08 May 2009

What's going on right now (in my lungs).

All sorts of nasty things.

As I mentioned before, when I woke up that Monday morning in the Paris suburb, I was quite ill. Aches, pains, fever, sweats: I clearly had the grippe. Since it was before the Swine Flu panic broke, I felt that I just needed to rest, and I did. This severely damaged my sightseeing (although I did some, and now I am thinking too much).

It was quite a bad flu, with lots of pain and inability to turn my head without masses of Aleve, but I powered on through because influenza is a viral infection and as such, I knew that fluids and rest was the answer, not antibiotics which are ineffective against virus infections (and no, I never actually though of getting an antiviral).

By the following Saturday, when we drove back to NRW to get the children, I was feeling much better, with only residual stiffness in my neck, although still clammy and easily tired. But by Tuesday, I was starting to get a cough. As before, it got worse until on Saturday I was in the ER. Unfortunately, those big antibiotic tablets and the inhaler didn't seem to be helping. That is, although after a spasm of coughing, when I felt that I would drown in my inability to breathe, I could actually take a breath after using the inhaler, it didn't really seem to be getting any better. Since I was prescribed a 5 day dose of the antibiotics, I became quite frightened on Wednesday (day 4.5) when I continued having paroxysms of coughing and the crackling in my lungs worsened dramatically. What a great opportunity to use an SAT word: the rales were getting worse and were both coarse and fine.

At the ER on Wednesday, I got the semi-private room and the higher level Dr. She listened to my chest and then diagnosed pneumonia. This was certainly no improvement since Saturday's bronchitis, so she also immediately suggested a lung X-ray and a switch up of antibiotics. When I pointed out, as I had on Saturday, that we were pretty actively attempting to reproduce and that I wasn't comfortable with either an X-ray or an antibiotic that would not be safe if I were indeed procreating, she seemed overwhelmed. After consultation with someone else on staff, she gave me a refill on the inhaler, an extra (free) two days on the ineffective antibiotic and a complete lack of understanding as to what to do. After all, if 5 days of that antibiotic took me from bronchitis to pneumonia, what would an extra two days do?

Skipping over the experience with the a***h*** doctor who blocked me in my spot, and the inability to walk more than 20 paces without breaking out into a cold sweat, I contacted my ob/gyn, who seemed extremely surprised that a competent dr. could not find another course of treatment. She set me up with another internist, whose office I was in today.

That was also an experience. After I had climbed the staircase to the office, I stood to register, but the receptionist kept calling people in ahead of me. I didn't want to enter the room to sit down because there was a notice asking to stand "behind the line" to allow for patient privacy. After the second person, I said (all this in my painful German, although the husband says it was correct enough when I repeated it)- My husband called to say that I would be in, can I give you my name and sit down, I am too sick to stand. The receptionist said, very loudly and very quickly back at me: Gibber, gabble, whatever. After she stopped, I repeated what I had said and she told me where the waiting room was (in German).

Once I had been sitting for about 15 minutes, recovering my breath, I became concerned that I had not been given any forms to fill out. All medical offices like forms, so I assumed I was being totally ignored. I called the German and told him what was up and then I heard the phone ring and be answered. Apparently (he told me later), the biggest question was why I, a non-German speaker, was there alone, because the Dr. did not speak a word of English. So the German gave her all my information and said he would come if we needed him and then the receptionist came out and talked to me and was absolutely lovely and spoke wonderful English (and she was in her early 60's, while the Dr. was in his 40's). The German says perhaps that is a typical German problem, the knee-jerk meanness while underneath may be a very nice person.

When the Dr. saw me, the receptionist came and translated and I used as much of my terrible German as I could and at the end, we were back in the same place: pneumonia and what to do? So he sent me back to the waiting room and had a conference call with my ob/gyn and came up with a treatment plan that includes codeine at night (yeah!) so that I may possibly stop coughing myself into non-breathing in the evenings. I started the new antibiotic immediately and the game plan is that if I feel any worse I am to contact him immediately and otherwise I am to come back next week.

I'm still feeling pretty awful, but the codeine has helped with the rales and the German is actually feeling a trifle scared (I was offered a few days in hospital and told that may become non-optional if I'm not careful) so he came home early:). I'll be spending the weekend basically in bed, I think.

Whoda thought pneumonia was so dangerous (and painful)? The other times I have had it were quite easy to get over. And this was a definite example of 1. German niche living- these things don't require ob/gyn consults in the US and 2. perhaps a bit of over caution (I am guessing Thalidomide is still remembered here).


TeaLady said...

I will try and remember NOT to use your name next time. Still hope you are better soon....

honeypiehorse said...

When I had my chronic bronchitis in Dec my internist was lovely but unhelpful and my lung specialist extremely helpful but they don't forewarn you about the x-ray and the pregnancy thing. We're not trying but I would have taken a test to be sure. They seem pretty reluctant to continue without an x-ray around here. I'm glad you finally got treatment. Your line about 'knee jerk meanness but good person underneath' really spoke to me.

Betsy said...

I'm so sorry to see that you're still feeling so crummy! I hope that the medicines do their magic and that you get back to feeling like your old self again very soon!