• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Everything I Know Is Wrong

Dealing with the winter bug that won't go away.

March 9, 2014

I have been whining on this page all winter about the bug that just won't let go.

The backstory is that I have a chronic medical condition, the medication for which is also an immunosuppressant, so I pick up every little bug that passes under my nose. As a result, I have had to take more antibiotics over the past several years than can possibly be good for a person.

This year, I was determined to tough it out. I swigged black tea, irrigated with saltwater, and eliminated refined sugar and dairy from my diet. I was having some intense night sweats, so I started spending time in my gym's sauna and steam room, to flush out impurities. I seemed to get better. But then I noticed that my hands and feet were swollen, and my chest and abdomen felt heavy. I knew that black tea sometimes impedes liver functioning, so I cut out the tea, but the edema grew more pronounced. I thought I must be retaining water from the saltwater irrigation, so I stopped that, too, and eliminated salt from my diet. That didn't help either.

The worst of the hacking and sneezing passed, but I was left feeling bloated and lethargic. I was running a low grade fever most of the time, and the night sweats got worse. Because I am me, but also because I have been ambushed by serious illness in the past, I decided I had leukemia and finally scheduled a visit with my physician.

It turned out to be an entrenched, impacted sinus infection, exacerbated by the nasal irrigation, which apparently pushed the infection further up into my sinus cavities, where it couldn't drain. The edema, she told me, is most likely the result of the night sweats, which had depleted my sodium and electrolyte levels. I should have been adding more salt to my diet to replace what I had lost, rather than eliminating it.

My doctor, unlike Laura Tropp's PA, is the opposite of patronizing. She assumes intelligence and goes out of her way to be sure I understand my symptoms and am on board with any treatment. She sympathizes with my desire to avoid unnecessary medication and will help me unearth or devise alternatives when possible.

Even so, this experience was a humbling reminder that proficiency in one area =/= global expertise. My PhD doesn't give me the know-how of an MD, any more than it enables me to fix my own plumbing or drive a schoolbus.

I'm on a course of Zithromax now. There was no other way. I'm abashed, but feeling much better than I have in a very long time.


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