Anti-Vaxxers Gave Me Whooping Cough

Mar 11 2016 Published by under Daily Struggles

This is the story of my trip to the hospital.

While the good people of Nevada were busy rejecting their native son a few weeks ago, and helping the nation choose a loose cannon Republican nominee that will make us all say "remember when we used to think Dubya was as bad as it could get?" I was otherwise occupied coughing out my lungs. What had started as some mild sinus congestion and a little cough had led to this - me, on my hands and knees, gasping for breath between paroxysms of coughing.

We went to the ER, where they promptly gave me a little mask to wear once they called me in for triage (but only after I had coughed up a storm in the waiting area. I did cough into my elbow, as one is supposed to do.) Once settled in a curtained-off bed, the kindly physician's assistant listened to my story, listened to my cough, listened to my lungs and then told me:  you may have whooping cough. Yes. Whaaaat? I was just thinking super-bad bronchitis. Although, there was that coughing-so-hard-I-could-barely-breath thing.

They gave me a one hour albuterol breathing treatment which, if you are ever coughing your lungs out, do ask for one, because it is like the balm of Gilead to inflamed bronchial tubes in spasm.  The chest x-ray in the ER showed "lower left lobe infiltrate" which is fancy doctor talk for "you have walking pneumonia" which is also fancy doctor talk for "you have the kind of pneumonia that doesn't give a fever and that is sneaky and hides" and also "you will feel like crap for another week or so, but we should be able to get the coughing under some control" and "you are not going to die, and can go home with your spouse".

The breathing treatment, plus a massive dose of prednisone, plus a horse pill of Levaquin, plus cough syrup with codeine, took me from "I am going to crack a rib if I keep coughing like this, which maybe if the broken rib punctures my lung, it will let some air in" to "Jesu Christi! I can draw a breath of air without breaking into spasms of coughing!" You don't realize how nice it is to breath easy until you can't.

An inept male nurse swabbed me to test for whooping cough, which means he injected my nostrils with saline and then tried to suction "boogies" (his word) out of them for lab culture, while Mr. Z gagged in the chair next to the bed. This was a bad evening for Mr. Z, as he had already had to deal with the cat litter earlier (normally my duty).

Do not ever let anyone swab you for whooping cough, if you can help it. It is not a pleasant experience. Imagine that you have been coughing and choking to death for days on end. Now imagine someone shoots saline up your nostrils, which runs down your throat, and then they stick a thin plastic suction tube up your nostril probing for your brains. Imagine you burst into a spasm of coughing and the torturer nurse says "ready for the other nostril?" and between gasps you say "no" and he says "whenever you are ready!" in a chipper voice and all this is interrupting your balm of Gilead breathing treatment. Bastard. And also, fuck you to all the anti-vaxxers who aren't vaccinating their kids and thus creating outbreaks of whooping cough that lead to innocent bystanders like me getting swabbed for whooping cough because maybe that's what caused my pneumonia. Fucking whooping cough. Fucking anti-vaxxers.

After a five-hour visit, we left the hospital around 2:15 a.m. with a sheaf of prescriptions. We headed for the 24 hr CVS, about a 10 minute drive from the hospital...only to find that the 24 hr CVS is no longer the 24 hr CVS "not since December!" The new 24 CVS is now the CVS that is...down the road from the hospital and on the way home. So, right back to where we started and on to the New Improved 24 Hr CVS, where we waited for the scripts while the slightly crazed looking, probably sleep deprived, but very nice pharmacist called out questions and directions to me in brazen disregard for HIPPA as I sat next to one other pathetic late night prescription seeker. We bought two bottles of Gatorade, a pack of Ensure for Mr. Z to have some breakfast nutriment, and a Kit Kat candy bar for the little girl who had been so brave at the doctor's. And then we went home.

When we were waiting at the ER exit for the valet to bring the car back (you can't park at the ER except by valet) I said to Mr. Z, "I've got the walking pneumonia and the boogie woogie blues" (through my little face mask). And he said, "You surely do." Then: "Boogies! He kept saying it, over and over! Boogies! Over and over! Why did he have to say it!" It was funny, but we were too tired and traumatized to laugh.

He was so angry when the old 24 hr CVS turned out not to be the 24 hr CVS. And then, just as we were almost home we got one last red light, and he was just furious about the wait. And I felt so bad, because I knew he had to get up in about 4 hours and go to work. I felt so awful for being this person who just has one strange illness after another (in the past year I've developed unusual allergic reactions to food and now have an epi-pen; I've had a problem with my eyes; all this on top of the migraine stuff.) I thought he is just going to hate me. We got home, and I crawled into bed and started making a little mound of pillows, because the PA told me to sleep sitting up some if I could, and he said "I love you, but I have to get to sleep".

