I used to work in intensive care as an experienced nurse looking after critically ill patients. They were usually ventilated and very often had nasty chest infections.
During the winter of 1999-2000 and at the age of 29 I developed a common cold. It quickly developed into a chest infection. My GP quickly dismissed me with a prescription for antibiotics. Initially I felt slightly better. The chest infection cleared up, but the cough persisted and a repeat consultation with my GP resulted in a further course of antibiotics and a sick note.
This was the winter when flu hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The hospital mortuaries were full with the poor souls who had succumbed. Refrigerated lorries were called in as a temporary measure and pictures were in all the news bulletins.
As I lay in bed struggling to breathe with half a dozen pillows propping me up, I remember wondering what type of ventilators they had in the intensive care unit at my local hospital. Fortunately I never got to find out.
Further visits to my GP resulted in yet more antibiotics and a referral to the Practice Nurse for suspected asthma. I was given inhalers that sent my cough capabilities through the roof and a peak flow meter clearly indicated I was a woman with exceedingly normal peak flows.
Spring then sprung and the cough gradually faded away.
All was well through the summer apart from the usual hay fever sneezes and the extremely sensitive itchy and scratchy fight fight fight bite bite bite skin, but as someone no darker than milk bottle what should I expect?
Winter drawers on. Not a typo, but that snug time of year when it is lovely to curl up in bed with lots of covers. Cosy evenings in front of the fire. Candles lit. Mince pies and sherry. American films with extremely organised women with beautiful houses. Tis the season to be merry unless another cold has left you with a cough. COUGH. Again the antibiotics (and the thrush) and the persistent cough and more antibiotics and then inhalers again and more peak flow recordings and the GP dismissing me as a nuisance fat woman with a bit of a cough.
Perhaps I should specify the cough aspect now? Imagine being gripped by a power so terrifying that you gasp for breath, your face becomes crimson temporarily although those increasing numbers of broken veins become a permanent reminder to the power of the cough. I have coughed until I barked and drooled liked a rabid dog. People back away from me when I start. I have never vomited in public, but I put this down to luck and determination. I am unable to hold a conversation. Talking makes it worse. I always try and cough with my back against a wall in case a well-meaning do gooder starts trying to pat me on the back. There is only so much a pelvic floor can take.
As a seasonal cougher I have persisted with ineffective GPs and taken numerous courses of antibiotics and eventually had the routine chest x-ray to exclude cancer. Then spring springs and the cough disappears.
Investigations have been slow and have included gastroscopy and allergy testing. I have been treated for reflux and post nasal drip. An awfully nice chap once put a camera up my nose and oh by jove that made my eyes water.
As a pale person with allergies I enjoy summer with the help of antihistamines.
As a practiced cougher I dread winter and that first cold of the season. It results in a cough lasting until the hay fever season kicks in by mid March or so.
In recent years I was re referred to a respiratory physician at my local hospital. Hoorah no repeat gastroscopy. He didn’t even hint at a bronchoscopy. I was told I had cough variant asthma and that when that was brought under control my cough would disappear. “Take these inhalers and these antibiotics and steroids and your cough will go!” All of a sudden I was labelled as asthmatic. Quite a life changer that one. Do I have to notify people? Speak to theAsthma Nurse!
My cough has been expensive with all those prescriptions and my job is in jeopardy with all the sick leave I have taken.
Unfortunately despite treatment the cough doesn’t go. My pelvic floor has though. After 13 years of persistent winter coughing I was really suffering in that department. (In denial for the last 5 years) An excellent physio has helped to some extent.
The respiratory consultant was amazed that my cough persisted.
“You are asthmatic and you need to take the medication!”
WIth support from my current GP (a marvellous chap) I have been referred to the cough clinic at Wythenshawe Hospital.
I dedicate this blog to those who suffer with the misery of a persistent cough.