Nearly two months ago, on 5/18/20, in my last post, I wrote about being sick and this terrible uncontrollable cough that seemed to have set up shop in my lungs for the long haul. I’d been sick for six weeks by that time. I had the COVID19 up the nose swab test 30 days into the cough, which came back negative (as did the chest x-ray), but it wouldn’t have been positive that late in the game, so it was still an unknown variable. At that point I was still wondering Did COVID19 start this whole thing? Did I now have asthma?
- I’ve seen my primary care doctor in person, finally.
- I was tested for the COVID19 antibody after begging for it (results were negative).
- I’ve continued to deal with this violent cough that is annoying.
- And, though it’s still with me, I’ve gotten better, inch by inch, or you could say breath by breath. Grateful!
The good news is, mostly I feel well in between coughing fits. I have fatigue, but I don’t feel sick and the cough is less frequent than a few weeks ago.
There’s more than one psychological piece to this disease. I dread going in public during the pandemic, not just for fear of COVID19 and all that entails, but also, if I cough so hard I gag, what will people think? Would someone confront me? Will it ever go away or am I stuck with it forever? What could happen if I got COVID19 while my lungs are still healing from whooping cough?
LIVING WITH THE COUGH
Get this, yawning triggers the cough. So do a myriad of other normal day to day things like laughing, sleeping, or talking too much (I’m not known for a scarcity of words). I use my inhaler when I know I’ll be talking a lot or the cough threatens to overwhelm me. I carry cough drops in my pockets like my great granny with her hard candies.
I wake up with it.
Spending time outside (gardens, lake, whatever) makes that night and the next day harder. But, ya know, I can’t stay inside forever. Sometimes I say F the cough I gotta live my life and do the things I know will make it worse.
I go to sleep with it. I sleep propped up, still. Not comfy, I tell ya.
Because lying down often triggers the cough, savasana in yoga is not good. I’ve been meditating sitting up, drawing, and watercoloring to attain that blissful feeling. Those activities create a sweet state of mind, body, and spirit, but not quite a replica of savasana at the end of yoga practice.
When I breathe deep I feel the tickle that threatens to burst into a loud gagging hack attack. Sometimes the tickle is there continuously no matter how I breathe. It’s just yuck.
My doctor told me it’s not asthma that I am dealing with like the Urgent Care PA suggested might be happening.
THE COUGH DIAGNOSED
On May 26th, I was sitting in my car (the new exam room) in front of my doctor’s office, on the phone with her for the first part of my in-person appointment when she said, “You have whooping cough.”
The fog of uncertainty lifted. Everything made sense.
I had written off the first early symptoms of fatigue and runny nose for two days as allergies and exhaustion from adjustments I was making at work due to the pandemic. Then there was the cough that woke me up on that Saturday morning which quickly became like bronchitis to the nth degree. I couldn’t clear out the phlegm deep and gooey down in my throat. And finally, my instinct (thank you mom!) to tent my bed and turn my bedroom into a sauna for four days when desperate for sleep. It all made sense.
Whooping cough, aka pertussis. It’s not just for kids, folks.
It’s been wicked at times, like this woman on youtube (prepare to be shocked and concerned and totally grossed out, but it’s not me you’ll see in this video – no way I’d publicize what I look like during one of these fits. No way.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIsQjsUJSiM.
Thankfully, it’s not that bad anymore.
After my doctor talked to me on the phone, I drove around to the back of the building where she came out the back door so she could examine me. “They call it The 100 Day Cough,” my doctor said.
Well, yes, I can testify it lasts that long. The 4th of July marked 92 days for me. There’s no end in sight.
“If you still have the cough in six weeks, call me. I’ll order asthma testing.” It’s been six weeks as of now and 100 Days on Sunday. I haven’t called her, yet.
PERTUSSIS IS NO JOKE
I’ve read about the long term effects. This crazy cough can be re-triggered by a regular cold for months or years after the original pertussis infection.
Any Google search will shock you into reality about pertussis prevalence and course of the disease.
