When The Chronically Ill Get “Sick”

You might be shaking your head in confusion at that title. However, I think it will make sense very quickly. I use the word “sick” to cover acute illnesses like bronchitis, the flu, even appendicitis or a broken leg. For that last one, I am referring to those of us who don’t have chronic conditions that make our bones frail.

I am sitting here looking through watery sore and swollen eyes and typing between horrendous coughing spells. I knew somethings were definitely wrong but I didn’t want to go to a doctor and be told “it is just a virus, go home, get lots of rest, and drink plenty of liquids.

I thought the eye problem was a tear duct infection, which I have gotten many times before when I have a head cold. Plus I equated my sore throat and lots of phlegm to the head cold as well… that is until I felt it starting up in my lungs. When Hubby had a sore throat we decided a trip to the clinic for both of us was needed. I decided when my eyes became very red and would swell shut when I slept, that this was definitely something solidly wrong so they couldn’t say it is all in my head.

And I was right.

I came out with medication for conjunctivitis (“pink-eye”) and pneumonia. Hubby has a throat infection.

To tie this all into the title, everyday acute illnesses can be nothing for an otherwise healthy individual. For someone with chronic illness, it can have some serious ramifications.

I have a compromised immune system thanks to a couple of my illnesses. So, if I get a “cold”, it almost always turns into something more like bronchitis or pneumonia. Or, it can just keep hanging on, especially through the colder months. The non-stop cough I have had for almost a week plays havoc with my back and knee pain, not to mention my head which is almost always aching anyway.

There are very few antibiotics I can take because I either react to them or they don’t do anything at all. I think I have tried them all at least once.

Many years ago now, I got a pain in my right side. It started in the back but moved to the front and got much worse. My hubby picked me up from work and took me to our local clinic. Unfortunately, none of the regular doctors were on and we got a locum from another clinic. At first, he was really not interested because it didn’t seem like I was really in pain. Then Hubby stepped in and said that I have chronic pain and have a hard time showing it but he could tell I was in a lot of pain. The doctor took a sample, said there was blood in it and wanted a CT scan to check for a kidney stone. I called up the lab and they said I could get an appointment in 2 weeks.

Well, we decided to go to the ER because I wouldn’t be able to manage for 2 weeks with all my chronic ailments. I waited 6 hours in the main waiting room on a hard chair because they didn’t believe it was something serious.  I then sat for another hour on a hard chair in the acute trauma area because the nurse that examined me wasn’t satisfied that it was very bad. By the time I saw the doctor (almost 12 hours after it started) a doctor came to see me. he did an exam and by this time did get a reaction out of me. He ordered a CT and other tests and when he got back he pretty much yelled “Get this poor woman a bed, she has a lodged kidney stone. All of a sudden I had a stretcher, some painkillers, and some very attentive nurses.

At 6 am I got a room and a half hour later the surgeon came to see me. He had me in surgery and out before hubby could make it back to the hospital!

Since that time I have “learned” how to separate acute symptoms from my daily ones. This makes life just a little easier.

I know that other chronic illness warriors have similar and different stories about how to deal with acute conditions. It is just one more hurdle we have to jump in our lives.



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