Last April I found myself coughing and struggling to breath. I kept thinking it was just a cold and I could wait it out. Eventually, I decided I at least needed to confirm my diagnosis of the common cold. So doing what every intelligent adult does when they need expert help – I went to the internet. I assumed I could just look up my symptoms and figure out what was wrong. Why not? Like I said earlier – I am intelligent. Or maybe not so much. (Have you heard this one – never assume – it makes an ass out of u and me?) Probably a truer than my being intelligent.
So, on to one of those diagnose-yourself websites I went and followed their symptom checker: head → nose → difficulty breathing → nasal congestion. Results showed I was either suffering from allergies or a foreign object in my nose. A quick look in the mirror with a flashlight and I was satisfied that there wasn’t anything stuck up there. (Not that I’m in the habit of sticking things in my nose, but one never knows what might have happened when you aren’t paying attention.) So that leaves allergies. Great! I’ll live.
But what about that raspy cough? Is that part of allergies? Better make sure – back to the medical website I go. It is so great to have a useful and accurate tool to help me. I mean, remember, I’m intelligent. With the right tools I can figure this out. No need to waste a doctor’s time with something so silly as what must just be a cold. Right? Symptom checker again: chest → cough → answer 4 additional questions (Hacking? No. → Sputum? Gotta look that up. Nope. → Eating under cooked crab? Wonder why that is important? No. → Exposure to asbestos? Hmm, deep though. No.) Results: Congestive heart failure or the Plague. Seriously? Nah, they’re wrong – it’s just a common cold. I’ll muddle though. I’m sure it will go away. Because I am intelligent person and I know best. Right?
Now it is really getting hard to breath, and talk, and swallow, and my throat seems swollen, and coughing now involves that sputum stuff I had to look up. Maybe a quick stop at the urgent care center – not that I really need it – but it has been more than a week now and …
Okay. Here’s how it went down at urgent care…
Dr: Do you smoke?
Me: No. Not since the last cigar on New Year’s Eve.
Dr: How long have you been like this?
Me: Only 9 days or so.
Dr: Hmm. Any chance you looked online and diagnosed yourself?
Me: Well…I am an intelligent person. I figured I could work it out.
Dr: You and that medical degree you have? (And I thought I was snarky!)
Me: Hey, I…but…I…well… yeah, okay.
Silence….. longer silence…. uncomfortable silence….
Me: I’m thinking I don’t just have a cold that will go away?
Dr: Nope. Severe acute bronchitis.
Me: Oh. Hmm. That wasn’t one of the choices online… So that’s a problem?
Dr: Only if you want to keep breathing. How long did you say you’ve been like this?
Me: (Meekly) 9 days.
Dr: (Scowling) And you thought it would just get better?
Me: (More meekly) Yes?
Dr: (Deeper scowl and an added head shake) Antibiotics, steroids, and an inhaler so you can breathe.
Me: (Really meekly) You sure it won’t just go away?
Dr: Maybe, but how much do you like to breathe?
Maybe I’m not so intelligent.