By Wednesday, August 24th, roughly 4,000 soldiers, deployed for over 11 months to the middle East, had come through the west door of the basketball arena size tent. The tent, erected in the middle of parade ground, just 100 yards from where the next deploying group would make their exit to the middle East, baked in the hot central Texas sun, on the days since it was erected in well over 100 degree heat. The tent was made comfortable night and day, massive generators turning even more massive air conditioning units, while the exit and entrance of each group of soldiers progressed.
Each soldier brought with them their support group. From all parts of the nation, sometime outside of it, people streamed into the tent, at their appointed time, to spend an allotted 2 hours. Those welcoming mostly stood inside, chancing outside potty can visits, diaper disposal, or a smoke.
On this particular morning, at exactly 8:30am, to blaring rock and roll music, the rear doors opened and cool, billowing stage fog rolled in front of and around 250 soldiers as they ran their way to formation under the eyes of their loved ones. Emotions were high.
Janet, eyes streaming tears, saw her soldier and just like those around her, let out an air of relief, that the last year of service was done. Officially.
Then she breathed in.
On that little intake of breath, a myriad of compounds rode. One of them, or at least several of them were foreign to anything Janet’s body had seen and made it past the fine hairs in Janet’s nasal passage. There must have been a booger there, leaving a slight enough opening that after only a few seconds, they found their way comfortably to settle into their new home, most likely the alveoli of her lung. This time of year they would rarely be this fortunate because for viruses or anything so very tiny, concentrating them for spreading doesn’t happen. But fortune can change when the equivalent population of a small town traveling from all ends of the earth passes through a cool tent, over the space of 5 days, breathing in and out, dispersal within the tent facilitated by a fog machine.
Once those few hundred or million nestled in, they really loved what they found. Janet, with a normally robust immune system, wasn’t up to par that weekend. Little sleep, road food, and not nearly enough water or sleep and her neurotransmission chemical reservoir not quite what it should be, the complicated cascade of defenses that normally traveled the highways of her circulatory system were found inadequate.
It took little time for the viral particles to hijack Janet’s own DNA copying machinery and by Monday morning, the 22nd, the number of active virus likely outnumbered the cells in her own body. They were now in completely control of her immune system.
For the next 5 days, they swamped Janet’s eyeballs and pushed them outwards. Or at least that’s what it felt like. They camped by the billions in her blood vessels in her heads, bulging the blood vessels until they near burst. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Disconnected places all over her body ached. Normally a healthy, active individual, all her physical currency was being spent on viral particle production. She felt deathly tired.
A friend of Janet’s said, “try to sleep, it’s all you can do.”
So despite the lack of food and the hijacking, as Janet’s body rested, something amazing happened. Her immune system having mounted it’s attach while she suffered, had started amazing counter measures. Antibodies, particular, lethal assassins especially machined to search, kill and destroy those tiny little microscopic, protein coded invaders that had floated into her nose 9 days ago, were now in a battle where no other outcome would be other than that the invaders would die. Using her blood, her immune system swamped the battle field. Better than smart bombs, precision targeting every last cell of billions, it was all over in less than 24 hours.
We are truly wonderfully, amazingly, made. And for that she is grateful.
But Janet would like it to be known: she believes she’s the first victim of whatever flu is going to be active this season. She’s sorry if a few billion viral particles shed out of her nose and are now lurking, somewhere, anywhere, just waiting for their next victim.
Let her know if it’s you and she’ll come rub your feet while you rest and consider just how miraculous you are too. In the meantime, be good to your body. Eat right, drink lots of water, stay away from soft drinks, sleep. You’ll be glad you did.