I spent the last couple of weeks helping out my adult children. Their delightful toddler, with a runny nose, was gleeful with the birth of her new sibling.
Now, I have not had a cold since I quit teaching—5 years ago! But after the first week, my defenses were down, I didn't have the energy and health of my 30-year-old kids, and being up in the night to comfort a wailing newborn, while the highest calling of any caregiving job in the world, took its toll on my 54-year-old body! I am realistic about this.
It started with my nose dripping, then dripping more. It got to the point where I had a headache with the sinus cold. I had a headache, and my voice was coming and going. I would whisper to save my throat and hubby would whisper back thinking I was being quiet for the geese on the law! I took a pain killer, with cold-fighting symptoms. Baby began sleeping longer spells in the night and I was sleeping better, too. Or I could have, if I didn't have to wake up to cough. i look pretty wretched and the blackfly bites incurred on the way through Algonquin Park didn't help.
Then the cold got worse. It moves from my head to my chest. Now, I was blowing out obviously bacterial-infected phlegm and I knew I was doomed! Once it hit my chest, I found it hard clearing my chest in the morning. Again, coughing up yellowy green phlegm. Tuesday we had decided to hit the trails for home. This old body was getting worse and Grandma was more of a burden, tired, achy bones in a woman who would go for a half-hour canoe across the lake and then a two-hour walk, another half hour to home.
Once home, I was relieved. My cough precluded a full night's sleep, and in the motel on the way home poor hubby's sleep was as disturbed as mine. Home, the cough persisted and the yellow mucous discharge was moving towards the green end of the pallete wheel. Hubby slept downstairs. I slept from midnight to 1:00, then coughed every 15 -25 seconds. It was time to phone my Family Health Team clinic.
Phone the office at 5:00 p.m. and you can get an appointment with the doctor on call in the clinic. Terrific. I only had to cough, and self-medicate myself through the day. The cough worsened. It became that seal-bark cough that I most loathed in my students. An obvious sign that they were sick, and spewing the cold virus with every cough or sneeze.
My throat was raw with the coughing. Constantly drinking juice or water, it soothed for a time. But it was a chore to cough up the last remnants of flu bug that was attacking my lungs. My cough resonated across the lake. I wandered down to talk to my feathered friends, inhaling the moist lake air. The geese and I had a honking contest. I won.
I medicated myself as best as I could. A half juice/half wine concoction eased my throat. Phoning at 5:00 I made the call. Can you come in for 5:30, the receptionist asked. Surely could, I replied.
We made the 20-minute trip in good time, other than the tourists and trucks hauling lawn mowers home at the end of the day. I sat in the waiting area. At 5:25, a man left the office, the grey haired physician younger than his patient by 20 years. The patient hobbled off, cane supporting mobility issues. We nodded at each other, kindred spirits in kneeling at the altar of the pearls of wisdom our physicians share.
Back around the counter, the receptionist and doctor shared some chit chat. Then she gave the doctor a piece of paper. Said doctor ambled off, paper in hand. By 5:40, still nothing. By 5:45, the poor receptionist was eyeing me as I coughed my brains out, honking like my geese. I hesitated to approach her. How much longer? I was desperate to ask. I should have asked.
By 5:50 physician appears in the office. He began chit chatting with both the receptionist and the woman who was picking up the garbage, and cleaning the room. Physician asked the receptionist to a staff party he was giving. I don't know if he asked the cleaning lady. My head was in my hands. The pain was awful. I was afraid the next cough was going to bring up my lungs. Hubby, after driving to pick up his dry cleaning, who had now joined me in the very quiet waiting area began to rub my back murmuring endearing words. We were the only ones there in the large room. Thankfully.
By 5:55 the physician came around the corner and called me in.
He asked me my symptoms, told me about his son, who was in the same career I had left, talked about his challenges. (I was in pain, tired, sleep deprived for two weeks now!) The physician did all the normal things: listened to my chest, declared my chest clear. He had to stop mid-listen as I had to cough to clear my lungs again and didn't want to blast his ear drums.
He decided that I had sinusitis, and not bronchitis or worse, pneumonia. Told me to buy some Fisherman's Friend cough drops. Sent me home. Another coughing spell on the way home. Many before bed time. I slept in the large easy chair, as the mucous seemed less like drowning my lungs.
We shall see what happens. I felt I had let myself down, as a senior's advocate, in not speaking up for myself.
One of the worst killers in seniors is pneumonia. They are too feeble to clear their lungs with strong coughs and they drown in the stuff. Hand washing is crucial. Something I am quite religious about. Hope you escape your colds.
Pneumonia is the fifth highest killer of older adults, especially during the winter months of flu season. At high risk are seniors with chronic diseases such as diabetes heart disease and respiratory conditions.
Senior Citizens At Risk For Pneumonia
Infectious Diseases Society Of America (2004, November 24). Senior Citizens At Risk For Pneumonia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041123100741.htm
24 Nov 2004 ... The recent flu vaccine shortage has focused attention on elderly people's risk for infection. Like the flu, pneumonia can also cause serious issues. More than 900,000 cases of community-acquired pneumonia occur each year among seniors in the United States, according to an article in the December 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.