VERNON COUNTY - “No, I have a book reading on Sunday,” I groan as Dr. Beth again offers to call an ambulance for me.
I arrived on Washington Island earlier today by ferry with my rat terrier mix, Finnegan. I secured us a spot at the only campground here and quickly set up our tent.
And now, I’m slumped over on the edge of an examination table at the island’s medical clinic.
Dr. Beth is concerned because she isn’t able to get a blood pressure reading when I stand, and my sitting blood pressure is low. We both suspect dehydration is the cause. Finnegan and I were camping last night on Rock Island, and sometime after midnight, I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag and into the rain to be sick. I was never able to go back into the tent and by morning was completely wiped out. I tracked my pulse and respiratory rate: my pulse was going up, my breaths per minute slowing down. I knew I needed help, and I’ve used what little energy I had to get us here.
I also know I need fluids, and I’m certain I need medicine for treating people who have ingested unclean water. But, Dr. Beth can’t give me drugs without a positive test. My sample is already on the ferry, on its way to Sturgeon Bay to be tested. I should be on the ferry too, but Finnegan is waiting for me in the car and I’m not going anywhere without him.
Determined to get me to the hospital, Dr. Beth offers to take care of my dog, so I go out and bring Finnegan inside. He trots into her office sporting his lime green backpack with his orange water bowl and a bag of treats and food. The rescue workers arrive with their gurney but I take one look and say, “No! I’ll drive myself.” After getting Dr. Beth’s phone number and directions, off I go to take another ferry ride and then drive myself to the nearest hospital, about an hour away.
“So you're an author?!” the new doctor greets me. I sigh and explain that I have a book reading on Sunday and I just need to get some fluids and medicine. He gets me set up with an IV and lets me rest with the lights down low for the hour it takes to replenish my fluids. When he returns he has bad news: the results of my test aren’t back yet and won’t be for another day, possibly two.
This means I’m not going to get the medicine I need. Still feeling miserable, I’m already rushing to the bathroom before I can exit the hospital and get to my car.
Since I have to stop at every gas station I pass to use the restroom, I miss the ferry and have to wait for the next one. Once on board, I stay in my car, put the seat back, and try to rest. But I’m worried about Finnegan. I call Dr. Beth’s number, but she doesn’t answer.
Back on the island, I drive to the clinic, knowing it’ll be closed by now, but I don't know where else to start looking for Finn. By now, I’ve left three messages.
There’s a light in the examination room I was in earlier. Without even turning my car off I put it in park, throw the door open, and stagger across the lawn toward the window.
A police car pulls up and a tall man gets out. “I’m sick,” I tell him. He responds, “Should I call 911?”
“No!” I shriek. “I’ve already had them called for me once today.”
“Oh, you're the author?” My head sags.
I tell him Dr. Beth has my dog but she hasn’t responded to my messages. He explains there was an emergency and she’s inside finishing up after doing sutures. He knocks gently on the window to let her know we’re here.
Soon, I’m driving behind Dr. Beth, up and down a few country roads, till we end up at her house. Finn is thrilled to see me. I thank her, not nearly enough, and drive back to our campsite. After a hundred trips to the outhouse, I settle into my sleeping bag for a long, miserable night.
In the morning, I feel worse, and it’s a struggle to take of myself and Finn. Around noon, I decide to call home, but first I check my messages. One is from Dr. Beth: my giardia test was positive and I need medication.
Her message also says she’s trying to find me at the campsite but no one is in the office to tell her which site I’m in. When I call her back, she’s out giving a driving lesson, and in between asking where I am, she’s saying things like “Slow down. Turn here. Not yet. Be careful!”
While I’m still on the phone with her, a car pulls up. The young driver rolls his window down and gives me a big grin and a thumbs-up. Dr. Beth steps out of the passenger side, carrying a small plastic bag of meds!
I’m familiar with drive-through pharmacies, but never dreamed I’d be the lucky recipient of a campsite drive-by!
One day later, I’m at Faire Island Books, sharing this story, and in walk Dr. Beth, ferryman Tony with his wife, Grace, and one of the ambulance crew. All of them are wondering if the “author” is still on the island and feeling better!
You betcha, thanks to Dr. Beth and all the good people on Washington Island.