Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, February 08, 2007

When Air Becomes More Precious Than Gold...

For the past week or more our house has sounded something like a dog pound. More than one member of the family has had minor respiratory problems for quite some time, but all of a sudden a nasty, persistent cough has hit everyone except my wife. I think I was the first, as my usual raw throat trouble started to be supplemented with occasional bursts of deep, chesty coughing about two weeks ago. My son, who has mild asthma, followed soon after. My daughter, who usually has no trouble at all, came last. My wife also has raw throat trouble, but thus far she seems to have been spared (and I really have to wonder why).

As usual, I stubbornly refused to see a doctor despite my wife's constant urging. I tend to shy away from hospitals and clinics unless absolutely necessary (which still means I tend to wind up visiting them at least twice a year), and a mere cough didn't qualify. After my kids' coughing lasted more than a week my wife finally took both of them to the hospital (last Monday). As is typical in this country, the doctor gave no explanation at all; he just wrote up a massive prescription for both kids and sent them on their way. Three days and several packs of medicine later, neither of the kids was showing any sign of improvement. I didn't bother saying, "I told you so," even though I seemed to be getting better.

At least that's what I thought.

At about 3:00 a.m. this morning I suddenly woke up and was immediately hit by an explosive fit of coughing. That wasn't so bad. When I finally stopped coughing, my throat seized up, cutting off my airway as if I were being strangled. In other words, I was unable to breathe. I've had this sort of thing happen before, but only for an instant, usually followed by another cough which clears it up. Well, another cough didn't come, and my throat stayed constricted. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, spots starting to play in my vision as I kept on desperately trying to draw a breath. My wife, who had fallen asleep downstairs in the middle of grading papers, woke up and had no idea what was going on. She thought I was trying not to puke, and all she did was fetch a large bowl from the kitchen and hold it under my mouth for me to heave in. I was totally unable to tell her that I was choking to death, and it simply didn't occur to her.

Ironically enough, I was apparently saved by a gas bubble. In my struggle to breathe I wound up coaxing out a belch, and that somehow opened my airway just enough for me to draw a quick breath and get out a few words before my throat seized up again. That was enough to let my wife know what was going on. She had already bought some face masks containing a decongestant for the kids. She slapped one of those over my mouth, and it did the trick. My throat quickly started opening again.

My wife was going to call an ambulance, but I refused. Instead, I left the mask on and went back to bed. Thankfully, I was able to sleep without incident. This morning both my wife and I took the day off from work, and she took me to the hospital. After a three-hour wait (ain't socialized medicine wonderful...and it's really only semi-socialized) I finally got to see a doctor. After checking me out, he said he was worried it might be either a mycoplasma infection (which is apparently going around now) or an onset of pneumonia, so I was sent to get an X-ray and a blood test. Then we had to wait more than an hour (during which time we had lunch), after which the doctor said he found no sign of anything particularly serious. Still, he was concerned that a bacteria (or mycoplasmal) infection might be possible, so he wrote me up a prescription and sent me on my merry way.

Well, I had a good rest at home, which I'm sure did me some good, but it also seriously screwed up my schedule at work. Oh, well. I'd say oxygen is far more crucial to me than my students' test scores...

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  • Dear God, that is scary. I've not actually heard of that happening to people with an infection before, but anyway, thank goodness you made it.

    I'm not surprised Jp doctors don't explain anything. UK docs were the same 20 years ago, and even now what they do tell you is very grudging. I miss my US doc - no question was too stupid, he never rushed me, and he explained everything behind his actions/decisions with the understanding that I am an educated, thinking, rational person (with an interest in life sciences of course).

    Anyway. I hope you and your family get better soon. There is something magical about Mums that makes them healthier than their families when needed. hehe!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 11:19 PM  

  • Oh my... I hope you are feeling better right now.

    Take good care, ok!

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:02 AM  

  • Are you sure you're OK?

    -Captain Tripps

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:55 AM  

  • Could whooping cough be the culprit? It causes restricted airways, the tell-tale cough and folks used to die from from it not infrequently.

    By Blogger ladybug, at 8:01 AM  

  • Gheez!!!

    How bizzare is that?!!

    Sounds like a horror movie. That could easily be the last of everything.

    Glad you're okay. I can't imagine the outcome without the mask.

    And what are the odds? I was at the hospital as well, yesterday, waiting more than 3 hours for a socialized health check. After coming down with high fever and consistent signs of yellow fever, I had to get my blood tested.

    Fortunately it came out negative.

    "Just regular high fever. I'll just give you aspirin for your headache" said the doctor.

    By Blogger agus, at 11:54 AM  

  • I guess this is about as literal as croaking gets to be!

    Yes, we have something going around here too, and I have been ingesting massive cat fumes since I am currently staying with my sister in Seattle until I get settled.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 AM  

  • That's scary. K and I each had coughs that lasted longer than a couple of weeks following a cold. Mine went away after a month, hers comes and goes - she thinks she's getting better then it returns. Maybe a bacteria to advantage of her weakened state during the cold and hung on - time for the clinic.

    Glad you didn't croak! (sounds like a line Beaver would have said to Wally).

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:03 PM  

  • I can imagine how you felt on that precise moment...I've seen someone close to me choked to death once and that was pretty scary... =(

    I'm happy that you're doing much better.

    Next time do listen to your wife about going to see the doctor before it gets too serious!

    By Anonymous Angele, at 2:23 AM  

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