7. Bad News, Good News
Benjamin was sick. He didn't know how he got sick. He was feverish and tired. He had no appetite. His stomach hurt more often than not. At first he shrugged off the symptoms, figuring he had picked up a bug that would go away in a week or so. But it didn't. It lingered. After three weeks, he dragged himself to Dr. Barkley.
The doctor did a few tests. Then he asked Benjamin if he had gone camping and drunk unsterilized stream water. Benjamin said he hadn't been camping since he had played soldier in the army.
He asked if Benjamin had eaten at any fast food restaurants in the past month, or eaten from one of the many lunch trucks in the Los Angeles area. Benjamin said that he ate fast food or lunch truck food every day at noon.
"That's probably the source of your illness. You have hepatitis A, and you most likely got it from a food worker who didn't wash his hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. It happens a lot." "Holy cow! I'm not going to die, am I?"
The doctor told him not to worry. A viral infection that attacks the liver, hepatitis A kills only about 100 people annually in the US. He told Benjamin to see him every two weeks, and to be prepared to take up to three months off from work so that he could rest, rest, rest. There is no cure for hepatitis A. You survive, or you don't.
"But there is one good thing about hepatitis A," Dr. Barkley said. "Once you get it, you're immune to it for the rest of your life."
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