Saturday, March 11, 2017

Antibiotics and Me

I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the sixties, when ear infections paid the pediatrician's rent--as our old family doctor told me when I brought my son to see him. Whenever I, as a child, had an ear infection or a strep throat, I took penicillin (Pen Vee tabs) for ten days. I remember the little white pills and I remember watching the infected yellow blobs on my tonsils go away after ingesting the little white pills. Flash forward to my thirties: a university health service doctor discovered a "heart murmur" on a routine exam and told me Never To Drink Coffee Again. I had no symptoms, and greatly missed my coffee, so I shelled out more than I could afford to see a cardiologist with a private practice on the East side. He told me I had "mitral valve prolapse" and "no problems" and could drink coffee all I wanted--but I had to take antibiotics every single time the dentist cleaned my teeth, or whenever I had minor surgery. Said this Park Avenue specialist. Thirty years of popping antibiotics every time the dentist cleaned my teeth . . .  and when I wasn't sick, too. Then I wanted to get pregnant, and our fertility specialist prescribed boatloads of antibiotics (which did result in my getting pregnant, by the way!) 
But now here I am at age sixty, generally healthy, except for the breast cancer that's almost been irradiated out of existence, and except for my lungs: every time a cold goes to my chest and I start coughing up green gook, I can't seem to get well without antibiotics. In December I had a bronchitis and wanted to get better before the lumpectomy. I tried for a week with ginger root tea, vegetable broth by the bucket, and healthy plant-based decongestants. No deal. A three-day antibiotic worked like magic and I was fine--until now, two months later, when another bronchitis has suddenly turned up again like the proverbial bad penny. I guess this new illness isn't surprising. My students arrive at office hours coughing and feverish; my kids and my husband have had colds. So I've been lying in bed drinking fruit tea and all that other healthy stuff I just mentioned. I went to the doctor who said what I had was viral and I went to the Web, where it says the green and yellow crap I'm coughing up isn't always bacterial. I'd like to get over this illness by resting and drinking tea. But if that takes three weeks (would you like to see my house after three weeks of me not doing laundry or cleaning the guinea pig cage? Not to mention cooking?) then I'd rather have the three-day antibiotic again.
Do I have any readers who are doctors? Whaddya think, docs?

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