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Monday, October 19, 2020

How to live and (almost) die in LA

Hey there. Just a quick check-in to say that I am still alive and that I hope you are too.

I started this year by getting an awesome opportunity to go to LA for work which I then parlayed into an excuse to visit my two best friends who had each moved to California for life. 2020 was gonna be my year, y'all!

The day before I flew out, I found myself battling a zit on my face of epic proportions. At least, what I thought was a zit... 

The zit to the right of my mouth, not the one by my nose...

After very little sleep, I woke up the next day to head to the airport, my "zit" was even angrier. As my face throbbed, I found myself seated on the plane next to a guy who was a real butthole. I strongly considered rubbing my new-found friend on him, but somehow managed to refrain.

Once I landed, I checked into my hotel and immediately took my jaunty new accessory to a work event filled with incredibly important people--and me. After I had thoroughly grossed out enough people, I headed back to my room to eat room service and sleep. As my crater-like companion lay precariously close to the corner of my mouth and produced the pain of 20 unmedicated childbirths, eating was no small feat. Neither was sleeping. I slept with a frozen water bottle on my face to help with the pain. It didn't.

I "woke" the next morning to an even bigger and more painful pal. I had breakfast with my aunt and uncle, who live close to LA. I ate what I could and apologized for the state of my face, which was covered with more concealer than a toddler in a beauty pageant. 

All about that base...

After breakfast, I headed to another hotel where my work event was being held. I did what I could given my current situation and then headed back to my hotel to work some more. While working at the bar of my hotel, I remembered that my company offers telehealth services. Even though I was halfway across the country from home, I could get something to help with whatever the hell was growing on my face!!! Thank the 8 pound 6 ounce baby Jesus, right? Oh, no. Not even close.

The telehealth doctor took about three seconds to listen to my symptoms and look at my face and diagnosed me with...wait for it...herpes. Um, what? With what little use I had left of my mouth, I tried to explain to him that that was not the case for several medically-relevant reasons that I will not bore you with, but he remained unmoved. Thankfully, he did finally agree to prescribe me with a topical and oral antibiotic just in case. Ok. Hopefully we are making some progress. 

Herpes, obviously...

So I haul my half-dead self to the nearest pharmacy on foot, because I do not have a car and my expense report does not cover Uber rides for potential not-herpes medication. I arrive at the pharmacy and they have nothing from my doctor. Awesome. Super. Great, grand, wonderful. I sit in the chair outside of the pharmacy for two hours waiting for them to receive the script. They finally do. Phew, right? Again, not so fast. They can prescribe me the topical antibiotic, no problem. The oral, however, they can not. Because the doctor prescribed 800mg pills and they only have 400mg. They can just give me two of the 400mg pills for each dose, but the prescribing doctor is not responding. They suggest a sister pharmacy that is 20 miles away (in LA that is like 300 miles) but again, I DON'T HAVE A CAR. So we wait. And then wait some more. We call their line and each time we get an actual person, the line disconnects. Needless to say, I am in tears at this point. After I believe five hours of waiting, I give up. I leave with my topical cream and go sit outside of the pharmacy--in bum pee, mind you--and cry. 

While weeping on the urine-covered concrete steps outside of Ralph's, the telehealth agency calls. Not to help with the prescription issue though. They want to know how my experience has been using XYZ Telehealth. Seriously? SERIOUSLY??? I explain to the poor woman what happened and she offers to...wait for me another appointment. Whatever. At this point, I am out of options. While setting me up for another appointment with a new doctor, she asks me the preliminary question that every woman gets asked, "What is the first day of your last menstrual cycle?" I laugh and tell her, "Today, actually." She acts as if all wisdom in the history of ever has just been bestowed upon her and responds, "OHHHHH. That's why you're so upset!" 

I don't even have words for how these words at this moment felt. Let's just say it broke me. I was halfway across the country from home, alone, incredibly sick, starving, sleep-deprived and sitting in downtown LA at night in the dried remains of someone else's pee. And a woman just told me that the only reason I was upset was because I was on my period. Needless to say, I kindly hung up the phone and dragged myself back to my hotel to apply my antibiotic ointment and hopefully sleep away this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Sleep was even more elusive this night than the two previously. The pain in my face was unbearable. I finally threw in the towel at around 5 a.m. When I got up, I realized that things had escalated quickly overnight. My face was hot to the touch, I was feverish and my glands were swollen. Y'all I was fucking scared. 

How I woke up.

I started searching nearby urgent cares that took my insurance, let my team know I would not be at the event that morning and called an Uber. Once I arrived at the urgent care, I poured myself out of the Uber and into their waiting room looking half dead. But I had made it! Oh but wait. Turns out, even though I checked with my insurance before heading to this facility, they did NOT take my insurance. They took the brand and were a partner organization and all that, but for some reason they didn't take the arm my insurance was under. Fuck. 

So, while sobbing silently in their waiting room and making the poor front desk girl INCREDIBLY uncomfortable, I called my insurance and explained the situation. The sweet woman on the phone helped me find another LA urgent care that 100% took my insurance. So I called another Uber and headed to my second urgent care.

