Catastrophe Lurks While Antibiotics Smirk

A seasoned catastophizer, I can take a hangnail to an amputation in under 30 seconds.

So it was no wonder that the Christmas cold that turned into the New Year’s sinus infection and the deep rumbling cough would send me to the nurse practitioner, the Internet, the pharmacy twice and – in my dreams – a pharmacy urgent care center staffed after hours by a checkout clerk.

It started sanely enough with the NP. “Take this twice a day for 10 days,” she said, and ordered up what sounded like a pretty benign antibiotic.

She seemed mildly alarmed that we were boarding a flight to Florida the next morning and suggested a decongestant and pain killer “to take the edge off” the flight.

Taking the edge off – to me – means that something very large and sharp is about to happen, but no worries. The flight was great, and between the antibiotic and the Florida sun, I was feeling unusually confident.

Unfortunately, the infection also thought the pills were pretty benign and continued to rage for a week, resulting in Call #2 to the doctor back home and a second antibiotic, which the Internet advised – no kidding – is effective against the plague.

By now my daughter, who is studying Chinese medicine, was urgently urging probiotics – at least 30 million live cultures a day, to replenish Lord knows how many good bacteria were being randomly slain in an effort to kill the bad ones.

I complied, of course. But the whole idea of these bacteria battling each other and some battling the antibiotic was a worry. What if the wrong group won? What if this was one of those “resistant” strains that puts people in plastic bubbles?

And what about the listed side effects of this plague-killer? What does tendonitis feel like, really? And what about increased anxiety? My heart fluttered. My wrist ached.

Not being near my own trusted physician, I listened to coughs online. There’s actually a video that tells you which type (dry, wet, whooping) it is and their various dangers. Mine, of course, fell somewhere in between and without interactive software, who could be sure?

Apparently, I didn’t sound as bad as I thought because no one in range of the hacking, even during a two-hour jazz concert, turned to me and said, “You really should get that looked at. Doesn’t sound good.”

I do, of course, confess all this with some embarrassment since I know all too well that others are daily battling more serious conditions much more heroically. In my defense, I’ll just say that Florida is a place that ramps up catastrophizing to an astonishing degree.

On every corner, there is a purveyor of pain relief, joint relief, dementia care, and cures for COPD and emphysema, both of which immediately jumped onto my radar screen. And who’s to say what’s really serious and what’s not? Reportedly, that tombstone I’d heard about – I told you I was sick – actually exists.

Happily, it’s my third day on the plague-killer, and I’m actually feeling better. Too soon to tell, of course. There’s always the possibility of relapse, in which case I’ll have to delay my return and check into a sunny Florida hospital room.

What kind of catastrophe would that be?

Copyright 2016 Pat Snyder

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