Doctors often miss the diagnosis, as did the two doctors I saw who even heard me hacking up my lungs and gasping for breath in those first 30 days. Pertussis is nothing you want to tangle with, and now with the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, having a pre-existing lung condition puts me where, exactly?
Not a happy place in terms of COVID19 risk.
I am grateful that whooping cough, however sick it might make me, won’t kill me like COVID19. Sadly, though, it does cause the death of babies so it deserves your attention. It is highly contagious and there have been years when it was at epidemic levels.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease characterized by an uncontrollable, violent cough that makes it difficult to breathe.https://www.healthline.com/health-news/whooping-cough-epidemic-in-spring#1
Talk to your doctor about the Tdap booster vaccination. I’ll be getting the booster as soon as the doctor will let me because having the disease doesn’t give you much immunity to it for the next exposure.
One of my teenagers and my husband still have the cough. Their Tdap booster was more recent then mine so, even though they still have the cough too, they weren’t as sick as I was. Thank goodness.
CREATIVITY AND SELF-CARE
I’m still drawing and painting as part of my “self-care plan.” I call it self-care here, but those words are weak and don’t convey the power of creativity.
Creativity, whether it’s arts and crafts, sewing, handwork, writing, editing a photo, or whatever, it’s one way I get through my grief, treat my trauma and childhood wounds, and manage worries about life. Creativity is how I nurture my heart, my spirit. Engaging in creative activities is not about making an art piece to win an art contest or gain recognition or make money. It’s about the process of changing my brain chemistry. It forces me to be “in the moment” in a mindful way that feels darn good. Mixing paints to see how the color changes, it forces me to pay attention, to be fully present, to quiet the other parts of my mind, allow them to work in the background to solve problems, and proceed towards acceptance.
Creativity helps me remain calm and centered, which in turn helps me manage the cough.
I drew the Roosting Bats in the featured image for a naturalist friend who wanted a bat drawing for her project http://followingdeercreek.com/. Everything is upside down because of the Novel Coronavirus and my eyes are open and vigilant even when I should be sleeping. Roosting bats seems apropros.
As of this writing, my bat drawing is not on Following Deer Creek, but if you want to read or watch a curated list of videos about these fascinating creatures, here’s the link: http://followingdeercreek.com/bats-a-colonial-insectivore/. Did you know there are thirteen species of bats in Nevada County? Seriously?!
You can see my Gray Squirrel drawing on the coloring page here: http://followingdeercreek.com/tail-flashing-cache-faker-western-gray-squirrel/
I’ve been “commissioned” for drawings, so to speak ;-). How delightful is that?
Here’s the childhood wound healing part of drawing.
I am letting that little girl inside me know that drawing is simply a skill to be learned – everyone can do it. I am choosing a growth mindset. I am replacing “you can’t draw, Bonnie” with I can.
Part of me does judge what I draw (not mindful at all!). If others can recognize the depiction, then I have succeeded.
You can draw, too. If you don’t think so, it is only because you’ve received and accepted the message that you can’t. Humans were designed to draw, to tell stories with pictures, to solve problems, to share with others what they’ve learned. It’s a survival instinct built into us whether you believe you are capable or not.
Here’s a secret to drawing. Learn to trace first.
You can simply tape a photo up on a window and tape a piece of drawing paper or printer paper over it. Use any ole’ pencil. Play with it. Get your mind to focus on what is right in front of you. Focus on how the pencil feels scratching on the paper. Notice the light coming through the photo, then the paper on top of it. Zero in on the experience and let judgment fly out the window. Or set that part of your mind on the windowsill for a few moments while you experience drawing rather than judging it.
I am using the U.S. Art Supply Light Master Tracing Light Box so I am not dependent on daylight for tracing. Here it is with the next photo and drawing on it:
I am practicing freehand drawing, too. It is really a test of letting go of judgment.
Whatever works for you, find your way to creativity.
For fun I’ve set up an artist Pixels account here: https://pixels.com/art/bonnie+mckeegan. Over the coming weeks I’ll upload a few pieces of art. Corona T.P. is already there. In no way do I expect to make even one sale. It’s just fun seeing the possibilities.
Don’t hesitate to let me know you’ve been here and what you think.
More about whooping cough:
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