That’s my comment for 2012, so far.
For New Year’s holiday week, Allysen and I took a long-anticipated trip to LA to visit family. The visit was great. Getting sick, not so much. The first hints of scratchy throat came on New Year’s Day, while we were all seeing The Adventures of Tin Tin (fun movie). By the next day, I was a regular plague ship. I began coughing through the night every night. Worst cold in years. I’m sure I was no treat to be near on the airplane home, either. Upon arriving back in Boston, I wondered why my eyes were stinging so much. Could the air pollution possibly be that bad? No, I had conjunctivitis, probably brought on by the pressure changes pushing the virus through tear ducts.
I went to the docs. It was, of course, the usual “It’s a virus; you’ll get better.” But my excellent nurse practitioner was concerned about the flying, and about the low level of my O2, so she sent me for some blood tests to ensure there was no pulmonary clot. Next day they called and said, “Oops, accident at the lab. We need to draw the blood again.” Sigh. I went in again on Sunday, and Sunday night they called and said, “Your d-dimer’s high. Go to the ER—now!—and get a CAT scan.” I argued, but they argued harder. So I went, and killed hours of waiting time with my daughter Julia and my trusty Droid tablet, Tabula Rasa.
Long wait, with many conflicting advisories (Julia: “Doesn’t anyone in this hospital ever talk to anyone else?”), but finally they did the scan. First off, I have to say there was a serious lack of flashing lights and gleaming control panels. Just a guy who could have been from the local auto body shop telling me where to put my hands on the well-worn machine. The dye injection felt strangely weird—a warm flush starting in the face and going straight down my body, with a big hit in the groin and then on to the toes. Good; we’re done; we can go home now, yes? Please?
No. Now comes the long, watchful wait for the radiologist’s report. Julia and I watch part of Iron Man on my tablet. She makes balloon critters from examination gloves. We play volleyball with the gloves. Time passes.
Well past midnight, the word comes: no blood clot, no embolism. Great! We can go home now, right? Right; just as soon as we figure out why your oxygen is low. (I feel my life starting to ebb away. In space no one can hear you scream.) Asthma-type lung treatments: not much difference, but another hour. The supervising doc is threatening to keep me if she can’t figure it out. Finally…finally…they send us home.
Early morning, the phone wakes me. It’s a hospital doc saying, the radiologist says you have a low-grade pneumonia. (Different radiologist? Radiologist who finally got some coffee?) I’m to see my doc today and get new meds. The next phone call that wakes me: my own doc’s office. They’re booked solid, but they’ll order me the new meds, something called Avallux. Great, I’ll pick them up at Walgreens. Only when I get to Walgreens, Walgreens says, “We don’t take Blue Cross anymore.” You’re kidding, right? No. They’re not. Contract dispute. (“Oh right,” Allysen says, when I tell her. They announced it at work, but I never got the word.)
It’s now closer to end-of-day, but I finally get my meds from the HMO—but not the ones asked for, because Blue Cross doesn’t cover that med. So this new super-antibiotic comes with a drug warning guide that looks like the Dead Sea Scrolls, only denser. They have a “Drugs for Dummies” version that’s only a small wad of 8×10 pages. Here’s the first thing they warn you about: burst tendons! Burst tendons! Who ever heard of an antibiotic causing burst tendons?? Apparently that’s what I have to watch out for. Plus skin rashes. (Except I’ve already got skin rashes from the dye from the CAT scan.) And that’s where I stand, or sit. But at least the cough is getting better. I wonder if I can still take my codeine cough syrup with this stuff. (Internet research, here I come.)
This all started with a low O2 level in the doctor’s office, and my mentioning, between coughs, that I’d been flying the day before. The takeaway: Don’t ever let them know you’ve been flying.
Update, 24 hours later: The skin rashes got worse, so they took me off the scary Terminator drug and put me on on azithromycin, which seems much more benign. I’m glad. I’m also feeling a lot better, so things are working. I hope to be back to my bounding, energetic self very soon now.