Thursday, May 21, 2009

Whooping Cough!

Nearly a month ago I developed an itchy throat and a slight cough. No fever, no headache, no runny nose--just an annoying cough. Allergies or something I thought. It'll go away.

After a couple weeks the cough progressed to something a little past annoying. It was still just a cough, but it was keeping me up at night and occasionally left me breathless after particularly bad coughing fits. Plus my dad had come to visit, and the cough was freaking him out.

The doctor first diagnosed me with a particularly bad bacterial bronchitis. Like most bacterial infections, there is not much you can do about it except take anti-biotics and wait. So that's what I did.

After about a week of waiting, my cough became even worse. Really strong fits were nearly incapacitating me every 15 minutes or so, so I called the doctor up again. My doc was leaving town for some conference in Paris, so she sent me to the hospital to get another set of chest x-rays, blood tests, and the whole works to figure out what was going on in my lungs.

French emergency rooms are just like American ones. Many hours of waiting in a room full of people you'd rather not spend many hours breathing next to (including me). Nearly 5 hours, 2 x-rays, 1 blood test, and 0 dollars later (I really like french healthcare), my doctor returned to tell me I had coqueluche. The doctor wasn't quite sure what coqueluche was in English and my pocket dictionary didn't know either, so I wasn't sure how freaked out I was supposed to be when she told me what I had. I rushed home to ask google if I was going to die soon.

Whooping Cough. Really, whooping cough!

Whooping cough is also a bacterial infection, so again the only treatment is anti-biotics and waiting. Just like in the US, the doctor will write you a prescription for a drug or two to help you thru your sickness, but unlike the US, the doctor can also write you a prescription for time off work to recoop! My original doctor had already given me a week off, and the new doctor gave me another week.

We don't have sick days in France. If you just miss a day or something recovering from a hangover, you just have to use one of your (40) vacation days. If you are really sick and have to go to the doctor, they write you a time-off prescription, and you take it to work and you get that much time off paid. This was very weird for me, and I actually felt quite bad taking all that time off.

May was shaping up to be a short work month for me. There are 5 public holidays in May in France--May 1st is French Labor day, the 8th is WW2 victory day, the 21 is Ascension, and the day after is off too, and June 1st is Pentacost. I had also taken 4 days off for vacation with my father (to whom I also gave the awesome vacation gift of whooping cough while he was here), and now I had taken an additional 6 days off for illness (part of the time-off my doctor's prescribed overlapped with the above holidays).

Interestingly before coming to France I went to my doctor to ask if I needed any special medical procedures and he said no. I took my dog to the vet and asked the same question, and my vet vaccinated my dog against bordatella (doggy whooping cough) because normally we don't vaccinate dogs for that in Seattle. If I was a dog, I wouldn't be sick right now (yes I am still coughing 26 days after first catching this!).

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