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My “scare” at the health clinic

Filed by KOSU News in Public Insight Network.
September 8, 2012

The embarrassing face mask I had to wear at the clinic.

Last month I had a bit of a sore throat, which quickly turned into chills, a fever, body aches, and a feeling that I like to call “throat knives”. I had heard that you don’t really have strep throat unless you have white bumps in your throat, and since I couldn’t find any, I waited four days. Four of the worst days in my recent memory.

By the time I took myself to the doctor, I was bad news. I could barely speak, couldn’t stop coughing, and the nurses were looking at me funny.

In order to give the clinic assistant the most information possible, I told her that I had been to a farm that weekend and had stood near a couple of pigs — but they were isolated from any other pigs, and it was a small organic farm where the animals didn’t come into contact with any other animals.

Immediately after I uttered the word “pig”, the clinic assistant stood up from her chair, said, “I’m pregnant, I can’t do this,” and ran out of the room, leaving me alone while frantic discussions took place outside my door. Apparently with a new strain of swine flu going around called H3N2v, she didn’t want to take any chances.

A few minutes later, a different assistant came in and handed me the mask that’s in this picture. It wasn’t one of those flimsy paper masks. This one was thick, and difficult to breathe through. It tightly pinched my nose and had a thick seal under my chin.

I was mortified.

She took my blood pressure and had me slip a thermometer into my mask. Then, she gave me a strep test and they quickly determined that I had strep throat — not the swine flu.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, because strep is an affliction people understand. Though it can be contagious, it’s very treatable and doesn’t have the “this can kill you” stigma that swine flu carries with it.

Let’s face it, anxiety is always part of health care — whether fanned by intense media focus on the illness of the day, or by our own fatalist imaginations. We’re collecting stories of how anxiety around health plays out in our lives — starting at the clinic itself. Have you had a recent clinic or hospital experience like this one?

>> If you have a story like mine to tell, please do share it here.

By the way, after a couple rounds of antibiotics, a pertussis test, an inhaler, strange cough-suppressant jelly balls, and every type of over-the-counter cough/cold medication… I’m still coughing. And although my coughing weirds out my coworkers a little, at least no one is screaming to get away from me anymore.

Here’s a sample (gross alert!) of my voice during the worst day of strep:

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