Friday, March 24, 2006

Adventures in Health Care

So, I woke up yesterday morning - if you can call what I did "waking up" since I really didn't SLEEP, but rather spent the night bouncing from one hallucination to another and alternately sweating and shaking like a Chihuahua in January, but you get the idea. The first thing I did was call the doctor’s office and begged - literally begged - to be seen right away. The receptionist (I hate her) coolly informed me that she was very sorry (yeah, right) but one o’clock was the soonest I could be seen. Unmoved by my desperate pleas, she logged me in for one and hung up.

I spent the morning on the couch, pretty much recreating the night before and wishing that the earth would stop rotating and thereby end my suffering. My head ached, my body ached, my ears and sinuses hurt and the very idea of swallowing brought with it contemplations of suicide. We’re talking blinding white-hot pain, People. I had to psyche myself up to swallow. It brought up memories of the anticipation of contractions; I was struck with the same “Oh, God, here it comes” feeling then as now. I even went so far as to call the office again around ten to plead for an earlier appointment only to have the receptionist (I hate her) shut me down. I had momentary thoughts of coughing on her when I arrived.

At 12:35, I got myself upright and headed for the car. My husband had thought he’d be able to take me in, but was called to a “lunch meeting” with no lunch and missed me by about 20 minutes. It didn’t matter, though; I probably wasn’t okay to drive, but I didn’t care. If driving meant my salvation, I would have driven to freaking Anchorage.

I checked in at five of one and hallucinated in the office for about fifteen minutes before I was called in - filed under my “you learn something new everyday” heading: fish tanks are fun to watch when you’ve got a 102 degree fever. The nurse finally called my name and I followed her to a room where she took my temperature, pulse and blood pressure, then did a “quick strep” test. This involves a seven inch Q-tip and a little plastic pregnancy test-like contraption. There is nothing fun about having a seven inch Q-tip shoved down a sore throat (as if “sore” were an adequate adjective for this kind of thing). Hell, it’s hard to even OPEN my mouth, never mind sit there, jaws apart, tongue out, saying “ah” while this nurse pokes at the one part of my body I’d gleefully have cut off at that moment. To make it even better, she had to do this THREE TIMES, because she “wasn’t sure” she got a good sample the first two tries. By now, I hated her, too.

The doctor, whom I’ve never met before, came in a few minutes later and started in with all the usual questions. Headache? Yes. Body aches? Yes. Fever? Chills? Yes, yes. Nausea, vomiting? Thank GOD, no, but my kidneys ache. And on and on. She does the usual ear-nose-throat exam, squeezing just a little too hard on my swollen neck, then takes a look at the strep test on the counter which, it seems, isn’t indicating positive. “Huh,” she says, “wait here, I’ll be back.” Sure, whatever.

A few minutes later, she comes back in and says that the quick test isn’t indicating a strong positive, which surprises her given that I’m presenting a classic case. Because of this, she wants to do a lab test. Yippee! Another seven inch Q-tip. Now I can go home happy. So I psyche myself up for another minor torture session and try to pry my jaws apart. Luckily, the doctor is better at this than the nurse and it’s over pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure she managed to dislodge one of the patches on my throat because she was pleased with the sample she got, even saying “Oh, THAT’S a good one.” So happy I could make your day, Lady.

Now comes the part that amused me, even though I was about as far from my sense of humor as I may have ever been. She tells me that she’s going to write me a prescription for the antibiotics right now. “Take this and fill it, but don’t take any today. The office will call you, hopefully tomorrow sometime (she actually said this - hopefully tomorrow sometime. Way to inspire my confidence), to let you know the results of your test. If it’s positive, you can go ahead and start taking the meds. If it’s negative, that means you’ve got something viral and the antibiotics won’t help anyway. Okay?” Of course, I nod here, but all the while I’m thinking, “gee, for a doctor, you’re pretty dumb. Do you think, even for a SECOND, that I’m not going to start the medication the moment I get it in my hot (literally, remember, I’ve got a 102 fever) little hands? How about we do it MY way and I start the medication at the pharmacy counter and I’ll stop when you call to tell me, maybe tomorrow sometime, that it won’t work anyway. How’s that for a plan? Because if I DO have strep - and you think I do despite the behavior of the pregnancy/strep test thingy - then I’ll have suffered for a full day, maybe longer, when I could have been getting better.” Honestly.

So, that’s what I did. I left the office, drove across the mall to the pharmacy, dropped off the prescription and went to the grocery store next door to buy juice and a snack while I waited for the druggist to count out my pills. I took the first dose in my car in the parking lot, chasing it painfully down with some grape juice and a cereal bar because I’d taken in no nourishment all day. When I recovered my sight (remember, blinding, white-hot pain?), I drove home, crashed back on the couch, and remained there until the girls woke me up when they got home.

I’m feeling marginally better today. I managed a little actual sleep last night. I can form coherent sentences, I believe my fever is down, and I am not quite as dizzy as I was yesterday. My throat still really hurts, but I do believe that it hurts a little less than it did last night. I’m going to continue the three-pills-a-day routine until, hopefully today sometime, the office calls to either confirm or deny the diagnosis of strep. Either way, though, I’m winning. If it IS strep, then I’m already almost 24 hours into treatment. If it turns out to be viral, then I must be over the crest of it because I really am feeling a little better. Still not well enough to live a normal life, but no longer wishing for death, either.