The next morning, I woke before him, with a little coughing - so I coughed into my pillow as quiet as I could and I slipped out of the room to use my inhaler. After Mr. Z got out of the shower, I said "I know last night was terrible but I'm feeling a lot better" and before I could even finish he said "you sound way better than you did even when we got home last night. I didn't think they were going to let you leave with me." And then he bent over Kitteh #1 laying at the foot of the bed, and petted and kissed him and said "Mommy's getting better, Kitteh! Everything's going to be okay again!" And before he left, he planted three soft, long kisses on top of my head. And I knew he did not hate me, and had not been mad at me for being sick.  And then I took a bunch of meds and made tea.

And that is the story of my trip to the hospital. The End.*

*It was not, however, the end of the story. Eventually had to get a nebulizer for home use, every four hours. And I have to see a pulmonologist. And I've got my fingers crossed that I don't end up with asthma out of all this. So, once again: fuck you, anti-vaxxers. Your irrational, unfounded superstitions about vaccines have real-life, harmful consequences for people.

14 responses so far

  • potnia theron says:

    Yes, kitteh, mama's gonna get better.

  • Joseph says:

    So you had whooping cough and went in to work? Do you hate your coworkers? If any of them have babies under 6 months, you could be giving it to them to give it to their babies (you cannot immunize a baby under 6 months). And little babies are the ones that die. There are videos of babies with whooping cough. Watch them if you doubt the severity. It's horrifying.

    Also, everyone should make sure they're up to date on their tdap shot (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)). You have to get them again every 5-10 years. In many places you can get it cheap or free from the county health office.

    • Christina Pikas says:

      WTF dude. Her husband went to work. He's not sick.

    • Zuska says:

      I'm not sure where you got the idea I went to work.
      1. I was so sick I could barely make tea for myself.
      2. I don't have work to go to. Because I have chronic migraines. Which the cough syrup exacerbated.
      3. So go yell at someone else, douchebag.
      4. Although the info about the tdap shot is spot on.
      5. And FYI, I had a tdap in the past 10 years.
      6. So again, go yell at someone else, douchebag.

      • Joseph says:

        It was a simple misreading. I don't know how I missed it now that I see it. And I didn't know you weren't working, obviously. I know people that do exactly what I described. Some may not even have much of a choice.

        And yeah, I said the last bit mostly for anyone who didn't know since that's not always common knowledge. Though probably redundant for this forum.

        Anyway, I'm out. I meant to be stern (is serious business as you well know) but not cause offense.
        Given the explicit name-calling and misunderstandings I see, clearly I wasn't effective at the latter.

        I hope you feel better soon.

        • Zuska says:

          Well, I'm sorry about the name calling. I may be a teensy bit over sensitive about the work thing since it hurts so much to have lost my career.

          Obviously it would be awful for anyone with whooping cough to expose others by going to work. And while nasty to have, it's not as dangerous for adults as for infants. Which is why the anti-vaxxers make so crazy

  • genomicrepairman says:

    Damn that's rough, feel better.

  • DJMH says:

    I'm baffled that collecting boogers is the medically approved way to evaluate if someone has pertussis or not. You'd think they could just collect some spit or blood or what have you.

    Though on the flip side, if people who runs these tests ever want some control samples, my kids would be great at it.

  • eeke says:

    Did it end up being whooping cough? I mean, fuck the anti-vaxxers anyway, but was it? Hope you've improved by now.

    • Zuska says:

      The official test said no, but the dude was so inept - even he admitted that he did not get a good sample. OTOH, I should in theory still have immunity from my tdap 6 years ago. On the other other hand, the whole onset, development, symptoms, etc were entirely consistent with whooping cough and unlike any cold I've ever had. Also unlike plain old bronchitis, which I've had twice before. pcp thinks yes, the ER PA thinks yes, I think yes, but the bungled test means we don't know.

  • Lisa says:

    I feel for you - I also had whooping cough a few years ago. The trouble is, by the time the horrendous cough shows up, you're almost certainly not contagious anymore. The initial phase of the disease is very cold-like and mild, and happens a month or so before the cough. So people can expose everyone around them without having any idea. And the awful brain-swabbing for "boogies" is often unable to verify infection because the bacteria are largely gone (it's the toxins they spew when they die that damage the lungs).

    The other big problem is that the boosters are not incredibly effective and probably wear off before the 10 year expiration date. This is why they now try to immunize every pregnant woman before she delivers, even if she was immunized recently.

    Take home message for pro-vaxxers who don't want to get whooping cough? Get your DTaP boosters early and often, folks!

    And I hope you feel better soon! I hear that whooping cough is called the 100-day cough in China because it lasts ... you guessed it. Keep that albuterol handy for a while.

    • Zuska says:

      OMG, I'm so sorry for you! But very glad you commented, because I think that explains everything.

      My pcp gave me a nebulizer & 3 refills of 150 vials - she does not mess around. No asthma on her watch, she says!

  • Pat says:

    First - Zuska am so glad you are doing better. Second folks know when you get a tetanus shot you can get it with a whooping cough vaccine (aka pertussis) which you should. Third and we need to do something about this- neither medicare nor the supplemental insurance will pay for the tetanus/pertussis shot unless you basically step on a rusty nail (regardless of whether your shots have expired and knowing that by getting a pertussis shot you are saving babys' lives)