15 minutes spent in the Grand Canyon

Published 11:10 am Monday, June 24, 2024

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By Tom Latino and Bonnie Bartel Latino


“Sorry to bring you two unwelcome news. You both have salmonella.” The tall, graying doctor at the small clinic attached to Grand Canyon National Park, continued, “Your blood tests confirmed my theory.” We groaned in unison. The good news is, it’s not the Typhoid type.” Bonnie jumped in surprise. We both had figured the doctor was right about ice in our Cokes in Juarez being the culprit. We had no idea Typhoid was a possibility.

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“Here’s what I want you to do first,” the doctor said. “The duty nurse is waiting to give you both two injections, one for antibiotics and another for nausea. The sooner we get medicine into you, the better you’ll feel. “I saw Mrs. Latino dashing for the ladies’ room while we were awaiting your blood results, and you both look ashen.” We didn’t try to respond.

Just after the doc had taken Bonnie to the nurses’ station, I keeled over with abdominal cramps. After the nurse gave Bon her shots, she told her to wait there. That’s when I walked in and heard the nurse’s parting words. “After I give Mr. Latino his shots, the doc wants to see you both in his office for a quick, but important, chat.” Of course, we agreed but wondered what now? Moments later, we thanked the nurse and were soon back in his office. He motioned us to two adjacent wooden chairs across from his oak desk.

He cleared his throat and said sternly. “Salmonella is a highly contagious infection, one I don’t take lightly — and you shouldn’t either.” Looking straight into Bonnie’s eyes, then mine, he paused as if choosing his words carefully. “Normally I’d admit you.” His eyebrows drew together as he shrugged. He seemed conflicted. “Sir,” I said, “we didn’t expect to be admitted. We thought we could get antibiotic shots and maybe some tablets to take with us, and we’d be good to go.”

“Son, if only it were that simple. Normally I’d admit you, but this clinic has a few elderly in-patients who are so sick, they could die if exposed to salmonella.” He paused letting his words sink in. Then he asked, “Are you staying at a hotel?” I told him we were at a nearby lodge. “Good,” he said before admonishing us to listen carefully. “Your antibiotics and nausea medications are waiting for you at the front desk. Pick them up on your way out. Begin taking both prescriptions tonight. Don’t skip even one dosage.” Then he warned, “You must follow my directions, and you both absolutely must have five days of bed rest. Not four, not three. Promise?” Bon nodded. I said, “Yes, sir.”

“Order light foods sent to your room and ask the waiter to deposit all meals by your door. Do not leave your room for five days unless you have an emergency!” We agreed as we stood to leave, then we thanked him profusely. I shook his hand, and he wished us “Happier travels.”

Bon leaned into my chest and whispered, “I feel like Bill Bartel just lectured us.” I admitted, “I felt the same, except that before “Mr. Bill” left, he’d have told a joke he’d already told us.” Bon shot me a sly grin. “At least twice.”

Laughing, we picked up our medicine, and had to pay cash for the prescriptions, shots, blood tests and office visits. The clinic didn’t accept military insurance, and we didn’t have a credit card, except for gas. Even worse, the Air Force refunded travel expenses only after the military member completed the move. We had carefully budgeted to spend two nights near the Grand Canyon. Mortified, Bon called her parents and explained everything. They graciously wired us $500. Frankly, I think she had “Mr. Bill” at ‘Daddy, we have salmonella!’” We planned to apply soon for an American Express card so we never had to ask her parents for money again. Nor did we. We don’t remember if we paid them back. That still haunts us both.

Five days later we by-passed part of our trip and headed for Las Vegas after taking fifteen minutes to admire the Grand Canyon’s beauty. At least we could say we had seen it! We still felt puny and in 1970 the Vegas strip was nothing special, but the bright lights and the sound of jangling slots   from the Golden Nugget lured us in. We sat at adjacent machines, and in a few minutes, Bon jumped up and down, screaming, “I won, I won!” She had put in a nickel and won three.

I almost fell off my stool laughing. “Bon, will you ever forget our Grand Canyon Honeymoon?”

“I’m just glad they don’t have a gigantic bronze mule!”

“We would have ‘up-chucked’ all over it.”

“Hush, Latino. Just hush.”