I gotta feel sorry for Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Frst of all, let's pull no punches here -- the response of the CDC to the HIV epidemic was an absolute botch. Who knows how many might have been saved, or at least had their lives extended, if the CDC had posessed enough courage to promote sex education?

And then in early 2020, Fauci saw another epidemic on the horizon, and he must have been like "Alright, this time we're gonna do it right! We're prepared, we've got our messaging in place, nothing could possibly go --" *BZZ BZZ* "Hello? Oh, mister President! Yes! What can I do for...Oh?...Oh. Look, I'm not gonna downplay a plague, just because you think it's bad for the polls. This isn't politics." *BEEP* "Can you believe that guy? What is he thinking?" *BZZ BZZ* "Yeah, what?...No, YOU'RE ffffffffine! You're fine! You're a great guy! You're the best guy! Please let me keep my job please please please please let me keep my job please. Phew! Thank you." *BEEP* "Alright, if he comes around tell him I'm in a meeting." *BZZ BZZ* "Hello?...A press conference? Sure, I'll be there." *BEEP* "Nothing can go wrong with this".

And then Zeph's Brother's heart grew three sizes that day.
I can make this joke now because it all turned out okay.


This past Sunday, we get a call from my brother. He says he doesn't feel good.

No worries. My mom's at Costco already, so she brings him a pizza and some water bottles and drops it off at his place. We figure he's just a little under the weather.

Then he calls again that evening saying he REALLY doesn't feel good. His stomach is killing him. He feels like his heart is beating too fast. There's pain in his chest. It's hard to breathe. He asks if my mom can give him a ride to the ER.

She zooms over there, and the two spend a good chunk of the night at the ER. He's not being treated for those first several hours; he's waiting to be seen. When he is seen, the doctor takes some blood and does an EKG. They wait a few more hours for the ER doc to return and tell him that his EKG was normal, he just had a panic attack. His stomach likely hurts due to something he ate, and now he can go home. The blood results won't be in until later.

My brother, who has never had a panic attack in his life, and who is still feeling ill and miserable, asks if he can stay at our place; he doesn't want to be alone. We say of COURSE he can stay with us.

For the next few hours he's at our place, where he's miserable on the couch. His stomach is killing him, and he's got a bit of a cough starting. He's already taken a Covid Test and turned up negative, so that's probably not the issue, but we're all concerned. My sister, who was cat-sitting for our dad and staying at his house for the week, comes over to see him.

Monday evening, he feels SO terrible and sick that my sister takes him to the ER again. He's having trouble breathing, his chest hurts, and he feels like he's going to die. Again, it's an long wait, and again, the doc says the EKG was normal, he just had a panic attack. There's brief concern where the blood results from the last time come back and say he's got stage 3 kidney failure, but then they give him fluids and redo the test, and it winds up being fine, he was just dehydrated. My sister, who does get panic attacks and knows what they look like, says that what he has currently isn't a panic attack. The docs sedate my brother and, in the middle of his nap at the hospital, he has another episode where he's having trouble breathing and his chest hurts. He goes from "sleeping" to "I'm dying" in no seconds flat.

The doc says it's a panic attack and maybe a stomach flu.

They send him home.

The third ER trip takes place Tuesday morning. This time my mom goes with, and the doctor looks like a child. He looks like a fifteen year old who stole his father's labcoat. We tell him about the "panic attacks" and how pissed we are at the other doctors who haven't been taking this seriously, and we let slip that the episodes seem to get worse when he's laying down.

The third doctor says, "oh, huh. That's good you mention it. That sounds like pericarditis."

He orders an ultrasound of my brother's heart and, wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what it is.

The heart is surrounded by a membrane called the pericardium. Pericarditis is when that membrane swells and becomes inflamed. The doc doesn't know the exact cause of why it's inflamed, but it can happen as a reaction to an otherwise unrelated viral infection-- like a stomach flu. He posits that my brother got stomach-sick, and that's what triggered the pericarditis. My brother's case is mild; the inflammation around his heart wasn't enough to trip the EKG, but it was enough to cause all these problems.

So my brother gets a shot of fancy, concentrated anti-inflammatory, and it works. He's still miserable, but at least now he's not dying. They give him directions to take acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and then send him home.

He feels okay. . . for a few hours.

Then it's ER trip number four.

Whatever Doc #3 did, it was magical, because this time the wait to be seen was only one hour instead of several. They did a CT scan to verify that it was just the pericarditis and nothing else causing trouble, and then gave him more powerful, prescription anti-inflammatories they use to treat gout.

And finally, FINALLY, he was better. Wednesday, he was still weak, but the gout medications kicked ass, and by the end of the day, he was up and about and doing stupid little jigs and making stupid little jokes.

So TL;DR, my brother is all better. 2/3 ER doctors suck eggs. The 3rd one is worth his weight in gold, and my mom and sister and I are considering sending him flowers or an edible arrangement or something.

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