Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ducking viruses, caught by bacteria...

(Updated!)

Dry, racking cough. Slight fever. Fatigue.

I am sick again.

Yeah.

Well, this is putting a crimp into hitting the gym. I am resting, drinking plenty of fluids, taking azithromycin, prescribed Tuesday just in case bacteria that could cause strep throat, bronchitis, pneumonia or whatever is trying to establish residence in my body.

My family and I have been ducking viruses only to get caught by bacteria. They are different.

Mom got sick a couple of weeks ago, followed by Dad. Guess I should have expected that I would next. I thought I had dodged the illness bullet after spending the night with my mom and grandmother in an Elizabeth, N.J. hospital emergency room and not getting sick.

Two impossibly drunk men on gurneys flanked Gram’s tiny exam room. Those men were ruddy in complexion, disheveled, and bombed out of their minds. Looked like they had been through hell and back. I tried to hold my breath every time I walked past them.

Also took Gram to a couple of doctors’ appointments and sat amongst some folks who looked like they were expecting visits from the Reaper.

“It’s too late for you,” I half-expected a nurse to say to some of them. I am just grateful we all made it through that day.

This is the second time I have fallen ill since September. Back then, I could barely move for two weeks. I was weak, sore, had a nasty cough. It was rough. I am taking prednisone and methotrexate to suppress symptoms of heart and lung sarcoidosis. The drugs work by suppressing an immune system gone haywire, but that also leaves me vulnerable to all sorts of nasty infections the body usually fights off without problem.

We are in the process of tapering off the drug, but it is unclear how when we will be done. We’re still at 30 mg of prednisone a day. I want to cut it in half if possible and see if that does the trick. Ultimately, I want off these drugs and everything prescribed to deal with side effects.

Until then, my internist advises me to stay away from crowds. It is a microorganism jungle out there. The nasty ones have plenty of places to lurk. Let us start with the hands of food handlers and cashiers, which can be fleshy petri dishes teeming with all sorts of nasty organisms. Sometimes, those employees are one in the same – and many do not wash their hands after handling money or before they make a sandwich.

Grabbing a cup of coffee at the local 24-7 store? Everyone in the world has touches the cups, stirrers coffee pots, sweeteners. Coughs and sneezes on them. No one washes their hands before touching them. Yuck.

You have to be careful out there during the cold and flu season. Doctors see dozens of sick people and somehow maintain their health. This is how they do it. Good luck out there and be well.

Meanwhile, I’ll kick back and follow the doc’s and my mom’s advice. I want to get well enough to take my grandmother to the movies soon.

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