If it isn’t one thing, it’s another

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The past ten days were ones I suffered in misery. Maybe the weather or the prolonging of this dreadful summer, but whatever it was it just did not bode well to my being. It started with a niggling head cold and a wet cough. One that you would ordinarily treat with some hot tea and lemon, along with the prescribed bed rest. By the end of the second day, other symptoms started manifesting themselves that perked up my anxiety levels. Was that an irregular heartbeat I felt? Was I sweating abnormally? Was I really dizzy, or simply imagining such spells?

One not receptive to doctor visits for routine ailments, I finally gave in to ever mounting visions of dread and made my way to see the doctor. The attending nurse took my temperature and blood pressure. Nothing abnormal, although both slightly high. ‘Not to worry’ she said. That brought a wave of relief.

Once in to see the doctor, I carefully explained my symptoms to him. I just felt off, I said. Nothing I could put a finger on, other than the slight cold and cough. He asked for a sample of my blood to run a CBC (complete blood count). In the waiting room, I waited for a short while before the results came in.

Nothing showed abnormal, except that the white blood cell count was on the high range, indicating some infection or the other. He prescribed some antibiotics, some cough syrup, and Panadol. With a feeling of relief, I picked up the medicine, and started my treatment when I go home.

Well, lo and behold. I was literally floored the next couple of days. What was initially just an ‘off’ feeling now bloomed into a full blown ‘down and out’ feeling. I felt weak, tired, and practically motionless. It was too much effort to move. I was bugged. Why was I this way? I should be getting better, not worse. Not willing to face another doctor visit, I rode it out for a couple of more days. I didn’t feel better. Weak and lackadaisical. That’s what it was.

The next day, I decided to go in for another opinion. This time I went to a bigger and fancier hospital, and had to open a new file. While waiting for the doctor I was surprised by the number of kids running up and down the halls. Their parents sat stiffly waiting their turns, while the children romped out, the exuberance of childhood in their demeanor.

When I went in, I explained to this doctor my symptoms and the treatment prescribed. I had made it a point with great difficulty to carry a file containing copies of my medical records as I used to travel quite a bit and presented this file to the doctor. He gave it a cursory glance, and requested another CBC, urine analysis, and a chest x-ray.

There was a long queue ahead of me at the lab. After four hours of getting all these tests done, I went back in to see him. “Hmmm,’ he said. When he didn’t add to this initial comment, my mind started going into over-drive. Now what did he exactly mean by that ‘Hmmm’, I wondered? Had I reached the limits of human frailties? “What is it, Doctor?” I inquired with some uncertainty.

“Well, it looks like the strain of antibiotics you have been taking hasn’t resulted in much improvement to your white cell count, so I am going to prescribe you another type. You take two of these for three days, and then come back see me.”

“Stop all other medication”, he ordered.

“But Doctor, I feel weak” I replied. “Well, in that case take a supplement of Calcium and Vitamin C”, he responded hurriedly. As I was stepping out, I had to make my way past another patient being ushered in by the station nurse. There were about thirty more patients waiting their turn outside in the waiting area. This was indeed a booming season for sickness. The new antibiotics literally floored me. Even the thought of making my way to the dinner table was one I did not look forward to. On the news, some item about a new virus in some part of the world caught my attention. Could it be that? Or could it be from the West Nile virus, which had taken many lives and hospitalized even more?

‘Oh God,’ I wondered. Aren’t we close to the Nile? What if this microbe had made its way across the Red Sea. Wasn’t this just after the pilgrimage season? And yes, I had been noticing more crows recently in the neighborhood. Why wasn’t the municipality getting rid of these damned birds? MERS, SARS.? And so, it went. For three days and nights, I fed myself silently on phobia.

Finally, on the appointed day I hastily made my way back to the doctor. Another CBC! My white cell count showed a dramatic decrease. Thank God, I breathed a sigh of relief. “What was it, doctor?” I asked in an effort to put all past foreboding to rest. “It seems that you may have had a tooth infection”, he responded. ‘I suggest you make an appointment to see the dentist soon.”

I made my way out speedily just grateful that I was back to normal.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter:@talmaeena


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