Victor Phillips, recently retired after four decades’ career in natural resources management and education, shares time between Wisconsin’s Fresh Coast and Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. His hobby interest in writing short stories fulfills a lifelong passion in creative fiction, especially those with uplifting endings. His former professional writings—technical scientific works—are approved to cure insomnia.
I’ve experienced difficulty breathing for 75 days. At approximately 10 o’clock in the evening, anxiety, shortness of breath, and headache were initial symptoms. Subsequently, onset of panic and agitation, mild shaking tremors, and fearfulness manifest as discomfort in the pit of the stomach and hollow rumblings in the intestines. Diarrhea accompanied with insomnia developed within 24 hours. My first self-medication consisted of two Pepto-Bismol tablets taken with 10–12 ounces of water after each of six eliminations of increasingly loose stool. I remained bedridden and close to the toilet. Sore throat and mild fever of 100° F followed within 48 hours, at which time I began a regimen of two extra-strength Tylenol caplets three times a day. Onset of sinus pressure, sneezing and post-nasal drip occurred within 72 hours. Loss of appetite accompanied increasing fatigue and malaise, with persistent headache, low-grade fever, and increasing stuffiness. Intermittent snacks of saltine crackers, canned chicken soup, and lime Jello were all I could keep down. Plugged ears and nose, yellow mucous from a productive cough and continuing headache and fever indicative of a bad cold ensued. Without flu symptoms of body ache and muscle pain, I remained convalescing at home through the weekend to let the cold run its course. I switched from Tylenol to DayQuil and NyQyil over-the-counter cold relief formulas to seek comfort and rest for my miseries.
As a leukemia survivor, thanks to an allogenic bone marrow transplant, my new immune system was being put to the test. Within a week, headache, sore throat, diarrhea and fever subsided, but sinus and chest congestion exacerbated. I substituted over-the-counter meds again, now taking Mucinex to break up phlegm and encourage expectoration. However, the congestion seemed to settle deep in the lungs and sinuses. After two weeks, a dry, unproductive cough and persistent wheeze developed. I began a different Mucinex formulation suggested by the pharmacist, but the congestion remained after another four or five days. My appetite improved during this time, as I was determined to return to a more normal routine, take some fresh air outdoors, and beat this nagging illness. I ran errands, worked at home, attended to bills, completed light housework, bathed and dressed, all attempts at resuming a healthy schedule. I drove to my quarterly blood draw at the hospital to track and confirm my blood chemistry values for post-leukemia remission. Relieved to learn that all lab test indicators were in the normal range, I continued to hack and cough through the year-end holiday season.
Developing a slight fever again, always feeling slightly sick and tired, I decided to schedule an appointment with my Primary Care physician, an Internal Medicine specialist. As my blood work was performed recently and indicated normalcy, he decided to forego additional lab work. With only a slight fever of 99° F, wheezing readily apparent through his stethoscope, he determined I had a secondary bacterial infection in my lungs following a cold virus. He prescribed a 10–day regimen of oral antibiotic Doxycycline, an albuterol spray inhaler Rx to open lung passages, and an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.
Per my doctor’s orders, I administered these drugs to eliminate my sneezing, deep wheezing, dry cough, and mucous-filled sinuses and lungs without success. It remains difficult to breathe. I feel run down. Ill. But without fever, headache, sore throat or other symptoms of active infection, there is nothing more to be done. Something’s stuck in my craw. I’m simply to abide without treatment and without complaint. I’m told the condition will dissipate precisely four years from now.
On Inauguration Day.