Tag Archives: sick

One point for socialized healthcare!

14 Apr

We arrived in London at 7am Saturday, running on fumes from the two hours of sleep we garnered during the red-eye over. We made ourselves push through the day, taking in sites and hopping on a walking tour, so that we could adjust to the new time zone. We covered 20 miles on foot over the weekend and felt properly acclimated by the time we ventured to our office Monday morning.

Unfortunately, I also had the start of a sore throat. A sore throat that got increasingly worse as the day went on. I led my training sessions in the morning, doing a baton hand-off to my colleague after lunch. I sat in her session with an eye toward helping out, but I found I was struggling to swallow, let alone talk. Finally, at 3pm, I decided it would be stupid to continue pushing through while I was obviously getting sick, so I cut my losses and headed to the National Health System’s walk-in clinic.

As a side note, I found the signage around the clinic a bit odd. British people don’t seem very violent to me, but apparently there must be a fair amount of medical rage:

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.39.13 AM

After arriving, I was told there was a £75 charge for foreigners to see a doctor. The woman telling me seemed apologetic and assured me I would only have to pay if the person running triage couldn’t resolve me. I didn’t bother telling her that it would cost me $200 – even with insurance – to walk into an ER in the States.

After waiting only 10 minutes, I saw the triage specialist. She took my symptoms, checked my throat, ears and sinuses and said, “Unfortunately, it seems it is viral at this point. I don’t think you need to spend the money on a doctor, but DO get yourself some over the counter meds to manage your symptoms. And if you develop white spots on your throat or your symptoms get worse, come back.”

Part of me was relieved with this advice since I go to great lengths to avoid antibiotics, but part of me wanted some course of medication that might make me feel better since I had nine days of training sixty people ahead of me. I returned to my room, took a bath and crawled in bed.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.41.38 AMOver night, my throat became much worse. I couldn’t swallow without crying. It was so painful I couldn’t sleep. I was back at the NHS walk-in clinic as soon as it opened in the morning. This time, I was admitted to chat with a doctor, who took one look at my throat and pronounced it strep. (White spots had appeared over night.) She gave me a prescription for penicillin, which I filled before returning to my hotel room.

As a side note: you know how expensive it is to fill a prescription in the US? With insurance, there is generally a $10 or $20 co-pay. Sometimes, if you go for a name brand drug you pay beyond that. And if you don’t have insurance? You’re totally screwed.

Imagine my delight at the pharmacy when I was given four boxes of pills for less than £20. Not too shabby for someone who is uninsured.

Even better – within 12 hours of starting the antibiotics, I was able to swallow again. By the time I woke up on Wednesday, I was feeling almost normal and completely able to resume the training sessions we had designed.

If we had another day in London, I would’ve made a trek to the Fleming Museum so I could see the lab where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and give thanks for his brilliance. Without that intervention, this trip would’ve been a bust.

Now I just have to hope I don’t pick up something viral on the flight home!

Is there a doctor in the house?

25 Jan
Image Source: https://www.recruiter.com/i/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CURIOUS-INTERESTED-CAT-DOCTOR.jpg

“What seems to be the purroblem?”


I’m sick. I think there’s a chance it might be the flu, but I get irritated by people who self-diagnose incorrectly, so I’ll just tell you my symptoms and let you decide what I have:

  • Fever ranging from 102 – 103.5 for 24 hours, then in the 101 range for a day, now back to normalish.
  • Achy, like someone worked me over with a ball-pein hammer while I was sleeping, including in my ears, across my temples, in the back of my neck, in my hips, and in my ribs.
  • Sneezy, snotty nose and nagging, hacking cough
  • Splitting headache, exhaustion, fatigue, lack of appetite

Oh, and it seems that everything I read/watch/listen to makes me cry. (Don’t even try to tell me it’s PMS. It’s not.)

Now that we have that covered, here are a few snippets that capture the last few days of ceiling-staring:

Musings of the Ill…

ONE: Nurse or Saber-Toothed Death Watch Attendant? 

Miss Moneypenny makes a good nurse… I think. At least, she’s made a point of staying within arm’s reach (either on my lap if I’m upright or snuggled next to me if I’m lying down)  since I started feeling crappy. This could be seen as sweet, but because I’ve heard one too many stories about cats who live in nursing homes and have an uncanny habit of sitting watch for people who are close to death, I’m not entirely sure what to think when I wake up and find her gazing at me. Some part of me does wonder if she’s silently willing me to die.

TWO: Call and Answer

The acoustics in my apartment building are a bit challenging. Built in the early 20th century, I’m convinced the walls and floors are only one fiber more solid than paper. As a result, I can stand in my kitchen and hear my neighbors end-of-day debrief while they cook dinner. (Lately it has included a lot of f-bombs and the word “idiots” when the guy describes his co-workers, so I suspect he’s not long for that job.) And the two year-old below me? I know when nap-time is just not going to happen based on the tantrum that wafts through my floorboards.

This week I’ve been on the other side of it, broadcasting coughs and sneezes for the masses. I hadn’t realized how out of control it had gotten until – after a particularly gripping hacking jag – the silence that followed was met with a neighbor yelling, “Thank God!” No idea which neighbor, but since there wasn’t a key sporting event on TV, I’m pretty sure his words were for me. Upside? If I get into trouble, I know I can summon a neighbor if I shout loud enough.

