Through the fog of a fever-impaired brain, I heard that word.

“Next.” Moments later, the thought occurred to me that I had not heard the answering rustling of another body getting up to answer that command. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes and saw the nurse standing at the entrance. She was looking in my direction. I’d hoped my nap in the waiting area could last a bit longer; all I really wanted to do was be wrapped up in my favorite blanket at home. Well, obviously these people were on top of their game and there wasn’t going to be any napping going on anytime soon. She led me to a small examining room and closed the door.

“Well, Mrs. Sanderson, what seems to be the problem?” The nurse looked at me expectantly, pen poised to make notes of whatever symptoms I wanted to complain about today. I closed my eyes and sighed deeply. Without opening them, I began to explain exactly what was bothering me.

“My head’s pounding. I have a fever. My eyes hurt when I open ’em, it’s just easier to keep ’em closed. I have no energy–but that’s been going on for a while. My throat hurts when I swallow and I feel like I might throw up, so I guess my stomach is upset.”

The nurse cleared her throat. I opened my eyes. She smiled encouragingly. “Okay, then, I’ll let the Doctor know and he’ll be here in just a few minutes to check you out. You close your eyes and wait right here. We’ll have you feeling better in no time!” She took her pen, her notes, and turned to walk out of the door.  I settled in and tried once again to take a short nap. The pain in my head subsided while I closed my eyes and at least the room was cool and soothingly quiet, both conducive to sleep.

Some time later, I heard a shuffling noise on the other side of the door. I imagined that the doctor was looking at my chart in the plastic box outside my room and quickly using his experience and training from all those years in medical school to come up with a diagnosis. I imagined him looking rather like Dr. House and mentally sorting through every strange illness he’d read about, discarding each one as he sifted through the clues of my illness. I mentally snorted. It was just a cold, for heaven’s sake. No mystery here, doc. A moment later, a wave of dizziness hit me and I was glad my eyes were still closed. If he doesn’t come in soon, I might have to go get the nurse, I thought. That feeling of having to throw up was getting stronger.

Then, just as suddenly, the dizziness was gone. I opened my eyes and saw the nurse take the needle from my arm.

“What’s going on?” I cleared my throat, my voice was weak and whispery. “Why are my arms strapped to the table? Where am I?”  She was smiling as I closed my eyes again. “Don’t you worry, hon. It’ll be your turn soon enough.”

Through the fog of a fever-impaired brain, I heard that word.