Possible side effects.
I understand the normal length of a cold is six days. I also know most of the symptoms of a cold can be safely and effectively treated with liquids, rest, and over-the-counter medications.
Some day, I hope to have a cold.
What I get resembles a cold, but only for the first five hours. At hour five and three minutes, it becomes a sinus infection, which leaves me with two choices: I can either take it to visit the doctor and have antibiotics thrown at it or I can wait a week and observe what it becomes after its larval state. Last time I waited, it evolved into a hyper-mutant strain of bronchitis which attempted to drown me in my own juices. But still, life goes on. After two weeks of not sleeping while still functioning as mother and chauffeur, I nodded off like a junkie in the middle of a live production of “The Nutcracker Suite”. Waking up from a fever dream gagging on phlegm while candy dances in front of your eyes makes you want to get right with a deity very quickly.
So, the minute I sneeze more than twice in a row I should just call the doctor preemptively, whine and demand an appointment that very morning. I never do this, because this would make me an ass:
“…Hi, this is Quinn Cummings. I am feelingly mildly unwell. I know this will turn into a sinus infection by midday at the latest so I demand you see me before I officially become sick. Also, while I have you on the phone, could I book an anticipatory appointment for my menopause which I am expecting at some point in the next decade…”
I certainly wasn’t thinking ahead this Sunday when my throat felt as if I’d gargled with fiberglass. I didn’t think ahead Monday when I was sporting what appeared to be a lei made of used Kleenex. I certainly didn’t think ahead yesterday when I tried to take a nap leaning on the kitchen door waiting for the toast to pop up.
By this morning, I had entered the magical phase in my sinus infection where I whine and carry on to any adult who has the misfortune of being nearby (read: Consort) but when it is suggested I might want to see a doctor, I willfully insist “…It’s a cold, damn it. It’s just an incredibly bad cold which makes me want to lie down and weep and tell you about it constantly.”
Consort, knowing me well, didn’t bother with a direct assault against my denial. Instead, he used my own weakness against me.
“Fine, but if it is a sinus infection,” he mentioned, using his most matter-of-fact tone. “…And I’m not saying it is….But if it is…And you wait too long…You’re going to need…The shot.”
When I had the mutant bronchitis last winter (and slept through a large chunk of "The Nutcracker”), by the time I got to the Ears Nose & Throat doctor I needed an antibiotic shot before I could even begin the course of pills. The doctor prescribed the shot and promptly left the room, coward that he is. The nurse appeared, flicking at the syringe and said, “This shot goes into your buttock and, yeah, um, it is going to hurt, and it’s going to take a while, because it’s really thick, and it’s going to hurt for the entire time, and if you clench your buttock, it’s going to be worse. So don’t clench.”
If you give anyone this information up front, I seriously cannot imagine a mental state where a person isn’t clenching. An incarnation of Buddha wouldn’t be able to remain unclenched in the face of such knowledge. The mere fact the nurse used the word “hurt” instead of the medically more fashionable “discomfort” told me I was in for a world of it. Once I discovered exactly how bad this pain was, I began planning my entire life around never experiencing such pain again. Consort, knowing this, used those two words “the shot” as a pre-emptive salvo, knowing it would send me leaping for the phone.
Within minutes, I called the doctor’s office but learned he was out of town. August is not a good month to have anything medical go awry. He did, however, call me within an hour from his vacation which, while certainly kind and compassionate, also seems only fair. I believe my left sinus alone has paid for his family's two weeks in Aspen.
We quickly determined his holiday was going well, his younger daughter was learning to swim and that my usual medication would be called into my usual pharmacy within the hour.
I arrived at the pharmacy fifty-seven minutes later, girlish and giddy at the thought of my precious Levaquin. Levaquin is one of the few absolutely pleasant constants in my life: I get a sinus infection, the doctor prescribes Levaquin and within two doses I am so free of pain and congestion I want to take the entire R&D department at Pfizer out for umbrella drinks. Any time I start to romanticize living in an earlier time, I remind myself how a sinus infection like mine would have been treated not with Levaquin but with leeches. On the face. Also, I would have died in childbirth, but that’s another story.
On the way to the pharmacy, I starting singing “Edelweiss” with new words:
Levaquin, Levaquin, oh the magic you do.
You’re a pip, my nose won’t drip, I can’t live without you.
Daughter, having learned at the feet of Consort, ignored Mommy’s unwholesome love affair with her meds. The pharmacist handed me my pills and Daughter asked brightly, “Are those the pills that will stop you from making that honking noise?”
I smiled a dreamy adolescent smile. I had Justin Timberlake in a small plastic bottle.
“Yes,” I crooned; half to her, half to the bag, “These are Levaquin.”
The pharmacist looked confused.
“No, they’re not.”
I stopped my little happy dance.
“Yes, they are. I am Quinn Cummings and I'm here to pick up my Levaquin and I have a sinus infection and I take Levaquin and these are my Levaquin and I don’t want another antibiotic shot!”
The pharmacist must have seen the panic in my eyes. She checked the computer and shook her head.
“They called in for Omnicef.”
I’m taking a subsidiary of Verizon?
The pharmacist called the doctor’s office to confirm the prescription. Of course, it was lunchtime, and the nurse who called it in wasn’t at her desk.
The pharmacist explained to me what Omnicef is, which is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, which would be the right thing to prescribe to a person with a sinus infection. I quickly scanned the warning sheet which seemed to indicate no greater risk of horrible sores, spontaneous combustion or shape-shifting than with Levaquin.
But I was still anxious. I take Levaquin. Levaquin is my medicine. Levaquin removes the sensation of a Bermese Mountain dog living in my nose. Levaquin keeps me from having the bad shot where I have to unclench.
Levaquin even almost has my name in it.
When it comes to me and pharmaceuticals, brand loyalty is one train stop short of religious conviction.
I took two Omnicefs this afternoon and I don’t appear to be spitting lizards or growing a new eyebrow. And I can almost breathe through my nose again, so I guess it’s an acceptable medicine, if not the almighty Lev. But each time I tap out this purple and blue pill, I feel as if the eyes of Levaquin are upon me, welling with tears.
“Forgive me, Levaquin,” I whisper, as I take the Omnicef with food.
“It means nothing.”