THREE: Ethics Exam

We are forecast for a major storm this week. I have not left my house since Wednesday. I am down to one roll of toilet paper. Do I:

  1. Try to persuade Alan (who is also sick with the same symptoms) to come to my house and bring a package of toilet paper.
  2. Use InstaCart and pay $8 for what should be a $4 purchase – assuming stores even still have any in stock, given the forecast.
  3. Muster enough energy to go next door to Starbucks, purchase a tea, use their bathroom and take a roll of toilet paper to get me over the hump.
  4. Stop eating solids.

FOUR: Things I Have Actually Googled

  1. How do I know if I have the flu
  2. Dangerously high fever range
  3. Death watch cat
  4. Shows like Downton Abbey
  5. How much Tylenol in 24 hours
  6. Can pets get the flu from humans (answer: yes, apparently)

FIVE: It’s called “Zoonosis”  

On that last point… while Miss Moneypenny has been a great nurse, zoonosis (transmission of human diseases to animals) might explain why I’ve woken up to the not-so-calming sound of her barfing every morning since I got sick. I like to think of her as an overly committed professional, kind of like Marie Curie. “It’s not worth it,” I tell her when I hear her starting to rumble in the mornings, “You’ll never win a Nobel Prize.”

In other news, anyone who owns a vicious dog might want to consider naming it Zoonosis so you can trickily both accept and deflect blame if it ever kills another animal. Imagine how it would play out:

“Your dog killed my chinchilla”

“ZOONOSIS killed your chinchilla.” 

“No, your DOG killed my chinchilla.”

And repeat.


Back to bed for this girl. Here’s hoping you don’t get what I’ve got. If you do, blame your pet.

PS: I don’t have the energy to proofread or spellcheck this, so if there are errors: you’re welcome.

Using this logic, my kitchen is now full of trophies.

4 Aug

Earlier this week I mentioned that I don’t do “sick” very well. I didn’t elaborate, because I hate it when people hijack my Facebook feed with an on-going list of symptoms. This is how that usually plays on on my Facebook Wall:

Them: Wah! Wah!

Me: Click.

Them: Permanently hidden.

Someone once told me that there are three things no one (excepting maybe relatives) really cares to hear you talk about: 1) Your dreams, 2) Your vacations, 3) Your children. I think we should amend that statement and add 4) Your health.

The only time I want to hear about someone’s health is if something YouTube worthy has happened to them. Like a botfly larvae has been pulled from their body. Or their bowel movements have crippled an entire municipality’s sewage system. You get the idea.

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I didn’t realize WebMD was a humor site.

1 Aug

I’m really not good at being sick. In part it’s because I’m always operating off a mental schedule that leaves no room for inefficiency or incapacitation.

Take yesterday morning. I love my Sundays — I typically get up early and clean, then walk to the farmer’s market and load up on produce. I’ll hit a few yoga classes, walk to the library, run some errands, cook meals for the week and have an awesome sense of accomplishment when evening rolls around.

Instead, I woke up at 6am with a raspy sore throat and headache. I tried to rally but ended up spending most of the day in bed, hoping that the rest would force this bug to leave my system. At some point I started to feel sorry for myself (probably when I realized I’d missed the last option for yoga) so I went to WebMD to diagnose myself.

I know, you’re not supposed to practice “internet medicine” because you’ll end up believing you have a rare disease with only two weeks to live. But really, I was just trying to remember if the adage was “starve a cold” or “feed a cold” because I couldn’t decide if it was wise to inhale the pepperoni pizza in my freezer. Don’t ask why I thought WebMD would offer Mother Goose-like guidance; clearly I was sick and not thinking clearly.

Anyway, WebMD has this application called “Symptom Checker” where you can select the symptoms you’re experiencing and it will whittle down a list of possible conditions you may have. When I saw the options of symptoms, I quickly abandoned my own diagnosis and started trying to construct the oddest line-up of issues I could imagine, just to see if I could stump the system.

Here’s what I came up with:

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It really should come with gloves.

6 Feb

As a child, I couldn’t stand Vicks VapoRub. I just rediscovered it yesterday and have to say: I am a fan!  Since Thursday I’ve been battling some sort of sinus/chest thing. Its started in my sinuses and migrated to my throat and chest.

Yesterday I couldn’t speak without having to (unsuccessfully) clear my throat mid-sentence. If you’ve experienced this, then you know precisely how frustrating it is. Which explains why I kept interrupting my sentences to blurt, “Goddammit!” as if I had a case of full-blown Turrets.

I finally broke down and went to Safeway on a mission to bring home any medication that boasted the magic word “expectorant” on its label. While checking out Mucinex, a tub of Vicks happened to pique my curiosity so I added it to my basket as well.

It’s hard to identify what the exact benefit of Vicks is, but my chest feels looser, so that’s a start. I don’t see much risk to continuing to slather it on since it’s the only thing I’ve found that provides some degree of immediate relief. Although I suspect the next time Alan comes over he’s going to wonder why my entire condo smells like menthol.

Oh, and a tip to the uninitiated: after applying Vicks, go wash your hands. Immediately. I learned this the hard way. I forgot that I had Menthol Hands and made the colossal mistake of rubbing my eye. Holy Mother of Mary. Not only was I temporarily blinded, my wet eye felt HOT then COLD. I thought it might throw itself out of the socket in an attempt to crawl to a glass of ice water.

So I guess that’s a ringing endorsement: I’m willing to continue using a product that almost blinded me. Maybe I should approach Vicks and see if they want to sponsor me. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the better testimonial quotes they’ll find.