How Walt Disney and Tom Hanks saved my life

People say that when you have a near-death experience, your life flashes before your eyes. For me, it was a little different. Instead of images of my childhood, or the good memories I have accumulated over my past 17 years as a human, what I saw was Walt Disney. Well, technically, Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

Ever since I was a very small child, I had always assumed I just had the world’s worst immune system. We used to joke that I was a member of the “Strep of the Month Club” because of my high fevers every four to six weeks. I dreamed that one day I would get over this situation and that one day I wouldn’t get sick anymore. My elementary school life was plagued by the fact that I never once got the “Perfect Attendance” award because I missed four to five days of school at least four times a year. I always prayed that they would somehow forget about that and give me the prize anyway. They never did.

Eventually, I just stopped hoping the fevers would go away. I became a pro at waking up at all hours of the night to take my temperature and some medicine before falling back to sleep. I knew all the right foods to eat and the shows and books to watch and read. I had a system.

It seemed all fine and good until the day after Valentine’s Day this year. I woke up knowing my fever was coming on and spent the day lying in bed, watching HGTV.  It started out just like any of my other fevers, but it got more intense than I have ever experienced. My temperature reached at least 104.5 degrees, and I was in more pain than I have ever felt. I thought I was going to die and, honestly, I didn’t want to live if I was going to be living in that pain.

I was hallucinating. I began sobbing when I realized that I’ve never met Andy Samberg and I attempted to sing something for a music video with Beyonce. Finally, somehow, I decided that I could call on one “ghost” to come visit me. Walt Disney was the natural choice. He makes dreams come true, after all.

I wished for Walt Disney to come help me, and instead, to my surprise, I saw Tom Hanks walk into the room. I started to laugh, pulling myself back from my land of feverish celebrities and into the real world. Hearing my own laughter reminded me that I wasn’t completely gone yet. It shocked my body into fight mode; it connected my body to my mind and told me to keep living.

After being hooked up to an IV and two bags of fluid didn’t do much to revive me (on top of the fever, I was dehydrated because I couldn’t keep anything down), I was sent to the Emergency Room at Dell’s where I was met with an assortment of doctors, tests and information. I learned that there is a condition called PFAPA (Periodic Fever, Aphthous Stomatitis, Pharyngitis, Adenitis Syndrome). Little is known about it, patients usually outgrow it by the time they are around 8 years old, and there is no absolute cure. There are methods of treatment, and now I am on medication that is only effective in about 30 percent of patients, but so far, it seems to be working. And, in the words of Tom Hanks, “Something’s going to happen. Let’s just keep trying. Let’s not give up.”