Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Confessions of a Hypochondriac: The Whooping Cough Episode

Worrying about my health is something I'm good at, having had a whole lifetime of experience. I've believed I had everything from a heart attack (at the ripe old age of 10) to pancreatic cancer to kidney failure to bowel obstruction.

I never go to the doctor and just say, "Help, I have a cough." No, I go to the doctor and say, "Help, I'm afraid I have whooping cough."

That's the most recent case of hypochondria. I blame my own self. Jestingly using the phrase "whooping it up" in my last blog post as a humorous substitute for "coughing," I unwittingly started an avalanche. Before long, I was thinking of the article I read a few weeks ago, by a sufferer of the ailment, bitterly blaming the parents who chose not to vaccinate their children. Whooping cough (aka pertussis) is becoming more widespread in recent years, and the vaccine I received as a child would have worn off by now. I wonder, as I wheeze in my bed by the light of the moon, what whooping cough feels like. Ah, the Internet can tell me!

By the next day, I am convinced I have whooping cough. At least, there's nothing I've read to indicate I don't. In its early stages, pertussis is just like a cold, developing into an "unremarkable," "occasional," "dry" cough, which is just like mine! After five nights predominated by coughing, I am in a constant stupor from the sleep deprivation (or maybe that's another symptom of my illness). I have to see the doctor!

Never mind that almost everyone in my office got sick at the same time, and they've all mostly recovered. Never mind that everyone around me is coughing like it's Beijing or something. Surely my cough is different, worse, and whooping.

I tell the doctor, half ashamed because I know she's going to think I'm a crackpot and probably post cartoons about me on Facebook, but at the same time I'm not ashamed enough to sweep my fears under the rug. She says, "I don't think you have whooping cough. I haven't heard you cough once since you've been here, and usually whooping cough is continuous." Well, actually, the things I read on the Internet say that most adults with whooping cough only have spells once in a while, but I just nod that she's right. "And," she continues, "Usually whooping cough is not just a tickle in the throat. It's usually a deep chest cough."

I say, sheepishly, "Well, they say it takes about two weeks to get to that stage. I'm worried I just haven't gotten there yet."

She humors me by giving me a prescription for azithromycin, but tells me to first take my nasal steroids for a few days, because she thinks I probably just have irritation from post-nasal drip. I thank her from my heart. She doesn't believe my suspicions, but she's given me what I need to stop worrying.

And it turns out, she was right. I did not have whooping cough. That day, I went to the drugstore and picked up a longer-lasting cough suppressant, took it that night, and my cough pretty much had disappeared by the next day. But what she didn't know was that I had something much more insidious to worry about! Stay tuned for the next installment in this thrilling medical drama.


Jackie said...

Oh Valerie...I hope you feel better soon. A cough that just won't go away saps your energy and deprives you of much needed sleep. Sending you healing energy through the internet.