Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pass the Penicillin! (Or at Least, the Zicam!)

I took the afternoon off sick today with my third cold in seven weeks. After sleeping a good bit of the afternoon, I still feel pretty lousy but at least not as tired. It is amazing how miserable a tiny speck of RNA (or maybe it's a few dozen billion tiny specks of RNA) can make one feel! My second cold, attained just three weeks ago, lasted about a week. But after the end of it, the lymph node under my right jaw became so swollen it looked like I was hiding an egg in there – or maybe a small armadillo. So I went to the doctor a day or so later, and he put me on antibiotics. That reduced the swelling in a matter of 2-3 days, and it has returned to normal.

My mom was a huge believer in penicillin. It was the miracle drug of her day. When she was a little girl, there were no real answers to infections. I heard today that one bacterium, if it started dividing at midnight, and all of its progeny, and their progeny - and so forth - lived, would reach one billion in number by the midnight the next day. So before antibiotics, infections could get out of control quickly. My mom used to have these huge bottles of penicillin – like 1,000 pills each - all the time, believe it or not. If we even looked sick, we would have to start taking it. If you really did get sick, she’d have us double down on the stuff! I think sometimes she would give us one a day even if we were healthy, I guess assuming that it couldn’t hurt. Instead of an apple a day, a penicillin a day!

True story – I had no idea until I was in my 30’s that it was a prescription drug. I had a nasty cold and sore throat that would not quit. I said to myself “I bet a good dose of penicillin would knock this baby out!” I went to the drug store and searched all over – no penicillin. I finally asked them where they kept it. “You need a prescription for that,” was the reply.

“Since when?” I asked.

“It’s always been that way,” the pharmacist said.

I was dumbfounded, and told my wife the tale that night. She stared at me like I had a rattlesnake crawling out of my nose. I told my brother and sister that story later, and they both told me that they had done the exact same thing.

So here I am, feeling crumby again, for the third time in less than two months. It’s just a cold, and there are much worse things than that in life – my visit this past weekend to my sister, so ill with metastasized breast cancer, was an all-too vivid reminder of that fact. But it’s still annoying and very tiring. I’ve been popping the Zicam – but no penicillin - for 48 hours now, so hopefully that will slow it down and I’ll feel like running again – or even walking. Hell, right now, I’d be happy to feel like going to work! We have the TNT Silent Mile this weekend, and I’d love to feel better for that.

No comments: