An African elephant is sitting on my chest, flogging my head with its trunk. When I cough, it hurts down to my toes, and I believe my lungs are actually in danger of turning inside out, trying to produce jelly bean-sized lumps of phlegm. I think I have cracked at least two ribs, and pulled muscles across my back with the force of the cough.
But, life goes on. Kids need to get to school, lunches must be made, inane conversations must be had. Like this one:
"Mom," said 8-year-old M. Peevie, out of the blue, "Does your insurance company forgive your first accident?"
Girlfriend watches WAY too much TV. "M. Peevie," I said, "I am so far past my first accident that I need 35th accident forgiveness." I used to have a car accident approximately every two months. Usually it wasn't my fault. Also, in almost every case, the other driver did not have insurance.
Meanwhile, back to typhoid/tuberculosis/black lung disease. I have had the unique privilege of attracting the attention of the Center for Disease Control (CDC)--oh, you haven't heard that story?
I had been coughing up a lung for two or three weeks, and my doctor did not know what to do with me. He tried antibiotics, chest x-rays, inhalers, everything. I went to see him so often that his staff put my birthday on their PDAs--and made me wear a surgical mask when I entered the office. No other symptoms--just the Cough That Wouldn't Quit.
I had a trip planned to Phoenix with M. Peevie, who was excited to be traveling to The Land of a Million Swimming Pools. We were planning to visit my friend Q and her family, who had rudely moved there several months earlier. So M. Peevie and I were waiting in the airport about a half hour before our flight boarded, when Mr. Peevie called my cell phone.
"Your doctor called," he said. "He wants you to call him right away." OK, that's ominous, right? I called him, and they put me through to him right away--another Sign of the Apocalypse.
"Um, E. Peevie?" he said, because by now we were on a first-name basis, "I have some bad news. You have pertussis. Whooping cough. You need to be quarantined."
"Quarantined?" I said. "Pertussis? I'm about ready to get on a plane for Phoenix."
"I do not think that the CDC would appreciate that," he said. "I've already reported your case. You need to go home and be under quarantine for six weeks." Also, he told us, everyone else in the household would need to be treated with prophylactic antibiotics.
So, instead of spreading my infection any further, I went home. But I have to say--although that cough was bad, long-lasting, painful and convulsive--this one is just as bad, or possibly worse. Hmmm. I wonder what exciting CDC-relevant illness I might have this time: Legionnaires' Disease? Drug-resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae Disease?
Not that I'm a worrier. What's the worst that can happen? I already feel like shit. So I get a diagnosis and have to go to bed for a few days? Sounds like heaven.