Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

These are weird times to be getting a fever. But 100.4 it was, and when the body aches started, I put down the thermometer and went around the house testing to see if I could smell and taste things.

Three opened perfume bottles and a couple of cookies later, I decided it wouldn’t be COVID-19, and relaxed a bit.

And then I saw the rash.

It was dark red and blotchy, and covered my whole left leg –the leg that’s already compromised because of the lymphedema swelling that happened after cancer treatment. I look at the leg about 10 times more often than I look at my own face – I spend a lot of my time tending to it.

The rash was troubling, but it was a Friday night and the doctor’s office was closed, and I didn’t really want to go to the emergency room for all the new reasons and all the obvious old ones.

And so I waited it out.

Until Sunday morning, when things got more red and uglier and I felt worse. The physician’s assistant at urgent care looked at it and said, “blood clot,” which was not on the list of 15 possibilities I’d self-diagnosed via Google. Off to the emergency room I went, a drive that was just five minutes but contained hours worth of panic.

Funny how our brains can carry us off to the high cliffs of doom. As the transport worker wheeled me on my stretcher through the hallways of the hospital, I worried about what may lie ahead. Blood thinner? Surgery? A long hospital stay?

This trip to the ultrasound room was taking forever. Down hallways we went, then squeezed onto elevators, off elevators, through automatic doors, down more hallways, past the gift shop, around a corner. Did someone tell the transport guy to kill some time? Was this a joke? Or was the hospital really that big?

The ultrasound technician ran her probe all around my leg, capturing the image on a screen. Why was she spending so much time by the knee? Is that a furrowed brow on her face? Everything on the screen looked like bad news. I resisted the urge to pepper her with questions.

Another whirlwind trip landed me back in the ER, where a masked doctor stepped through the door to announce it was not a blood clot, but an infection. One bump near the knee suggested an insect bite.

Where’d I get it? Who knows. A bike trail would be a likely scenario, but then again, hasn’t it been said that spiders frolic in our beds when we sleep? And that we’re never more than a few feet from a spider? And don’t spiders come inside in the fall?

The doctor didn’t seem all that interested in what got at my leg. Had I seen the offending bug, I might have brought its head on a platter.

“This is just the case of really bad luck,” he said as he handed me a prescription for oral antibiotics.

One dose, and I was feeling better.

“Felled by a bug,” I told my neighbor.

I Googled bugs, too. Generally speaking, spiders are bugs, I guess, but they’re not insects. They don’t crawl around our beds at night, and unless you work on a spider farm, you don’t always have spiders nearby.

And spiders don’t come into our houses in the fall. The male spiders, who’ve been living in our basements all along, just wander upstairs to look for females.

Felled by a lovesick spider. I’ll never know for sure, but it makes a good story.

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