Thursday, August 24, 2006

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.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I currently have tonsillitis. If I'm not better by Monday, I may very well remove my own tonsils personally. I"m in an Augmentin fog and hope these comments make sense. Anyway, if I had gone to the doctor sooner, instead of telling myself "it's just allergies and this sore throat will go away on its own," I wouldn't be pondering elective surgery now. Hope you feel better soon!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

get well soon, Quinn.
America needs you.

(p.s. - Omnicef isn't a subsidiary of Verizon...but other strange things are...i know. i work for them....and pay no attention to that man behind the curtian)

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh Levaquin. It works great, but you know, I never sleep right on that one. Strange dreams and waking up at 4am and such.

Feel better. I'm on the mend myself. August must have been that kind of month to your readership!

7:09 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:55 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I'm not an easy laugh, and your writing made me laugh out loud. I hope you feel better soon.

I relate. I've been getting serious ear and throat infections since my childhood many years ago. I have learned to push it away - sometimes - with echanacea and vitamin c (and any other possiblity I learn of like zinc or garlic).

Once it reaches that fiberglass stage you described so well t's time to stop listening to the seemingly reasonable voices that poo poo antibiotics and go get those magical pills that send the mucus monster away in hours.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes this story made me laugh, One reason is because I was just researching what it was they just put in my ass and why the heck it felt so horriable. I honestly can say I would rather have a tetna shot every day for a week than ever have this shot again ! . I was even asked what cheek, It kind of caught me off guard. I had to ask, are you asking me what butt check.. After 5 mins of trying to convince her that there are other places the shot could possiably go and her telling me no.. I bent over pulled my pants down and said you pick !!! Ohhh did she pick !!! Im just like her in the way that I try not to call the dr right away because i dont want to be an ass. However I know just as well as she did that It is only a matter of hours before little cough becomes major HELL. Soooo we both lived and LEARNED on this one ! IF YOU TRY TO AVOID LOOKING LIKE AN ASS, YOUR GOING TO GET IT IN YOUR ASS.
And trust me, there was nothing close to arousing about it !

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this delightful story when I searched for "Levaquin sinus infection". I have had an on and off chronic sinus infection for about 5 months, and because the symptoms would show up within 4 hours at night after feeling fine for weeks, I would never be able to get to a doctor in time. This time I was all over that fiberglass in the throat pain and I was perscribed 2 weeks of Levaquin. Worked like a miracle, and I have never been more in love with a medication. Hope you are doing well.


9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too rely on Levaquin..currently taking it for a nasty sinus infection. My teeth hurt so bad and my cheek.. it has been 3 nights already on the meds and it has not kicked in yet!

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HA! I found this by googling Levaquin and sinus infection. I just picked up my prescription for 750's last night and thought I was going to have an anxiety attack in the pharmacy when I saw it was only for 5 days instead of 10. Keeping my fingers crossed. Funny blog.

6:34 AM  

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