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Saved by Starbucks...

When I last left you on my “diagnosis saga,” I was sitting in the emergency room having just been diagnosed with meningitis. I was a new graduate from PA school, the Sallie Mae loan sharks were headed for my kneecaps with their Billie Clubs and I needed a job. Desperately. I had an interview tour lined up across Florida and despite the fact that getting on a plane six days after a spinal tap was probably not in my best interest, I was going anyways. Ahhhh…to be young and invincible.

I boarded the plane with my multitudes of drugs and blistering headache on my way to Jacksonville, Florida. After an uneventful flight, I was blissfully upgraded to a Ford Escape mini-SUV when they didn’t have my mediocre class of rental car. It would turn out to be a blessing in the long run. As I drove the 25 minutes from the airport to my hotel downtown, I rounded a curve and laid eyes on the most beautiful skyline I have ever seen. It was just big enough to be a city but not large enough to be intimidating. All of the buildings were rimmed in LED lights of different colors and the main bridge was completely illuminated in blue. It was gorgeous and I instantly felt like I was home.

My hotel was terrific and every person I met was proving to me that people really were nicer in the south. I discovered that I actually liked being called “Ma’am” and I almost fell over when the guy who bagged my groceries offered to take them to my car. Apparently that is a regular thing down here. Shocking. I should have picked up on the initial clue when the lady at the airport toll booth told me to “have a blessed day” as she handed me my change. This was going to be an interesting trip.

I managed to survive the first interview, highly medicated for my headache and returned to the hotel to recover. You have to understand, an interview for a job as a physician assistant is an all-day affair. It lasts anywhere from 6-10 hours, can include multiple meals, you have to meet all of the doctors in the practice, see all of their facilities and sometimes you are asked to attend evening functions as well. They didn’t haul your butt all the way down here for a 30 minute “Howd-ya do?”

As I packed up my things that night to head out for Tallahassee in the morning, I noticed that my headache was getting much worse. I figured that it was just the strain from the day and I hoped that I would be better in the morning. I had to be out the door by 4:30 am to make the three hour drive. Unfortunately, my next interview was scheduled for 8:00 am and it was the only day that they could coordinate all ten doctors to meet with me. I was meeting with the largest cardiology practice in the region and it was for an open heart surgery position, unheard of for a new graduate to be invited to interview for a job of that caliber. I had to suck it up and get there.

When I stopped for gas in the morning, I decided to grab a tall Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino out of the cooler because at 4:30 am in a city I didn’t know, I wasn’t about to go hunting around for a coffee shop. As I was making my way towards Tallahassee, sipping on my Frappuccino, I noticed that my headache was starting to feel a little bit better. Hmmmm…maybe I was on to something here? From that point on, I got a Starbucks whenever I saw a sign on the highway. I pulled into my interview 15 minutes early with barely any pain at all. Now if I could only hide the tremors in my hands from all of the caffeine and if my bladder held up, I would be good.

I sailed through the interview, a little jacked, but it was all good and I headed over to my hotel which turned out to be the biggest nightmare. I hated the place. It was DAMP. You know that musty, humid, don’t-wanna-put-your-bags-on-the-carpet kinda rank that you just know is going to seep into everything that you brought with you. The kind of smell that is going to take three trips through the washing machine to get out of your stuff, if it comes out at all. That’s when I remembered, I had booked the Mold Mansion for two days because when planning this trip I thought that I would need to catch up on my rest after two days of interviews. Dang it.

Unfortunately for me, the headache was back with a vengeance. The caffeine high was wearing off and that made things even worse. Now I had meningitis, stress, exhaustion, caffeine withdrawal, lousy eating habits for multiple days and I was probably inhaling every spore of mold in existence. I tried to change hotels but had no luck because the legislature was in session and they had taken up every room in the city. I was too sick to drive out of town and basically, I was in the middle of nowhere. As soon as I left the city limits, there was nothing for miles. I . Was . Screwed .

I originally intended to drive further to the west so I could visit the hospitals in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and maybe even make it as far as Pensacola, Florida but after two days in Talla-Mold-Ville my head was pounding so badly that I diverted three hours northwest to Enterprise, Alabama to stay with a friend of my mother. I just couldn’t continue on this job search any longer. I had met my obligation of attending my two scheduled interviews but my headache would not allow me to go any further in my hunt for a job. I would be relatively ok while lying down but within ten minutes of standing up, my head was pounding so badly that I couldn’t tolerate it. Something was desperately wrong.

This is where the Ford Escape came in handy. It was a mini-SUV with great handling, where I could just throw my bags in the back, toss my purse/maps/junk on the front seat, lie down on the back seat when my head was killing me and use the floor of the passenger seat as my “trash can” for Starbucks Frappuccino bottles all the way to Alabama. You can’t do that in a Prius now can you?

As I drove through the last major city (Dothan, Alabama) before getting to my destination, I made a very astute observation. They had an ENORMOUS hospital. It was just on the outskirts of town and it looked like they knew what they were doing. The building was gigantic, the parking lot was full and judging by the remote area I figured they must treat just about everything that could possibly happen to a person. I had a feeling that they were going to see me before my visit to Alabama was over. I stopped to pick up my sixth Starbucks Frappuccino since leaving Talla-Mold-Ville and with shaking hands drove the last 45 minutes to Jeannie’s house.

I pulled into the driveway, put the Escape into park, laid my aching head on the steering wheel and cried. I had made it. I could rest now. Jeannie slowly walked out the door with her little white dog in tow and as I got out of the SUV on shaky legs she wrapped her arms around me and said, “It’s ok, you’re home now. I will take care of you.”

To be continued…

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