The Story Continues...

Here's Chapter Two of the story... The food was bad. That’s all I could think as I shoveled down smelly, but somehow tasteless chicken and watery, equally bland potatoes. The hospital food in my day was never any good but it was five star fare compared to the slop I was getting. It never seemed to satisfy either, no matter what I ate I was still hungry but no matter how hungry I got the food really didn’t taste any better. I wondered if the food was meant to keep people out of the hospital but as I lay in bed the next few days I saw countless people coming, and staying. It seemed like everyone had G.I.R.D. these days, or as it’s called now, acid reflux. Or skin problems. Or headaches, bowel problems you name it. Not just old people either, youngsters showed up just as often. I laughed at first when I saw them coming in with those complaints. My old doc would send me to buy baking soda for my rash, or tell me to drink water for my bowels. Then he’d tell me to quit wasting his time. Not these days though, everyone was leaving with brand new prescriptions. Come to think of it even the doctors were different. When they showed up they’d just scribble a prescription or two onto a sheet of paper and leave. If my doctor had been so short with me I’d ask him for a refund and that’s for starters. The place felt like a revolving door: in, out and back in again. I could not wait to get out. The longer I stayed, the worse I felt if you could believe it. My sinus itching turned into full blown headaches within a week, and I picked up a recurring cough from somewhere. The docs set me up with some pills for the headaches which made me nauseous right before they put me to sleep, and a cough syrup that actually worked pretty well. No word on what was causing my coughs and headache, but at least with the pills I could put them off until later. I took to walking around the hospital grounds the minute they let me out of bed. Fresh air had always been the best remedy so in my last days there I spent most of my time outside. It was about three weeks before they brought my test results back and when they did the doctors had some surprising news. A whole team came to my room for that one: doctor stinky as well as another man and a woman. They all seemed excited about something and I really couldn’t understand why three doctors wanted to come and talk to an old relic like me. They all looked me up and down but it was the woman who spoke first. “Mr. Williams, good afternoon. My name is Doctor Johnson, to my left here is Doctor Ford, and I do believe you’ve already met Doctor Nichols….” That was the guy who’d come before, when I first woke up. He nodded politely while Dr. Ford simply stared. “Hi.” I said. “So, bad news then?”  Dr. Ford just shuffled his feet, while Nichols smiled. Again Dr. Johnson spoke, “There were some complications…” “Abnormalities”, blurted Dr. Nichols. Johnson glared at him angrily. The quiet doctor just smiled to himself. Dr. Johnson continued, “These days mr. Williams it is common for bacteria and fungi to outnumber human cells in our patients. Since 2012 it has been noted by the Human Microbiome Project that bacteria in healthy people outnumber human cells 10 to 1. That’s not the case for you.” Dr. Nichols jumped in again there, “we think you may be more vulnerable to today’s bacteria, especially strains resistant to antibiotics.” Johnson looked like she wanted to slap Nichols. I was more concerned with what they’d both said. “You’re saying I’m more human than the average…person. And that makes me vulnerable?” I couldn’t help thinking back Dr. Nichols’ scaly skin or his abominable breath problem…come to think of it a lot of people I’d spoken to had the same issues, or worse. Many of them were patients. My mind wandered back to my first impression waking up in the hospital; that I’d been abducted into some alien laboratory even as Dr. Nichols answered my question. It was obvious he wanted to do all the talking, “Proportionally you could say that sure, but we’re concerned that your immune system won’t be able to handle all the new strains of organisms that exist today.” Immediately I could see where they were going with all this. “I’m not staying in the hospital”, I said. “I haven’t died in here so trust me I’ll do just fine out in the real world.” Dr. Johnson chimed in first, “we expected that answer mr. Williams and don’t worry. We have a regimen of steroids and antibiotics that we want you to take daily, and we do want you here for regular check-ups as well.” Antibiotics were a new one on me…Didn’t seem logical seeing as how I could easily be classified as “biotic”. “How long am I gonna be taking this stuff?” I asked, they all exchanged glances on that one. Not even Dr. Nichols seemed interested in fielding that question. I had the distinct impression that most people didn’t ask. “Well”, said Dr. Johnson, “We’ll need to monitor your progress closely in the short term, but beyond that we’ll just have to play it by ear. The prescriptions are good for two years.” “But aren’t you worried about the stuff that resists medication? What is this all gonna do for me anyway?” Finally the silent third doctor, who’d been watching me like I was some sort of lab rat decided to chime in. “They’ll do what your body does, only better.” I snorted at that. “Sounds like my body’s been doing pretty good on its own, if you ask me.” Their brows started to furrow, almost in unison. “Fine I’ll take ‘em,” I said. “If it gets me outta here...”