Thursday, August 18, 2016

The things I learn at work

I have a vivid, dramatic imagination, so I was very relieved to be told that the chest x-rays were good (e.g., no pneumonia and more importantly, no cancer). I got that news on my phone as I drove in today for the 3rd time this week to be trained on some QA for which I'll be responsible until I leave, as everyone else is leaving before me. So I told my boss I still have bronchitis and asked her if she was OK with my driving in just one day next week, rather than my usual 2, since I still feel crummy. She said yes and because she's a nurse, I told her and two of the other nurses with whom I work (we were all together) what my symptoms are and that my doctor had prescribed Cipro. She laughed and said "You told him you're not taking that, right?" I told her I'd actually been thinking I would take it, since I've had this miserable cough for 10 months. Both she and the other nurses immediately began quizzing me, in detail, about my symptoms. My boss wanted to know if I ever cough up any phlegm and if so, what it looks like. I told her it's clear with white flecks and all 3 nurses responded in unison: "So you don't have a bacterial infection, so there is absolutely no reason to take the Cipro". Their unanimous diagnosis? The same as mine (and I'm not a nurse, but I did work for 5 years as a diagnostician): allergic asthma. They recommended that rather than Cipro, I try OTC anti allergy meds, so I'm going to try Claritin and Zyrtec (one at a time), and I'll also use my albuterol inhaler to see if I get any relief from coughing with those treatments. My boss also recommended I make an appointment with a pulmonologist for a spirometry test so I can, if needed, be prescribes an Advair diskus inhaler in addition to the albuterol inhaler.  So I'm feeling much better psychologically today, and all because I drove in to work. Sometimes that horrible commute is totally worth it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cough cough cough

So last October I got bronchitis and, dunno why, but the cough never left. Although the cough sounds wet, it's non productive. Whenever I lie down I sound like a leaky tea kettle: lots of whistling and wheezing each time I exhale. But I was raised in a family where we didn't go to the doctor unless the bleeding couldn't be stopped. For example, when he was 5 years old, although he was obviously horribly ill, my older brother's appendix had to actually burst (which caused all sorts of interesting, to say nothing of life-threatening, complications) before my father consented to my mother seeking medical treatment for him. As a result, my reaction to this persistent, annoying cough, and the hoarseness that sometimes accompanies it, was not to go to the doctor but to "tough it out". Stupid reaction, I know, but I'm willing to bet that many others my age can relate. Last March, when I'd had the cough for just 5 months, I developed a low grade fever and became exhausted. I finally went to my doctor, who diagnosed walking pneumonia for which he prescribed a steroid shot and a Z-Pak. After treatment, the fever resolved and I was no longer exhausted, but the cough was completely unaffected. I've coughed all summer and my voice is no longer clear, which I hate. So today, August 17, 2016, I went back to the doctor to see what can be done. He said he could hear me coughing from outside the room "and that cough is HORRIBLE!" The good news is, my lungs sound clear; the mystery is, what's causing the bronchitis? For the record, I've never smoked, or, as I like to say, five of my six siblings did, so I didn't have to. Nevertheless, he sent me for a chest x-ray (to rule out more ominous causes of persistent cough, although that's not what he said). Also,  I got another steroid shot, for which I'll have to pay almost a hundred dollars out of pocket because some bean counter with no medical training at my insurance company has decided there is no reason, EVER, to have a steroid shot. But in situations like mine, a steroid shot is absolutely called for, so I'll pay the out of pocket. The doctor said he was also going to prescribe a much stronger antibiotic, "but some people have tendon problems with this". "Oh, you're prescribing Cipro?" I asked. He turned around and looked me in the eyes. "How would you possibly know that?" he asked. "I work in pharmacovigilance, remember?" I answered. "So I know it's a fluorquinolone antibiotic and there's a possibility my achilles' tendon could snap coincidental to my taking it. The good news is you can prescribe the brand name, because we happen to manufacture it so I think I get it for free" (actually, I have to copay $15, which is fine with me).

15 years ago, a guy whom I was dating wrote me a script for Cipro to treat an upper respiratory infection, but I've never believed in overkill, so I had him re-write it for a milder antibiotic which worked fine. But having had this damned cough for 10 months, even though there's a class action lawsuit due to the side effects, I'm willing to try Cipro. And I hope the damned chest x-ray looks good. Bette Davis had it right: old age is not for sissies.