I made it through my life without ever having the flu until 2008. What a horrible illness that is. High fever. No energy. No appetite. Sore throat. Runny nose. You pretty much feel like Jabba the Hutt looks when you have the flu.
I went to the doctor on a Thursday afternoon. The initial flu test came back negative, so the doctor diagnosed me with sinusitis, I think. He prescribed me an antibiotic and some Clarinex.
The Clarinex wasn’t really helping my symptoms. In fact, it made me feel even worse, though in my foggy state of mind it didn’t occur to me to stop taking it. Instead, I called the pharmacist the next day (Friday) and asked if it would be okay to take some Advil Cold and Sinus since I know my body responds well to that medicine. The pharmacist knew I was taking Clarinex, obviously, because he filled the prescription. Plus, I told him so.
The next thing I know my body is on fire. I took my temperature and it was almost 104 degrees. My throat and face began to swell. My breathing became labored. I could barely talk. I freaked the fuck out.
I first called my wife. She wasn’t working that day and was out shopping. I asked her to come home so she could take me to the emergency room. She seemed irritated by my request, but agreed to do it. After such a reassuring phone call, I didn’t feel like I was going much support from her other than a ride to the hospital, so I called my mommy.
Yeah, I’m a momma’s boy. No shame.
My mom didn’t even recognize my voice on the phone. It was cracking and squeaky. I mean, I could barely breathe. I told her what was going on and asked her if she would meet me at the hospital, and she obviously agreed.
I was dressed by the time my wife got home. She wasn’t hiding her irritation at all. On the drive to the hospital I gave in to my panic. I had never had an allergic reaction before. I didn’t have the slightest idea what was happening to me. My throat was almost completely closed and I could barely breathe or talk. With the words I did manage to get out I said some things about my children losing their father and how I wasn’t ready to leave my kids. As I said, I was panicking. Obviously.
My wife responded with annoyance. She pretty much implied that I was being stupid for thinking that I was knocking on death’s door. She irritably, instead of reassuringly, insisted repeatedly that I wasn’t going to die, which is clearly the only appropriate way to deal with someone in a severe state of panic. Sigh…
My mom was already in the waiting room when we finally got to the hospital. The intake nurse brought me to a small examination room to take my vitals and question me. That particular nurse was a moron who didn’t even know how to use a thermometer. She took my temperature, and gave me a “bitch, please” look when it only registered a little over 100. Despite the fact that my breath was labored, my face swollen and red, and my assurance that my thermometer at home told me I was running a dangerously high fever, she didn’t think to retry taking my temperature.
I told the nurse that I had taken both Clarinex and Advil Cold and Sinus. I also told her that my pharmacist had told me it would be okay to do so since they contained different ingredients. She told me that they’re both decongestants and probably shouldn’t have been taken at the same time.
“So I can sue my pharmacist for this ER bill?” I asked her.
She stuttered and backtracked and gave me a noncommittal response. I then had to explain to her that I was joking. It’s kinda my thing.
My panic attack continued even after I had been taken back and put in a room. Nobody had done anything yet to reassure me that I was going to be fine and would live to continue making stupid jokes. While we waited for the doctor to come in and see me, my wife, who had a lot of nurse training because she worked with special needs children, grabbed a thermometer off the wall and took my temperature. It read almost 104. It was comforting to know the intake nurse couldn’t even properly use a thermometer. It really builds confidence in the rest of the staff.
They took some blood (they missed the first time) and I waited rather impatiently while they tested my blood to see what the hell was wrong with me. I remember a tear escaping my eyes while I waited and I felt it burn its way down my cheek.
I’m not sure how long we waited for the doctor to return with the results of the blood test, but by the time he had my temperature and swelling had gone down. I was breathing and speaking normally again and had a manageable fever of about 100. The blood tests came back normal (because allergic reaction – duh). They gave me some motrin and sent me home.
I have no idea if I nearly died that day, but I know for a while I feared I would. Having an anxiety attack on top of an allergic reaction on top of the flu is the perfect recipe for a visit to the ER best described as a clusterfuck. Of course, I didn’t know I had the flu until the following Monday, when the doctor called me and said that the culture they left over the weekend tested positive. At least, I think that’s how he explained it.
I’m not sure if it was the Clarinex (which made me feel weird both times I had taken it to that point) or the combination of the Clarinex, Advil, and the flu that put me in the hospital that day, but since then I’ve told every doctor and pharmacist I’ve seen that I’m allergic to Clarinex. That is an experience I don’t wish to repeat.
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