I arrive at a super sketchy looking building but at this point, I would let a back alley hooker treat me if they could just make the pain go away and ensure I was not going to die in LA. So I check in at the front desk and sit down. Mere seconds later, the kind receptionist informs me that they do accept my insurance, however they only treat WORKERS COMP cases, so they can not see me. I seriously can not even make this shit up at this point. She also relays that the doctor read my entrance form and saw me when I came in and based on my appearance and symptoms, suggest I head STRAIGHT TO THE ER!!! Cool, cool, cool. Also, remember, I don't have a car and am already two Ubers deep from my hotel. 

After searching my trusty info provided by the lovely-yet-ill-informed-lady I spoke with from my insurance company earlier, I call A THIRD Uber to transport my corpse from the workers comp urgent care to the nearest hospital that accepts my insurance.

At this point in my journey, I don't know how there is a single drop of moisture left in my body. I have been silently crying for like 12 hours straight. But by some miracle, I am still consistently leaking--and scaring the shit out of every single soul that has the misfortune of coming in contact with me.

Now, I want to take a moment to set the scene of where all of this is happening: Central City East, LA, also known as skid row. No, I'm not kidding. I picked my first urgent care based on (faulty) research on what insurances they accepted, their ratings and their location in proximity to my hotel (which was right by the STAPLES Center, which is right by Central City East). Central City East may be located in beautiful, sunny California, but its residents live in tents and shelters, rather than the palatial mansions inhabited by the Hollywood elite, located mere miles away. Central City East is a glaring reminder of the imbalances our society so easily overlooks. It is also not where you want to find yourself half-dead in need of emergency medical treatment, but I digress.

So after hours on this seemingly endless journey, I arrive at the hospital. After checking in, I am immediately escorted back to the emergency waiting room and seated between two gentlemen: one who is covered in blood and vomit, both new and old, and the other who keeps trying to give me his mail and then gets very agitated when I decline to accept it. Then there's me: open lesion on my face, haven't slept or eaten in over three days, and is openly weeping.

I get called back to a room where two nice doctors examine me and almost vomit ask me questions about my symptoms, length of illness, etc. They quickly inform me that my very angry zit is not a zit at all. Nope, not even close. It's a staph infection and an ugly one at that. The doctorly duo provide me with some bandaids and write me multiple prescriptions for enough antibiotics to kill an elephant. They then promptly deny my request for something for the pain because I look like an extra from the Walking Dead and they think I am a drug-seeking junkie--because I look exactly like a drug-seeking junkie. Touche.

Meth mouth?

Prescriptions in hand (fool me once, fuckers), I exit the exam room, remind my postal pal that I do not want his mail even though he assures me there is really, really good stuff in it and I need it, I pay the hospital $500 for their services and then walk to the nearby bodega/pharmacy. I shockingly retrieve my meds without issue, pop my first dose and decide to walk the almost two miles home from the hospital to my hotel. Because if I haven't fucking died yet, nothing is taking me down.  

After a few doses of antibiotics, I started to feel human again. I wrote a story about Staphanie, a smalltown bacteria with dreams of making it big so she hitched a ride (on me) from the Midwest to Hollywood so she could one day latch on to hosts the likes of Brad Pitt and Lady Gaga. Yeah, I had pretty much lost my mind at this point. I did a lot of really creepy laughing during this time. I then spent the rest of my work responsibilities donning a Nelly-esque bandaid on my face. 

Say it loud, "I'm from the Lou and I'm proud!"

When work was over, my friend picked me up in LA and we headed to the whale's vagina for a few days. During that time, whatever was living in my face decided it wanted out. And out it came. Whole. Leaving a giant hole in my face the size of a pencil eraser. It was hot.

This came out of my face. It is solid, like a bouncy ball.

So that's my tale of how I lived--and almost died--in LA. A telehealth appointment that yielded nothing accept the knowledge of where LA's homeless use the toilet and that Karen works in customer service at XYZ Telehealth, two Ubers to urgent cares that could not treat me, a third Uber to the emergency room where I made friends with a mailman, and a hole in my face you could fit your pinkie into. 

A hole...lot better.

Oh yeah, and I saw sea lions IRL. That was pretty sweet!

Me and Staphanie on a boat.

Man, I remember when getting a staph infection while by myself halfway across the country seemed like the worst thing that was going to happen in 2020... Oh, the salad days.

If you share this post, I will buy you a pony. I suck at Twitter. I am OK at Facebook. Pinterest is my bitch. I am also on Bloglovin' and Instagram.


  1. Cleaning up bookmarks and just clicked an old link I had saved from your blog years ago and got transported here. What special timing! How lucky am I? Thank you for sharing this amazing disaster of a story. I guess I’m a hypochondriac because when you first said zit I thought, oh I hope it’s not staph. Seeing the bandaid dumpster is weirdly relieving. Glad you’re ok to keep writing more!

    1. Thanks for coming back. Hope to write more soon but who knows!


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