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Surviving Valley Fever, Phoenix, Arizona


If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, you've survived Valley Fever. I'm not exactly sure what it is, I just know that you breathe it in from the desert dust. For most people, it's hardly noticeable. It can be like a cold. Or you can die from it.

I contracted Valley Fever right after I moved to Phoenix, when I was 19. For me, it was bad enough to give me pneumonia and put me in the hospital. I was in the County Hospital, the one at 24th Street and Roosevelt. Yes, it's connected to what was originally called the Insane Asylum. No, I wasn't insane, I was just indigent (you know, poor). So that's where I went.

This must have been the very first time that I considered the possibility that I might die. And it just seemed to be so wrong. There I was, in Phoenix, where everything was beautiful, and life was filled with such possibilities. I remember asking the nurse if people died from this, and she just said, in a very matter-of-fact way, "yes". And it just seemed so sad that she would have to see people like me die, so I didn't.

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