I am recovering from a bad bout of pneumonia, and believe me, I was pathetic. I felt icky starting Feb 15th, taught that day with a cold (I know, awful, right?) but thought I would get better in a day or so, eating chicken soup and stuff. It felt like I wasn’t sick if I didn’t have a fever, because that’s what everybody asks first when you tell them you’re sick. It goes like this:
“Hi, this is Colleen. I won’t be able to teach your class today because I have a cold and I am not up to teaching.”
“Oh, really? Do you have a fever?”
“No, I am just really congested and coughing, and I have a sore throat.”
And it sounds as if I am making it up, as if a sore throat and coughing and stuffy head are not enough. I went quickly downhill after the first few days, and the weekend after that was a total blur. I kept hoping I would be able to pull out of it, took the over the counter medications, but nothing really worked.
I would wake up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe, and awake by myself, feeling like I was the only person in the world. I wondered what I was going to do. No insurance, medicine and medical bills are expensive. No insurance means you pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for something an insured person pays $25 for. You feel fragile in the middle of the night, like there is no one else in the world. And the stuffy nose, achy throat, agony of illness scares you. You start thinking about how grateful you should have been for your health when this illness didn’t have a hold of your throat with its cold icy fingers.
Saturday night I thought I was going to die. Not in that “Oh darn, these shoes are just killing me” sort of way, but in the black, terrifying sort of way. I woke at 3:30 am and couldn’t breathe. I panicked a little bit, trying to tell myself to calm down. I didn’t have the energy to do anything, or even go to the bathroom, but in my hazy fear I started to wonder if that was my last night on Earth. If I would make it to the next day. I was this close to having my husband take me to the hospital. But eventually I fell asleep, and did, of course, wake the next day.
I don’t have a regular doctor, except for Planned Parenthood for woman things, so I don’t have anything resembling a medical history, no one to call if I feel sick or crummy. Tony asked a friend of ours for his brother’s phone number. His brother the doctor. I called him myself, on his cell phone, feeling ooky. Tony told me this is the way Asian people work, not to worry. Why was I wary of calling him? Because I couldn’t pick this guy out of a crowd, and here I am, terrified of calling him and asking for a big favor. Tony assured me the others do it too, and that it’s OK, and why am I worried?
I wondered what kind of doctor he was, and if this was an incredible imposition, because I don’t really even know this guy, and I am asking him to fit me in, or let me come visit him at home, or something. And I was scared, too , because I am never sick, and I didn’t want to bother anybody, and I was taking cold medicine, couldn’t really eat anything, and was just feeling pretty crappy. And fragile.
We went to his office the next morning, and I was still feeling weird about it. Would they take us without insurance? Would we be able to pay the doctor’s fees? I didn’t know anything. He said I would need an x-ray. Sounds expensive. Do we have the money for it?
Well, we had the money for it, by the magic of credit cards. He was kind, and warm, and very helpful. I was so grateful that he could help me that I was one word away from crying the whole visit. I was shy, too, afraid of letting him see me naked, knowing that his brother is a friend of ours, and that we would certainly see this guy again. But because he was a friend’s brother, we felt we could trust him.
He didn’t need me to undress, I didn’t need an x-ray, but we were prescribed some very expensive antibiotics, about $12 a pill. Still taking said antibiotics. And using the inhaler. Because my lungs are so full of crap that I have trouble walking up the stairs to my student’s house without losing my breath.
I am still scared, though, because this thing is not completely gone. It is still there, lingering. My baby sister was hospitalized this week because she has something similar. I feel like I will never be well, never healthy again. The sun coming back helps, because it was awful wet and cold and gray the whole week I was in bed. I have 2 days of antibiotics left. I can’t afford to stop teaching, not because I love it sop much, but because I can’t afford to stop teaching. I already lost 1/4 of my income for last month on this crap, and with the new house, and the bills, and everything, I am scared not to work right now. We’ll be OK, I think, I hope, because somehow, we always are.
But it scares the shit out of me, and this heaviness in my lungs may mean another few hundred dollars lost before I even make them.