It’s been about two weeks now that my sleep, meals, conversations, and even patient encounters have been disrupted by violent (and embarrassing) coughing spasms.
Friday, at attack hit just as I was about to examine a patient. Unable to speak, I gestured that needed to get a drink of water, and the very polite lady murmured, Oh, of course, do what you need to do. I fled to an empty exam room and tried to take a drink, but couldn’t. As in prior paroxysms, I felt my chest burn and my airway constrict, and my breathing between hacks became loud, high-pitched gasps. I knew I could get through it, as I had already been through it multiple times, but my medical assistant became alarmed and ran for the nurse.
As the attack went (loudly) on, other providers popped out of rooms to assist what they thought was a really sick patient. Office staff ran to get water. I could feel my face turning beet-red, then purple. You look awful! someone said. You need a breathing treatment! Still coughing, mucous and saliva flying, I bent over the sink, helpless and humiliated.
My nurse rushed in with the nebulizer machine and they pretty much forced me to sit down with the mask on. I objected, managed to say, I’m in the middle of an exam, there’s patients waiting! but was assured that everyone would be notified, and that everyone could wait.
So I sat there and had the first neb treatment I’ve ever had in my life.
And would you believe, it really worked!
Duh. I’ve trialed Albuterol MDIs with prior coughing illnesses, and found them to be somewhat helpful. But as the neb machine comfortingly purred and sputtered, I inhaled deeply, and thought back… I’ve never used inhalers consistently. I’ve probably had a bit of bronchospasm for years, and just never adequately treated myself.
And there’s the rub. Treated myself. I know very well that it’s my own darned fault I’ve suffered through prolonged uncontrollable coughing fits with various URIs. I’ve never sought care. I just pop decongestants, cough suppressants, and throat lozenges all day, swig Nyquil all night.
After the neb, I was fine for the whole rest of the day. Minimal cough. No more spasms.
Of course, Friday night rolled around, the neb wore off, and I was up coughing, spasms all night long. Half a bottle of Nyquil. Endless tea with honey. Pacing the kitchen, cats gazing up, wondering what the hell I was doing. Groggy morning. Hubby entreated me: Will you get an inhaler already?
So I called myself in an Albuterol inhaler. I was so out of it when I dialed our local CVS, the pharmacist called me at home and asked me what instructions I wanted on my inhaler. I had forgotten those. She laughed and said, I can tell from your voice, you’re really sick! We’ll have that ready for you in a jiffy. The beauty of a local pharmacist who knows you…
So, as long as I remember to use my Proair HFA, I’m fine. Of course, we went to a Christmas party last night, and I forgot the darned thing. And, of course, towards the end of the party, about, oh, four hours after my last puff, I rather predictably had another one of those dramatic coughing fits.
Concerned guests asked me if I was OK; Did I need a drink of water? I couldn’t even help when Babyboy hurt his toe and lay crying on the host’s kitchen floor. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t breathe. Nana rushed to his aid while I retreated to their bathroom.
Once home, I administered myself several long, deep inhalations of good old Albuterol, like a longtime stoner toking big hits from a bong. Whew! Oh yeah, that’s it. I can really feel it now.
After that, I slept all night. Seven hours. It helped that Babyboy and Babygirl also slept all night. It was the first night of continuous sleep I’ve enjoyed in almost two weeks.
I’ve learned a lesson here, I think….