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“Achoo” and the sneeze causes an explosion of pain in my lungs and head and throat. It’s the second day of my war of the cold. Of course, it is autumn and time again for the seasonal sicknesses to stalk us and terrorize our immune systems while we are innocently in the middle of doing our very important seasonal things. Colds and flues lurk at school water fountains and then leap from brother to sister to friend and courteously include teachers and parents. This year, the flu has its own paparazzi. Because of the media hype, vaccinations were non-existent on Thursday last week when my son and I visited the local health department and doctor’s offices. Oh well. We had to go and eat the promissory ice cream anyway. This time of year always makes me apprehensive. The illness I endured two years ago left me suspicious of every tingle or twinge I feel in my head. And I no longer naively assume doctors are the helpful saviors I used to think they were.

It was Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and we were enjoying the kind of balmy autumn weather that reinforces suspicions of the ozone’s integrity. The pain in my head had been vying for my attention for at least a week and I finally went to the local medical center for treatment. The doctors says to take some nasal decongestants, spray this steroid spray up my nose, take this antibiotic twice daily, and see ya’later, bye. Ten days pass, the antibiotic’s course, and I was no better. I still had the most amazing searing pain in the front of my head. I’m calling the medical facility and the nurse is telling me he doesn’t talk to his patients on the phone. I make my next appointment for after he returns from his vacation. Another week or more later, he’s prescribing me another antibiotic and wondering why I’m so hostile. It’s because I have had a perpetual yeast infection on top of the searing pain in my head and my sense of smell is now gone. Because my little boy has been sick but I couldn’t smell his messy diapers so he’s got bad diaper rash because the bug hadn’t stopped with me. My son had ended up with pneumonia and his own antibiotic prescription. Did I mention the several occurrences of pink eye, too? Yeah, Mommy wasn’t happy. And then, as I confronted him with his lack of phoneside manner, he indignantly confirmed he didn’t call his patients back, ever. But I was in a clinic-type place and he was not my personal physician, so …

It wasn’t surprising that I spent Christmas feeling miserable and incapable of tasting the salt I’d added to the mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. My family assured me the potatoes didn’t suck. The medication had failed, again. Go figure! I ended up out in my garage crying for the first time in a long time, and calling to a God I almost could believe in, to stop my suffering. The pain was breaking down my personality. As we launched into our marathon present opening, I smiled and tried to not ruin the holiday for everyone. I was sick of hearing myself complain by now. And thankfully, the child falling down the back stairs that Christmas Eve didn’t require a trip in an Ambo. He just had a huge lump on his forehead in the present opening pictures.

Due to the holidays hours of non-operation, it was sometime in January before I saw the next doctor at different branch of the community health center. This doctor, a podiatrist working a fill in shift, asked to see the decongestant I’d been taking. I pulled it out of my purse. It would seem that there are two sorts; the red pill you can buy off the shelf called phenylephrine which I’d been taking, and the good stuff, pseudoephedrine, the red pill which is kept behind the counter and requires a signature and your license shown before you may call it yours. Being an avid non-news watcher, I was unaware people used this drug to cook up street speed. No wonder my decongestant was failing. He then prescribed me Ciprofloxacin, the same antibiotic they gave to anthrax victims. He also had me dripping a liquid nasal decongestant called oxymetazoline up my nose while I was upside down over the side of the bed. Wouldn’t you know, ten days later, my forehead was no longer burning when I leaned over? And I was gradually gaining my sense of smell back after having been without one for nearly three months.

Unfortunately, this experience left me in a constant state of distrust of my body and physicians. I’ve gone through the three phases. All doctors are evil. One doctor is evil. They’re a necessary evil. I and my son have had many infections since. In my son’s case, they never wanted to prescribe anything. It seems little guys’ snot is always green so that’s no indication of infection. They would not give antibiotics out until he had suffered symptoms for at least a week. I felt like an antibiotic junkie always begging for scripts because I had repeated instances where the drug was not beefy enough to do the trick. I also finally found a yeast pill I could take daily to keep the yeast infection symptoms at bay because, FYI, the antibiotic also kills every helpful happy organism in your body. The male doctors never gave that a thought.

Physicians apparently have a pact to prescribe the weakest antibiotic as to not aid in creating uber-bugs; ones resistant to our drugs. But guess what, they’re already out there and have chosen to take up residence in my body multiple times. The resulting problem of the low balling of prescriptions is how these sicknesses, which should be abated in 3-4 days, can last the better part of a month. Some doctors will tell you to call if the symptoms are still present after this long. And some won’t. In my case, it had lasted the better part of three months and I had chronic sinusitis. I consequently got my own ear, nose, and throat doctor who I am actually quite fond of. He hooks me up with free $120 nasal spray because I am a self-paying customer. Who’d have thunk I’d routinely wash my nose out with a saline solution filled squirty bottle. The look of horror on my son’s face when he found me washing my nose out at the sink was priceless. I have paid for my own cat scan to discover the left sinus passage is just a little narrower than the right but there are no polyps. However, seasonal allergies are definitely a problem for me so I now take one cetrizine at night as my Doc suggested. The son gets a chewable one in the a.m. And there is no fan blowing allergen laden air up my nose while I sleep.

Was there a positive outcome from all of this? Yes. I quit smoking that February after my bout with the three-month infection. I started to exercise. I was endeavoring to take care of my body in hopes that my psyche would heal too. Gaining some control while letting go of some. Unfortunately, running has given me a form of asthma that often makes me wheeze like a smoker. And I am endeavoring to have all members of my family treated by one nice new doctor. Anyone remember family doctors? We’ll be a united front when that bacterium travels through again. This doctor will call me back. He is present and gentle with my son. When and if this cold turns into a sinus infection, I’ve got me an appointment waiting next week and his office will take care of getting those pesky records from that other office. The fear is starting to subside.


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