When the doctor really f—– needs to see the doctor
That f — can mean many things… freaking, finally, or… other things.
I showed up at my primary care’s office yesterday waving the white flag. It was two weekends ago that Babygirl woke up with 102 degrees temp and exploding snot; it’s been ten days since Babyboy and I got it; it’s been ten days that I’ve been wheezing and coughing like an eighty-year-old-lifetime-four-pack-a-day-smoker.
I’ve continued to see patients in clinic, fever be damned. I’ve been escalating my own treatment to ridiculous levels.
Hey, this is what doctors are EXPECTED to do, what we are pushed to do throughout training, what we are admired and congratulated for as tough-as-nails, badass attendings.
No one wants us to cancel. Not the patients who will be massively inconvenienced, not the staff who will have to make all the calls to reschedule, not the department who will lose out on revenue, not me who will have to make up ALL those visits.
I wore a mask some of the time, but not all the time… I made it through the week, and I saw ALL my patients.
But by last Friday, my breathing was so bad, I couldn’t make it through an encounter without leaving the room to use my Albuterol. My patients were reaching into their purses to give ME cough drops, and offering ME sips of their water. My nurse set me up with a neb mid-clinic, and that bought me some time; I got through the day and got home.
All weekend I was using my puffer waaaay too much: three, four puffs every two, three hours, including multiple awakenings overnight.
By Sunday my chest felt packed tight with steel wool. It HURT to breathe. And of course Hubby was traveling, at a conference, and it was storming snowing out, to boot. I was alone with the kids and I realized I needed a higher level of care.
So naturally, as per normal ingrained doctor AND MOTHER culture, I called my friend and colleague who very kindly called me in a course of oral steroids.
I took more than she prescribed (of course) and went to bed. Monday dawned and I felt 75% better.
But it started creeping back, the steel wool in the chest, the coughing spasms, the nighttime awakenings and desperate puffing…
So yesterday, I showed up at my Primary care’s office waving the white flag, and she put me through my paces. She pointed out several things: I had a fever. My oxygen saturation was abnormally low. I was using accessory muscle of breathing. I was wheezing. My peak flow was lower than normal.
I got a chest xray. A flu swab. A neb.
The flu swab came up positive. Influenza A.
We realized: I’d been seeing patients (and taking the train… and going to church…) while infected with Influenza A and coughing all over the place, spewing viral particles.
It’s been a bit of an Occupational Health disaster. We had to notify all the staff. They’re going to notify the patients. I had to notify my church. If people develop a febrile illness, they need to know that it might be flu. They can get tested, and can get Tamiflu. Or, they may want to take prophylactic Tamiflu.
What a mess.
Me? I’m on mega-high-dose steroids, nebs, inhalers, et cetera, and I feel great.
Dumb, and guilty, but great. Because I f—- f—- saw the f—- doctor.