The week came and went as AJ and Brian both battled the flu for several days. Brian recovered well without any complications and was feeling one-hundred percent again besides feeling a little tired. AJ, on the other hand, was a different story.
He went back to his doctor a few days before to make sure that he was recovering like he should be. Everything checked out fine, except, he was still coughing. Dr. Phillips dismissed it saying that the dry cough could last for a few days after his other symptoms were gone. Unfortunately, it only got worse as AJ started developing chest congestion along with the cough on Thursday and here he was, back at his doctor's office for the third time in a week.
"Alright, Alex, take a deep breath for me. Again. And one more time. Good."
Kim called Dr. Phillips when she woke up that morning and updated him on her husband's condition. He told them to come back into his office at 9 AM for another examination so he could get AJ on the right course of treatment for what was ailing him.
"You've got a fair amount of wheezing going on, so, I would say that you have acute bronchitis. It's not uncommon after having the flu, probably caused by those same flu viruses. That's mostly why you still have a fever because it is an indicator of infection. I want to have another chest x-ray done to confirm the diagnosis and take a sputum sample to determine if it's viral or bacterial, just in case. Are you coughing up anything?"
"No—" Just then, AJ went into a coughing fit and ended up spitting a hunk of phlegm into a tissue. "At least, I wasn't," he said as he cleared his throat.
"Alright. I'll get this to the lab."
After the x-ray was taken and reviewed by Dr. Phillips, it was confirmed that AJ had bronchitis. Now they were just waiting on the sputum sample analysis. Cheryl brought the lab's findings to them when they were finished.
He looked over them before he spoke. "I have your results of the test. The bronchitis is viral and will just have to go away on its own. Fortunately, we caught it early so you'll only have to take it easy for about a week."
AJ was shocked. "A week!?" He couldn't believe it.
"Now, Alex, don't get yourself all worked up. Relax," Kim interjected.
"How can I relax when this is going to disappoint so many fans? Damn it. I mean, Backstreet Boys don't get sick days. You know that. What am I gonna tell the fellas? 'Oh sorry, we gotta cancel a bunch of shows because I managed to get a chest cold after just having the flu. My bad.'?" AJ said angrily.
She rubbed his arm gently. "I know, baby. Don't worry, we'll figure this out."
"I'm just being cautious, you don't need this to progress to pneumonia and have to be hospitalized. You really need to rest. Your recovery will take much longer if you don't get as much sleep and relaxation as you can, especially since this has the potential to get worse before it gets better. That means vocal rest, too, alright? Make sure that you don't strain or overuse it for now. I know that you've been sick for a week and have been cooped up in your house, but you really should stay home," Dr. Phillips instructed sternly.
AJ let out a big sigh and looked defeated.
"Bronchitis is extremely contagious and you shouldn't risk spreading it around to your band mates or anyone else. I hate to play the heavy, but that's just the way it's gotta be. Trust me on this, okay?"
AJ coughed some before speaking. "Of course, Nate, you're right."
"There could be an explanation as to what brought this on. Any new stresses at home? Work? Marital?"
"Well, we are touring and that's always stressful, but I don't think that's it..." He thought for a moment. "Me and Kim have been trying again, for another baby. That could be it," AJ said thoughtfully.
"For how long?" Dr. Phillips asked.
"A few months, since before the tour started in February."
"Hm...that is a possibility. I definitely understand, having four kids and two dogs. My family does cause me a great deal of unnecessary headaches, but I wouldn't have it any other way." He paused for a moment to look AJ right in the eye. "Alex, listen to me. As your doctor and friend, I'm telling you right now that I wouldn't order you to take time off if my medical opinion did not justify that it was absolutely necessary. I know that you're extremely busy and that 'no rest for the weary' really comes into play in your line of work. If this was something like a sinus infection, I would just prescribe you some antibiotics and send you on your way."
'That sinus infection is sounding really good right now...' AJ thought as he tried to see past his own stubbornness about the situation. 'Or maybe not.' as he quickly remembered that mucus grossed him out.
"I'll see you Wednesday at 1 PM for another follow-up appointment. Thank you for coming back in and for taking this seriously," he said as he shook their hands.
"Thank you, Doctor," Kim said.
"Take care you two."
AJ's doctor left the exam room and they gathered up their things to go back home. "C'mon, baby, it's back to bed for you," Kim said.
"Yay, back to my padded cell we go," AJ replied as they left the room and went to the car.
AJ's cell phone rang as they were on their way back home. He didn't bother to look at the caller ID and answered it.
"Yeah?" he asked tiredly.
"Hi, sweetheart. What did the doctor say?"
"Viral bronchitis. Gonna have to take a week off to fight it and on top of just getting over the flu, it's not going to be easy." He sighed which caused him to cough a little.
"I'm sorry. Do you want me to bring Jordan home later? Keep him overnight?" Denise asked.
"Hold on, let me ask Kim."
Kim looked in her rear view mirror back at AJ. "Ask me what, Alex?"
