Nurses Are Difficult Patients

I had a battle appointment with my doctor recently. His heart must sink when he realizes that I’m in his exam room. I don’t mean to be a problem, but … nurses are notoriously bad patients.

I’d had a cough for about a week, which had recently developed into a sore throat. It hurt way down in the front of my throat, at the larynx. And because I’ve had, in the past, a two-year battle with C. diff, I am extremely reluctant to take antibiotics. In fact, I’m generally reluctant to take any medications at all.

My head has to be splitting open before I swallow a Tylenol. It’s just how I am.

So I showed up in his office on a Thursday morning, complaining of a deep, persistent cough and raw sore throat. I fervently hoped he had his magic wand with him, because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like any of his suggestions.

Predictably, the conversation went like this:

Me: I’ve had a cough for a week now, I’m sick of it! And now my throat is getting sore, way down at my larynx. What can I do?

Doctor: Well, you don’t have a fever, and your throat is only sore after a lot of coughing, right? So I don’t think you need antibiotics.

Me, relieved: Oh, good! I wouldn’t have taken them, anyway.

Doctor: Your larynx is sore from all the coughing. What you need is a cough suppressant, dextromethorphan –

Me, interrupting: No, no, I hate that stuff.

Doctor, surprised: Oh?

Me, firmly: It makes me feel awful, all drugged and spacey. I don’t like it. I don’t want to take it.

Doctor, reluctantly: Well… I guess I could give you a prescription for Tessalon Perles, a cough suppressant tablet –

Me, interrupting again: No, I’ve tried those too. I don’t like them, either. Yuck.

Doctor, incredulous: You’re kidding –

He trails off.

I smile at him weakly, shrug my shoulders. Next suggestion please.

Doctor, a little helplessly: Okay, well, you need to take an anti-inflammatory, like Aleve or Advil. To reduce the inflammation of the larynx.

Me, unenthusiastically: I don’t really like those, either, but …

Doctor, interrupting firmly: Take Aleve, Carol, twice a day! And you need to do saltwater gargles, also twice a day –

Me: Saltwater gargles definitely don’t help, I’ve tried. The throat pain is way down there, Doctor, down at the larynx. The saltwater doesn’t get down there far enough!

We face off, studying each other. My doctor is clearly trying not to look annoyed with me. He’s not succeeding very well.

Me, uncertainly: What really helps, actually, is a glass of Scotch. It soothes –

Doctor, exasperated: Carol, Scotch will not help your sore throat! I can’t believe you think –

Me, defensively: No, I’m serious, Doctor, it does! It deadens the pain as it passes the larynx –

Doctor, forcefully: Carol, the larynx is below the esophageal junction. The Scotch doesn’t even pass the larynx! You can drink Scotch if you want to, but don’t pretend it’s to soothe your throat!

Me, muttering to myself: Well… it seems like Scotch helps…

Silence settles over the room. Then:

Doctor, wearily: Carol, what do you want?

Me: Well… I could use a note for work. I’m supposed to work tomorrow, but I don’t think I have the energy.

Doctor, disbelievingly: You don’t think you have the energy?

I suspect he’s feeling like I have plenty of energy. Witness how vigorously I’m arguing with him!

Me, meekly: I just want to be sure – this cough – and yesterday my throat was so sore

Doctor, resignedly: What do you want it to say, Carol? Should I just write “Carol can return to work whenever she says”?

Me: I’m sure I’ll be ready by Monday. I just want to make sure. I don’t want to –

Doctor: Okay, Carol, it’s okay. You don’t have to explain. Here you go. Here’s a note saying you can return to work on Monday.

Me, humbly: Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate it.

I went straight to the store and bought dextromethorphan, Aleve, and throat lozenges. I took them all, twice a day, and endured the inevitable dopey fog. I gargled with saltwater. I avoided Scotch. I slept for two days straight.

And you know what?

My cough went away! My sore throat disappeared! I got well! I returned to work on Monday in fine health.

It was just a matter of following my doctor’s good advice.

Like I always  do.

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