#54: The Sickest of Sick Days

#54: The Sickest of Sick Days

You know the feeling – the awful, awful feeling. The coughing, sneezing, stuffy-head-so-you-can’t-sleep feeling. Sometimes, you are sick and the reason why is obvious.

In comparison, there are times when you feel just a little bit off, though you can’t quite put your finger on why, exactly, at least, not in the beginning. This is a story of one of those times.

I woke up one morning with a super loud pounding in my head. Figuring I had finally caught the cold going around the office, I called in sick and crawled back into bed. When a hot tea and aspirin regimen failed to make me feel any better, I drove myself to the doctor’s office. I remember the nurse’s hand feeling very cool on my forehead after she took my temperature. “Hmm,” she said. “That’s… a little high.” I curled up in my crinkly paper gown, feeling increasingly miserable. “I’ll send Dr. Rodriguez right in.”

I had not yet had enough experience with the medical profession to know that immediate attention from any member of said profession is a bad, bad thing.

The doctor was in post haste. I told him the two simple symptoms I had been battling; terrible headache and fever. He looked at me, looked at my chart, looked back at me, and said, “You have chickenpox.”

“But… I’m not breaking out.”

“Oh, that part’s coming. You have chickenpox.”

“But… I’m pretty sure I had it as a child.”

“Nope. You’re having it now.”


This brilliant response failed to dissuade him from his diagnosis.

“Chickenpox can be very serious in adults. I’m going to give you a prescription that you need to begin taking immediately. It’s no cure, but it may head off the worst of it.”

Prescription in hand, I was ushered out the back door to prevent contact with those in the waiting room. I sat in the car for a few minutes, head on the steering wheel, seriously debating if I would be able to make the mile and a half drive to the closest pharmacy. Eventually, I sucked it up.

The pharmacy is where it started getting weird.

I handed the prescription and insurance card to a chirpy pharmacist, and then had to use the counter to hold myself up as I slid my way over to the single plastic chair serving as the “waiting room.” Through my haze of misery, I noticed that two pharmacists were conferring. They would look at the prescription, then me, then the prescription again. There was some counting of pills and at least one phone call. Finally, Ms Chirpy called me back to the counter. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but we really don’t have the quantity you need. Our closest locations don’t stock enough, either. We could order it for you…” The look on her face was an odd mix of concern and distaste. “My doctor told me to start taking it immediately,” I said, “so I had better try another pharmacy. Thanks.” She handed my paperwork back to me using only the tips of her fingers, and then I lurched out of the store.

The second pharmacy, while farther away from the doctor’s office, was closer to home and very familiar territory. My family did a lot of business there, so we were all on a first name basis with the pharmacist. I’m not sure what I looked like when I arrived, only that Spencer came out from behind the counter and helped me over to yet another plastic chair. “What on earth is wrong with you,” he asked as he scanned the prescription.  Before I could answer, he began to laugh. “Wait. I’m going out on a limb here, and guessing that you never had chickenpox as a child.”

“How did you know? Have I started breaking out already?”

“No, not yet. But it’s either that, or you have such a raging case of herpes that you need enough medication to cure an entire football team.”

Fortunately, Spencer knew me and my conservative church-going, ministry-working ways well enough to diagnose me correctly. He informed me that the root virus for chickenpox is the same as for herpes, and my doctor had prescribed an unusually large amount of a somewhat rare medication. That it was used primarily to treat advanced cases of STDs might explain why the first two pharmacists gave me the side-eye when I was having trouble remaining vertical in their store. And blessedly, Spencer called my parents to come get me, correctly assuming that Patient Zero was no longer able to safely operate heavy machinery.

I learned some important lessons from my sickest of sick days:

  • Beware when you receive immediate attention from medical professionals.
  • Try not to take it too personally when strangers give you the side-eye.
  • Cultivate a good reputation and relationship with your pharmacist. He or she will learn all your secrets, eventually!

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