Last week I wrote, somewhat ignorantly, about a cough that I’d picked up which had mostly resolved itself within a matter of days. I was quite proud of myself and my body for being so resilient at a time of year when even people who are not immunosuppressed can find recovering from the endless assault of sickness a constant challenge. What I was likely experiencing in reality was my move from the catarrhal stage to the paroxysmal stage of the respiratory infection Pertussis, better known as Whooping Cough.
For those who are unfamiliar, whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory infection causing relatively intense coughing fits, lasting for up to 3 months. The primary concern around whooping cough is it’s exposure and transmission to unvaccinated babies, as there are minimal treatment options available and at it’s worst can prove fatal. Those who are vaccinated (most adults) and will be unaffected by the bacteria causing the illness. For folks like myself who manage to catch it, there’s an isolation period of 5 days while on a course of antibiotics aimed at removing the infectious element of the cough, and then we ride it out. As of tomorrow, I can venture back into the world again!
The cough hasn’t really been the worst of it though. The same day I received the phone call telling me I had to leave work and lock myself away, I started getting an ache in my chest. I figured it was just muscular and due to the coughing, although I hadn’t really been coughing all that much. Also, it didn’t really feel like the normal ache you get when you have a persistent cough. When I become more aware of the pain starting to restrict my breathing limit my movement, I decided perhaps I should talk to someone from the transplant team. I knew there was the potential for the antibiotics I was on to interact with my immunosuppressents, and if that was causing this, I really didn’t want to let it slide.
I ended up having to go in for an x-ray, but was told not to drive with the pain I was describing. The thought of taking an ambulance to hospital for single x-ray sounded ridiculous, but thankfully my brother’s partner was kind enough to take me in and wait around for a pretty boring result. The x-ray didn’t confirm any suspicions of a pneumothorax (air leaking from the lung) or pleural effusion (fluid accumulating around the lungs), and while it’s possible there may be other causes for the pain, potentially even a rib fracture, they would be treated by managing the pain and letting the body heal itself anyway. So I was given a tri-flow, some pain medication, and sent home to rest up.
And that’s where I am now.
Doped up on Targin and Endone, and looking forward to inflicting myself on the general public as of tomorrow. I have another hospital visit in the morning to make sure I’m no longer a threat to society, and am hoping to be back at work Tuesday. I don’t know how long the cough and chest pain will be there, but hopefully I’ll find out more in the next few weeks. It is a little hilarious though that this cough I thought I beat, despite my lowered immune system, I’ve actually contracted because of my lowered immune system. I guess it makes the question of risk v. reward somewhat more real too. Do I start avoiding certain situations because of the negative risks involved (e.g. a 3 month cough) or accept that I’m at a higher risk of catching these illnesses and continue to do what I enjoy, with slightly less ignorance about my own vulnerability?
I’ll probably stay inside if I have to wear these…