My American Horror Hotel Story

I have a good life. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience good friends, a loving family, and colleagues that have been incredibly supportive. But there is one major difference between me and most people in my life: I have a chronic illness. With that, there are times I have to make choices that others don’t and often can’t relate to.

If you know me you know I’m a geek. I watch and read sci-fi and fantasy, play video games, and have collected items from Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Xena in my time. I have also attended DragonCon for 20 years. My relationship with the convention has outlasted most personal relationships I’ve had and is something I have been seriously committed to. Despite my father’s death just weeks before, I still attended, and with my new role as a mother, the convention hasn’t been compromised. This year marks two decades with the beloved event.

However, it almost wasn’t meant to be for me.

My brother comes down from Nashville to go with me, and as we got older we decided to invest in hotel expenses downtown and immerse ourselves in the full con. That way as our older bodies get tired, we have a space to easily escape to. Our hotel for the past several years has been the Sheraton Atlanta, as was the case this year.

A random night in front of the TV turned into panic, as I saw on the news that there was an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the hotel that caused scores to become ill and one woman to die. The hotel was closed for weeks leading to the con but was reopened and cleared by the state to commence business.

I understood that most people didn’t think twice about going back, as the cause was discovered and fixed and life would continue as normal. But for me, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay there. If I contracted the disease it would kill me because of my transplant. Others can see this as an overreaction to a problem that was solved, yet I knew in the rare event it wasn’t completely solved I wouldn’t survive. It wasn’t worth taking even a slight chance.

Thankfully the Marriott hotel chain that owns the hotel understood my anxiety and allowed me out of my reservation, which I was grateful for. My brother was also very understanding and didn’t back out on me as we dragged our aging selves to the convention via Uber and marked the big anniversary of our attendance.

This story outlines the extra effort those with an illness have to go through that people may never think of. When I get sick, I can’t take most over-the-counter medications to treat it and have to suffer more discomfort. When my son gets seriously sick, especially with Strep, he has to go to Katie Jo until he is healed. When he gets certain inoculations I have to be away from him for weeks.

You quickly learn to appreciate the things that go well, so that’s why I have a good life. And am proud to say my geek streak is still unbroken.