"Should my mom keep Jordan overnight, or no?"
"If she could, that would be great. You really need to rest and I could use a break," she answered. Taking care of her sick husband all week and a rambunctious four-year old was draining to say the least, she just had to make sure that she wouldn't come down with anything herself. So far, so good.
"Hey, Mom? Can you keep him overnight for us?"
"Sure, Alex. You know I love spending time with him."
"Is he around? Can you put him on the phone?"
"Here he is."
"Hi, Daddy," Jordan said shyly.
"Hey, buddy. How do you feel about spending the night with Grammy tonight?" AJ asked him.
"Are you sure? I can have her bring you home or have Mommy pick you up."
"No, it's okay. Grammy says you're real sick and need to sleep a lot."
"Alright. I love you. Be a good boy for Grammy." He gave him a kiss through the phone.
"Love you, too, Daddy. Feel better. Bye."
Denise came back on the phone. "Well, that's settled then. Do you need anything?"
"I've got everything I need at home. I'm gonna go, I'm beat. Love you."
"I love you, too. Feel better, sweetheart."
"Thanks, Mom. Bye."
AJ decided to call the Boys' manager, Jenn Sousa to let her know what was going on. After a few rings, she answered.
"Jenn, it's Alex."
"It's 10 AM, do you ever sleep?" she joked.
"I may be an insomniac at times, but I do sleep occasionally. God knows that I've practically slept through the last week. I'm like Rip Van Winkle for crying out loud."
Even Kim chuckled at that comment.
"This better be important if you're waking me up this early."
"Actually," he cleared his throat. "I'm on my way home from the doctor."
"And...?" she pressed.
"He said I've got viral bronchitis."
"Damn. This means no touring for how long?"
"A week at least."
He heard her sigh heavily on the other end. "Jive is not going to be happy..."
He sighed. "I know, they'll have my ass for this. I'm really sorry, Jenn."
"No, no. It's not your fault, sweetie. You just get home and rest, okay? I'll let everyone else know."
"But how are we gonna tell everybody? The venues? The crew? The fans? The—"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, cowboy. We'll figure it all out. There's still four days until the Stuttgart gig, we've got plenty of time. Don't worry."
"Okay. Well, I'll let you go. You probably want to go back to sleep."
"Nah, I'm awake now. Get some rest, okay? Bye, Alex."
AJ hung up and tossed his phone to the side. He covered himself in a blanket as his chills returned. They weren't as bad as when he had the flu, but they still made him feel like crap, so it really didn't make much of a difference. He began to cough heavily and it took what little energy he had out of him.
"We'll be home soon, Alex," Kim said sadly as she watched helplessly from the rear view mirror.
Once they got home, AJ repeated the process of taking more medicine and crawling back into bed to rest his weary body. He couldn't believe he let himself get so run down, but touring did eventually take its toll no matter how many times they'd done it. It affected everyone's health sooner or later. This reminded him of an answer he gave to a question at the soundcheck party in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 22nd:
"I also wanted to know what the hardest part of traveling is, do you take your families with you, or do they stay home?"
"We all try to have our families come out as much as we can and friends. I mean, Howie, Brian, and myself usually have our wives out and Brian's got Baylee out as much as they can, just like when I have Jordan out here on the road with us. My mom tries to come out as much as she can, as well as my step-dad try to come out, you know, and friends. Nick has had Aaron out here for a little while, which is good for both of them to bond again. You know, we all try to have as much family and friends out here as we can, 'cause the road life does get a little nerve-wracking from time to time. I mean, you know, sometimes it just finally wears and tears on you. And we're not as young as we used to be, so, sometimes a mild cold can become something really bad."
"God, how true is that statement?" AJ said as he thought out loud.
Kim walked in with his Mucinex from the store. "How true is what, Alex?"
"Oh, nothing, just an answer I gave at a soundcheck back in San Juan about traveling. How we try to have family and friends come out as much as we can because the road life can be stressful at times, how we're not as young as we used to be 'so sometimes a mild cold can become something really bad.' You think?" he explained as he rolled his eyes and coughed a few times.
"Awww, baby," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed next to him, "you know that there's things in life that you can't control or stop and being sick is one of many. I know that you're probably really angry with yourself right now, but I'm sure that everybody will be understanding of the situation at some point."
"The fans are gonna be pissed. There's always been backlash whenever we've had to cancel a show. They pay money and sometimes travel from far distances to see us perform and we can't because of me. We can't give them what they want and I can't do what I love, all because I've got the fuckin' plague."
Kim put her hand on his shoulder. "Alex—"
AJ shrugged it off and glared at her. "Just don't, okay? I know that it will all work out eventually, I just need time to 'process the loss,' so to speak," he said as he remembered a step in his grief therapy after his beloved grandmother's death. "And you know what else? I can't stand being in this bed any longer. I'm going downstairs." He quickly got up and left the room in a huff.
Kim still sat on the edge of the bed, stunned at what just happened. She then listened sadly as AJ's harsh coughing filled the silence of their home.
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