Column: That’s not funny, it’s sick

Column: That’s not funny, it’s sick

By Rachel Slajda

Usually, at column-writing time, I’m angry about something. Angry about the NUPD or the MBTA, or some other combination of capital letters. But today I am not angry. Why would I be? I have my friends, my family, my city, my health …

Well, not so much my health. I’ve been some sort of throat-sick since New Year’s, with your standard phlegmy cough and overall fatigue. But over the past week it escalated into something much worse. I couldn’t breathe through my nose or hear through my ears. Coughing hurt, but my lungs insisted on being cleared; swallowing hurt, but I was constantly thirsty. My tonsils swelled and attempted escape from my throat. They only got so far as my uvula, which has spent the last seven days or so stuck to the right tonsil.


I slept a lot, thinking that would cure me. I skipped a day of classes and a day of work, thinking the rest, the soup and a few choice episodes of “Passions” (before the soap’s impending cancelation) would shrink my tonsils and allow me to function like a normal human or at least, you know, breathe like one.


It took the insistence of several concerned, rather dramatic loved ones (“It’s tonsillitis!” “It’s another bout of mono!”) to get me to go to the doctor. I dragged myself into the health center the other day after class and made an appointment for the following afternoon. I was surprised. That tangle of examination rooms on Forsyth street doesn’t have the best reputation for scheduling appointments less than two weeks in advance, and everyone has been sick since New England finally said, “Oh, shit, it’s winter!” Or at least, everyone I know has been sick, but that may be because I’ve slowly been infecting them with whatever germs turned my respiratory system into something funny.

Anyway, 24 hours later I found myself lying on my back while a doctor tapped around on my abdomen. After she was through, I sat up and asked if my spleen was enlarged, a pretty sure sign of good ol’ mononucleosis.

“Not yet,” she said.

It was quite a “House” moment (sidenote: probably not the show to watch when you’re sick) and when I told my doctor this she laughed and did a rather terrible, but hilarious, impression of Dr. House. She told me it could be strep throat, because my tonsils are so infected, or mono, because my lymph nodes are so swollen. Mono twice? I asked. I thought it was impossible.

Not so much, it turns out. You can get mono again and again and again until the day you decide to finish off what’s left of your liver with a big bottle of Grey Goose (or Cossack, depending on just how classy you want to be).

She then sent me down the hall to Jim, the lab guy. Jim the lab guy is a big man, choosing to scoot around the lab in his desk chair rather than walk. He’s also one of the nicest Northeastern-affiliated humans I’ve ever met, and has big pictures of his own husky on the wall.

Jim’s unlucky task was to take some of my blood. I’ve heard, from various Red Cross nurses, that my veins are small and elusive. And I really, really don’t want anyone poking around my inner elbow with a needle to find one. I’ve also heard, usually after waking up somewhere near the cookies and juice table, that I tend to pass out after giving blood. But Jim’s a good guy, and managed to keep me chatting about my height (“You must be well over six feet!”) and his son’s IQ (“His is 150, but my puppy’s smarter.”)

And so now I wait, with a single track mark in my left arm and a big dose of amoxicillin every eight hours or so. I’ll call for my results in a couple days, but the antibiotics seem to be doing the trick, shrinking my tonsils back into the depths of my throat little by little. My friends are in various states of illness, some recovering and some just starting to feel that post-nasal drip. (Sorry, guys.) And with an entire campus sniffling, shivering and hacking up lungs, you can look forward to your own week of shuffling around your apartment with a blanket around your shoulders. You might want to stock up on tea, lotion tissues and a few seasons of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on DVD. Just make sure to flip to NBC at 2 p.m. for “Passions” – it might be gone before the strep hits.

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