Blogger Kizz said...

OK, I was taught that it's SUPER DUPER HAND ON THE BIBLE SCISSORS AT YOUR NIPPLES important to take a full cycle of antibiotics when you take them and not to take them when you don't need them because your body will build up a resistance and the strains of whatever stuff we're all getting will morph and become resistant to the antibiotics and then eventually they all group into a big monster and we have no antibiotics that works against it and we all die shivering and hallucinating and unable to swallow. Am I the only one who was taught this 'cause almost no one I know follows these rules or worries about the one monster virus coming to kill us all in our sleep. I kinda feel like an idiot. I'm hoping Vanx will weigh in on this since he's in with the drug folk.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I will weigh in,for what it's worth. You are absolutely CORRECT in what you were taught!!! It is ABSOLUTELY worse if you start an antibiotic cycle and not finish it than to wait the 24 hrs or such for accurate results!!! I THOUGHT this was the case,so I reread up on it on a number of medical sites. I actually read that the problem has not only affected the effectiveness of penicillin and ampicillin, but this problem has reached erythromycin(which bacteria,in 20% of the cases now,are now resistant to). Many of the bacteria that have been readily elimated,have mutated through improper use of antibiotics.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous nhfalcon said...

Hey Kizz,


I reflexively shuddered at that and I'm a guy! Where'd you come up with THAT one?!

6:39 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Claudia, thank you for doing the legwork. I must apologize for my abject laziness. It's always nice to have an outside source confirm that I'm not fully off my gourd.

That said, nhfalcon, I can only blame my brain for that. Possibly had something to do with the fact I've been watching the first season of the L Word (good show) and there a lot of exposed nipplery in that.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Sure!! Gang up on the sick person!! Seriously, People, the doctor said she was 99% sure it was strep. I apologize the the general populous if I hasten the arrival of the killer bacteria by trying to shorten my suffering but, at this point, I really couldn't care less. I'm feeling better, and that's pretty much all that matters to me at this point. Selfish? Yep. Sue me.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Guess I'm more than a little surprised at your response. Kizz only asked a question, I give a response to her,and the next thing we know is that we're "ganging" up on you!I think the "intent" was to convey some very valuable imformation that you seemed unaware of,out of concern and caring. Instead of "Thank you for sharing",we essentially get "blow it out your ear"! What's that about? By the way,was it strep?

9:35 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Forgive my snarky, pain-induced self-righteousness. I was going for sarcasm, not disrespect.

I spoke with an on-call doctor this morning who told me that the test results are still not in (I guess this thing can take up to 48 hours to show positive) but that I wasn't bringing about Armegeddon by taking the antibiotics. She told me that she probably would have advised me to take them, given how perfectly my symptoms match that for strep. I asked her if I should stop taking them and she told me that it was entirely my decision.

I've stopped.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Two things:

1. I was remiss in not asking how you feel. How do you feel? Better? I love the awake enough to brush your teeth bit. Aren't kids fun when they start pushing the boundaries of their powers of reasoning?

2. Please keep taking the meds. It's important to take the full cycle, because a partial cycle somehow opens the door for mutation. I don't know why this is, perhaps Vanx or Claudia will tell us.

Oh and look, there's a 3:

3. I got the sarcasm.

Hey wait and 4:

4. I was bringing it up here because it was relevant but I'm not picking on you as the one person trying to rend the fabric of our lives as we know it. :) Most of the people I know who take antibiotics regularly follow the same logic you talked about in the post, which is why I was wondering if it was one of those things I either misremembered from childhood or had been improved since the year I was in second grade and had to have pennicillin (sp?) shots in the ass practically monthly for my near-constant stupid fucking strep.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Kizz,to answer your inquiry about antibiotics/bacteria. It happens essentially 3 ways:
1)spontaneous mutation.,where bacterial DNA changes.
2)Transformation,where one bacteria takes up the DNA of another.
3)Plasmids,which are small chunks of DNA that can carry multiple resistance or Gene Cassettes that splice with chromosomes.
If you stop taking a med before the specified length of time,symptoms may be gone,but partly resistant microbes may remain. You basically allow partly resistant strains to survive and they will multiply. Apparently,what doesn't kill them makes them stronger. Resistance can happen quickly and (here's the kicker)can be spread!! I found out more about this problem than I was honestly comfortable with. It would seem that ignorance IS bliss!!! Not all doctors understand this danger/problem. Hope this info clarifies things a bit!

3:10 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

I'm starting a fever chart on this comment string~,:^)

S, you write about pain and not throwing up yet so beautifully. I hope you’re on a drug-fueled upswing.

I never had the seven-inch swab treatment done on me, but I've held four-year-olds when they've had the treatment. I felt their pain--or a variation of my own as they kicked and head-butted the doctor but only connected with me.

Kizz, drop the scissors and step back with your hands up!!!

I hope you feel better S.

11:01 PM  

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