December 30, 2008

Taking your medicine

I have proper medicine now: I have antibiotics, codeine in capsule form (no more drops!), and cortisone, again in capsule form. Yay! Last night I woke up coughing so badly I got something like an asthma attack and we had to call an emergency doctor who makes house calls. He didn't find much wrong with me - clear lungs, no sinus infection, no throat infection, just this damn cough and slightly inflamed lungs. So he gave me something to help me sleep - I won't mention how it was administered - and told me that after 3 weeks of chronic coughing I need to go see a lung specialist.

When I pestered him a bit for more information he opined that I probably have some sort of chronic lung weakness that is preventing me from kicking this cough on my own. Lung weakness? Isn't that for people with asthma that are short of breath when they have to climb stairs?? I am a hearty person. Sort of. When it's not winter. But he stubbornly maintained that uncontrollable coughing for three weeks is not normal. He also said I probably should have already been on antibiotics for such a persistant, uncontrollable cough.

So today we saw the lung specialist. I was deeply annoyed because it's the day before New Year's Eve and no one has office hours, there's one clinic serving all of Munich today. I also couldn't help reflectng that there's nothing much wrong with me that antibiotics couldn't have cured a week ago and even if I do have some lung thingy I could have made a proper appointment in the New Year to check it out properly, rather than shuffling downtown in a weakened state to sit for two hours in a small enclosed waiting room with all the contagious respiratory emergencies in Munich.

As it happens, however, the doctor was able to see us right away without an appointment, although they conducted a longish series of tests and the whole thing took over an hour to complete. That, my friends, is the beauty of private insurance in Germany. It costs the earth and you better hope your employer picks up half but you get in right away and they don't stint on the tests.

So. . . they took my blood pressure, had me breath in two mystery machines in different ways, took some blood, took a chest x-ray (my first ever unless I got one at school years ago) and put some burning cream on my ear lobe before piercing it with something that felt like an awl and squeezing blood out of it for what seemed like ten minutes. That was the suckiest part - no one leaves that office without a bandaid on their ear.

The results of these various tests were then presented to Dr. Friedrich and told him what I already knew: I have a light but persistant infection that can be treated with antibiotics (with a tiny but unlikely chance that I've contracted whooping cough) and I am pale. I probably also have some underlying non-life threatening condition such as an allergy that explains why my colds tend to turn into chronic bronchitis three years running but to find out more I'll have to come back and get a CAT scan and goodness knows what else.

Now we're home and I've taken my first antibiotic tablet, which is sitting a little uncomfortably but triumphantly in my stomach, and poor Ralf is upstairs exhausted and trying to catch up on his work. I am making him coffee and grandmommy eggs (soft-boiled eggs over broken up toast with lots of salt and pepper) to try and make up for my poor health. Tonight he has late calls catching up with his team, or his 'bitches', as I jokingly refer to his superstar all-male team of technical software designers since we watched 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan' the other night.

I'll probably have to come up with something else if he ever hires a girl.

Speaking of Zohan, if only Middle Eastern problems could actually be solved by Israeli counterterrorists becoming hair dressers . . . here are a few Zohan quotes that made me laugh despite my sadness for that war torn part of the world because they are so absurd:

(Zohan the Isreali counterterrorist upon being shot at by a Palestinian terrorist): "OK, I get it. You don't like my country."

(Zohan's mom over dinner): "They've been fighting for 2000 years. They're probably almost finished."

(The Hizballah hotline): "Terrorist support operations are temporarily suspended due to peace talks. Normal operations will resume as soon as the peace talks break down."


  1. Aaaah, German medicine. Or any medicine for that matter. It can be so frustrating when you're just not getting better, but not sick enough to really warrant drastic treatment...
    I sure hope the antibiotics will help kick this!
    I appreciate Germans trying to treat illness without so many antibiotics (I was treated with smearing mustard all over my chest & back for pneumonia once when I was young!), BUT sometimes antibiotics do seem to be the right treatment!

    I had to laugh at the "lung weakness" -- what exactly does that mean?!? What does it mean when Germans talk of somebody having "ein schwacher Kreislauf" -- is there a translation into English for that? My scientific scepticism doesn't know what "a weak circulatory system" actually means...

  2. Yes, Naturelady, you Germans have a lot to answer for, influcting such horrible tasting medicine on nice people like me. On the other hand, the truly disgusting ones like Capval are opiods, which can be addictive, so maybe just as well they are totally revolting. I also appreciate how German doctors don't immediately throw broad band antibiotics at everything that moves but I really needed them this time so it's been frustrating. The good news is that they're already working - I had a cough free night last night and am feeling nicely dried out. Thanks for stopping and happy NY!

  3. this sounds exactly like what I had, I just broke down and pushed for antibiotics sooner (I think you have a stronger character). I was also told it might be whooping cough which actually sounded a bit right to me since this wasn't the "normal" cough I get with bronchitis. It didn't seem to come from as low in my abdomen and it also seemed to be something I could not stop doing even if I wanted to. My clue I was in trouble was that I had been 4 days taking Nyquil and was not better. That is my personal sign to get something "real".


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