Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I have a cold.

No big deal. Not really.

It began a few days ago with a sore throat; little cough; some sneezing. Headachy; nothing that couldn't be controlled with a little tylenol (when I'd remember to take it.) Not sleeping well at all, so I've been running on empty at the office. It's been ok, though. I was able to get out an hour early today and go home for a nap.

Starting last night, though, the cough changed. It moved from the "deep in the chest" kind of cough back up to a back-of-the-throat kind of cough. You know; that annoying "trying to clear your throat" combined with post-nasal drip kind of cough. Annoying, because the cough doesn't "scratch the itch."

Somehow or other, I have wound up with what feels like a sprained larynx.

As it happens, I am no stranger to laryngitis. I often finish up a cold by losing my voice, which of course takes longer to come back than it would if I were physically able to follow the advice I give my patients with laryngitis: voice rest.

But as today has progressed, what started out feeling like a simple upper respiratory infection has left me virtually mute. In typical laryngitis, speaking in a normal tone of voice takes the effort of shouting. I cannot even do that. I can barely whisper. It doesn't hurt in the way a sore throat hurts (sharp mucosal pain, worse with swallowing) but more in a muscular aching kind of way. I can almost feel how swollen my vocal folds must be. It's even more difficult to cough up the scant sputum that still rattles around my lower trachea, and I get the sense that I'm making things worse with every cough. I've got tylenol and guifenesin in me to control the headache and thin the mucus, and I've had three big mugs of tea since I got home. The problem is the sudden impossibility of something I've always taken for granted: speech.

My spouse can't hear me, and I'm just at the other end of the couch. I have to repeat myself three times, often eventually croaking out the words. I paged someone earlier today, and when he finally called back I could barely make myself understood. Today at the office I already found myself asking my staff to make calls I would usually have made. If the phone rings tonight, there's no way I'm going to be able to answer it. Each day this week has been worse than the day before. I don't know what tomorrow's going to be like.

I'm reminded of when I broke a bone in my foot about six years ago. Things previously taken for granted because they were so easily accomplished became much more of a project. Little things, like getting up to go to the bathroom. Find the crutches; hoist up off the couch; hobble over; etc. I find the same emotional reactions coming into play now. Is what I have to say really that important, given how much effort it now takes? More times than one might imagine, the answer is no.

What about work tomorrow? I'm going to have to talk and it's not going to be easy. (It'll be better if I get a good night's sleep, which remains to be seen.) But perhaps it'll be easier to listen more. I won't be so quick to interrupt my patients' stories (though I usually don't.) I'll have to ask my staff for more help, which is never easy for me to do. Most of all, the fact that something so natural, so easy, something that doesn't usually require a second thought has suddenly become such a struggle, is exhausting.

I hate being sick.


At Thu Feb 22, 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Cheryll said...

So, just for consideration...why don't you stay home and let your body heal? Wouldn't you be telling your patients to do that?

Taking a day off from work is increasingly placed under the heading of expensive alternative medicine, I know, but you seem to be an old fashioned healer sort of guy. :)

Besides, I don't think your patients (or your staff) will much appreciate your sharing this bug with them so generously.

OTOH, not being able to talk seems to encourage longer posts on this blog, so for us readers, that could be a good thing.....but we'd rather you stayed healthy and in the blog business a lot longer!

"Physician, heal thyself!"

At Thu Feb 22, 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Bo... said...

Hope you feel better soon.

At Fri Feb 23, 09:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take some time off, Dino. You will need it and your patients will most likely appreciate not being exposed to your "germs". I know from personal experience that seeing a doc who's sick is not comforting.

Anyway, feel better soon.

At Fri Feb 23, 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Radioactive Tori said...

I lose my voice all the time, this year at my 9 year old daughter's sleep over birthday party. Picture ten 9 year old girls and my own other three children running around and me whispering. It turned out ok, but wasn't my most fun evening ever.

Hope you feel better soon!

At Fri Feb 23, 02:05:00 PM, Blogger Zany Mom said...

Another problem with cold-induced voice changes: I had to contact the phone company at the height of my current cold (on the wane but still making me tired, drippy, and hacking after 12 days) and the voice recognition software did not understand anything I said. Pressing 0 for operator got me a person who couldn't help me, and ever so helpfully she gave me a number to call -- yes, it was the same one I called in the first place where you had to speak your answers!

At Fri Feb 23, 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Bookhorde said...

I hope you're feeling better!

At Sat Feb 24, 12:31:00 AM, Blogger Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

Awww. I hope you're feeling better....


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