why you’re glad you’re not me

A stabbing pain in my throat awoke me in the middle of the night early Saturday AM. I get up, drink water (ouch!), brush my teeth, and take some Tylenol. Even at this point as I head back to bed I’m thinking, “There’s no way Ralph can go to work tomorrow,” it hurts bad enough. When my eyes open in the morning I realize it’s the Saturday of a three-day weekend. It will turn out he really does need to wait on me hand and foot.

Saturday afternoon and my throat is swollen and getting worse. Swallowing becomes very painful yet compulsive as I feel I have something back there. I check my throat with a flashlight and… well, I won’t overshare what I see there, but it’s gross and scary. I hit the Urgent Care clinic and they have closed early for the holiday. Fuck! This means either suffer without medicine, diagnosis, and antibiotics (if it’s a bacterial infection), or hit the emergency room going as an uninsured entity (I am meanwhile trying not to curse my husband’s choice to move us onto a different plan, leaving us exposed for a few months).

I go anyway, get a throat culture, which will be ready Monday morning. The doctor tells me he is “9 out of 10” sure this is a viral infection which means I will likely have to wait it out. If I’d like, I can start antibiotics now on the off chance it is indeed strep. I decline, trusting his diagnosis. “Can you get me something for the pain, doc?” He perscribes Vicodin. I go home, take one. My throat feels more and more full and the pain meds don’t seem to help my throat in any way, although the rest of my body enjoys being stoned.

Ralph hovers, makes tea, rents movies. During Saturday and Sunday I watch every single episode of HBO’s “Rome” (P.S. it’s good, nice and smutty in that way HBO knows how to be). I feel worse and worse. Then comes night and things get really bad. I can’t fall sleep. As soon as I start to drop off, my breathing becomes shallower and I wake, gasping for air. Repeat, over and over and over and over. Swallowing is impossible to avoid but I flinch eat time. I cry. I take pain medicine of all types.

Eventually at about 4 AM fatigue takes over and I get a few hours of sleep. I wake a few hours later, at dawn; my family is still sleeping. By the time everyone is up around 10 AM Sunday I know I can’t go through a night like that. I am ready to take antibiotics on the chance they will help. My husband calls to see if the doctor who treated me can call in antibiotics. He tells them the pain is worse, that I’m having trouble breathing, my speech is muffled. I hear words like “CT Scan” and “reevaluation”. He tells me they want me to come back in and that the emergency room charges will all be lumped together, since both visits come right on top of one another.

This time I am not feeling good enough to smile or chat with the nurse. My pulse is high. The nurse in triage takes my temperature twice, disbelieving it at first. They put me in another exam room and eventually a (different) doctor comes in and listens to heart, lungs, checks my throat. He now has “upgraded” me to some kind of secondary bacterial infection. However he has a strong European accent and I am feeling dizzy. I can’t even communicate how scary it was for me to not be able to breathe the night before. He leaves and I get dressed, and wait. The nurse comes back in and re-checks my vitals. She tells me my pulse is 153 and it’s too high. Soon I am hooked up to an IV for a liter of fluid. She comes in and puts morphine in, twice. My throat still hurts but the aches and chills of my body subside. She adds prednisone in hopes to reduce swelling and gives me the first dose of antibiotics.

I go home and sleep for hours. When I awake, my throat hurts as much as ever but I feel so much better.

My mother calls me last night. “Don’t worry about the money. If it gets scary again you go back to the emergency room. I mean it – don’t worry about the money.” This made me want to cry. I wasn’t worried about the money precisely, but I was irritated as hell thinking of how inconvenient my illness is (to happen in clinic off-hours and while we are uninsured).

Things are still wretched. The effects of yesterday’s hydration and morphine nap seem to have worn off. It is hard to drink, let alone eat. Not to mention any of my other recreations: for the last couple days I haven’t had coffee, cigarettes, booze, or more than a few tablespoons of food at a time. I tried a little red wine last night, a little bite of chocolate cake, and it was just too damn painful. I am down to only four Vicodin. At first I couldn’t believe I’d received fifteen. But it turns out I need at least two to not be in agony. I hope I can get through the day OK.

So two days of my life were just erased. Well, “erased” is not the right word, exactly. To the outside world, I ceased to exist. In my own world, I experienced two days of varying degrees of agony. And it looks like it’s still happening.

I had planned to write more but I’m pretty tapped out and will now seek the electric blanket.

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