverage at work.
So anyway, that brings me back to Saturday morning. Deb and I went for our walk, went to Target, bought groceries, and then came home. When I finally got home around noon that day, my calf had swelled up to twice the size it had been earlier in the morning. I got super nervous and called the nurse's hotline on the back of my insurance card. The nurse on the phone told me to get to the ER because I'd probably need aggressive antibiotics. She said it sounded like a case of “cellulitis.” Awesome. (That sounds like something you need to just get a spa treatment for, doesn't it?) Deb and I had plans to go see a play that afternoon, but Mr. Gyllenhaal would have to wait.
We spent seven hours at the ER with Dr. McDreamy and his glamorous staff. Everyone at Lenox Hill looks like they should be on TV. I think they are secretly filming a show there. They must be. I've never seen so many good-looking people at a hospital in my life. Seriously, Deb and I made it a game to spot ugly people working at LHH. We found none. So to change up my usual weekend routine a bit, I spent this particular Saturday mingling with lots of good-looking, professional adults. I, myself, was wearing a delightfully attractive V-neck, abstract print hospital gown that inadvertently flashed everyone every time I got up. What's sexier than that?
None of the doctors seemed particularly worried about my condition. What did stump them was the fact that I am allergic to most of the common types of antibiotics they use to treat this cellulitis problem. I'm special, you see. Regular people meds don't work on me. So they tried a couple of different things before they found one that didn't make me turn red or break out into a rash, and then they kept me overnight for monitoring because of the adverse reaction I had earlier in the day to drug number 2. I was discharged yesterday afternoon, and everything should be ok in the long run. I am on antibiotics for the next 10 days, and then I'm supposed to check in with my regular doctor.
The great news is that I am on bed rest for most of this week, so I will be missing all the crazy hours and the election coverage that I was scheduled for at work. I am armed with Netflix, DVDs and library books. And my local friends have been absolutely amazing as well. Anar, who was in town covering the hurricane for her news outlet, came by the hospital on Saturday night. Deb wouldn't leave LHH on Saturday until they settled me in the overnight hospital room, and then she came by on Sunday to oversee my discharge too. And Shalini came over last night and hung out after Deb left for church. Not to mention all the other friends that checked in when they heard the news. I was also really touched by all the co-workers that asked if I needed anything, especially since most of them are dealing with bigger life and housing problems at home themselves post-Sandy.