No ordinary cough – but treatable nonetheless

As 2006 becomes 2007 I am reminded of the fragile nature of health.

Last Wednesday, as I left my Mom’s to come home on the train, my baritone voice had taken a dive of at least one octave and, although I was not feeling any other symptoms, this was a sign of things to come.

Thursday the cold settled in on my chest and in my head with a cough and congestion. My eyes looked, and felt, like I had been crying for a week. Paradoxically, I felt too sick to get myself to the doctor but not sick enough to justify calling an ambulance.

As Friday dawned, after precious little sleep (my fear of choking kept me awake watching crappy overnight television), I phoned my doctor’s office. The fear of things only getting worse over the weekend was the main motivator. I saw my physician at about 12:30 p.m., squeezing me in as his last patient before the holiday weekend. An antibiotic was prescribed.

Yesterday a friend brought me in a supply of soup, tissues, pain relievers, throat lozenges and that comfort food of cold remedies – Vapo-Rub.

This morning, at about 3:30, I woke up in a bed soaked with sweat. Had I had a fever and not known it? I left the bed and put on some warm, dry clothes and again plunked myself in front of the TV.

I next woke up at about 5 a.m. and have been up ever since, feeling quite a lot better even if the painful cough lingers. No doubt the worst will be over when the antibiotic runs out on Tuesday.

While I confess to having been feeling both self-pitying and discouraged, with full recovery on the horizon I now have enough perspective to be very grateful for a health-care system that takes all comers, regardless of ability to pay, for my three doctors (general practitioner, HIV specialist and psychiatrist) who do their utmost to keep me well and for the fraternities of hard-working nurses who have cared for me whenever I’ve been hospitalized.

It is not lost on me that simple illnesses like what I’ve experienced this week might have killed me were life-sustaining antiretroviral medicines not keeping my HIV in check. Those night-sweats I woke up to were the kiss of death to many friends in the 1980s and ’90s.

They still are where ARVs are denied those who need them.

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