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Man vs. Urinary Infection


Hey, 98.6, it’s good to have you back again.” -1960s song by G. Fischoff & T. Powers

Sicko: My own temperature was 104.7 and soaring to the Mojave-Desert-in-July level. I was approaching the dreaded your-brain-is-mush state. I couldn’t stand up or walk without help. I was as weak as Brianna, my one-year-old great-granddaughter. And her future looked a lot brighter than mine.

On the Beat

As I neared the Cottage Hospital emergency room, the car radio blasted stories of that woman who died in the L.A. emergency room, ignored by all. How long would I have to wait for help, curled feebly in the corner? Fortunately, an alert crew of staffers waited outside the Cottage ER entrance, someone fetched a wheelchair, and I was trundled into the ER while a valet took care of the car.

I was zipped into a room where my vital signs were taken; it was the first of countless times nurses and aides would check my heart, temperature, and blood pressure. My blood pressure was in the pits, far below 100. I spent the next four hours in the ER being pumped full of antibiotics and who knows what else to get the fever down and the blood pressure up.

What sent me to the ER was a serious urinary infection that had come out of nowhere and socked me between the legs. Let these things go and they get into your blood system. A doctor in a washday-clean white smock chatted with me, discussing the situation carefully. “We’ll be admitting you,” he said, matter-of-factly. My eyes bulged. What? They weren’t just going to get me to the famous 98.6 level and send me home with a handful of pills? Spend the night in a hospital room for the first time since I was born? I hadn’t expected that. (And, actually, it would take days to get me down to good old 98.6.)

Boy, was I naive. Maybe it was the mush in my mind. “This is serious,” another doctor told me. Really? I’d totally misunderstood the situation. I was admitted Monday evening of last week; I didn’t emerge from Cottage until around midday Thursday. Another staff doctor made it clear: I wasn’t saying adios to the nursing angels of Fourth Floor East until my temperature was normal or close to it for 24 hours.

How did I get into this situation? Here’s how the doctors explained it: When men get “older,” a little walnut-sized thingy called a prostate-down in the nether regions-can swell. When it does, it can slow the flow of urine from the bladder. One result is you leave urine in the bladder. There it can create a virtual witch’s cauldron, bubbling and frothing. This is right out of Grey’s Anatomy. (Just kidding.) In this toxic stew, bacteria flourishes and you have a Class A urinary infection. Your temperature takes an elevator ride up. I’ve had these bouts before and normally a garden-variety antibiotic takes care of it. This time, the attack hit like a ton of bricks. Before I got to the ER, I was shaking like a leaf in winter, not realizing why. Since the normal peeing apparatus wasn’t working, they hooked me up to a catheter, which took care of things.

Am I telling you more than you want to know? I guess this is a cautionary tale for men. Don’t ignore the danger signs. If you’re having trouble with a reluctant pee-pee, see a doc. I’m still on antibiotics and taking medication aimed at shrinking that little walnut. You’ve seen those TV commercials? Call me Mr. Flomax.

Finally, I want to thank the friendly, professional staff at Cottage Hospital. I’m just glad I wasn’t at that ER in L.A.

By the time you read this, the doctor should have jerked out (ouch!) the catheter and I’ll be pretty much back to normal. The whole experience, which meant spending much of two weeks in the hospital and hanging around the house, was humbling. Outside, the world was getting along just fine without me.

My colleagues at The Independent, although sending flowers and messages of support, were cranking out the paper without my column or kibitzing. My kids and grandkids managed to get to and from work and school and solve their daily problems without my intervention.

The worst part was missing granddaughter Danielle’s La Colina graduation and the Jerry Roberts fundraiser, the party of the season. The best part was learning so much about what to do if I ever get slugged below the belt again. And yes, it is good to have 98.6 back. I’ll never take it for granted again.

While I Was Gone: I hear that not only did the Jerry Roberts evening of journalistic fellowship, fun, and frivolity raise $35,000, but Sara Miller McCune is donating a cool $100,000 to the defense fund. Alas, this’ll be gobbled up soon by Jerry’s fight against Wendy McCaw’s $25 million arbitration action.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 965-5205. He also writes online columns at independent.com on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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