What Whooping Cough Feels Like

Once again, vaccination is in the spotlight.

Let me just say from the outset that I’m 100% in favour of vaccination – I’m had just about every jab there is (with the exception of the HPV vaccine for reasons which have been discussed with my doctor). In my opinion, vaccination saves lives.

I’ve never understood why parents choose not to vaccinate their children. And this is why: I had whooping cough as a child. It was fucking terrifying. And I don’t understand why parents wouldn’t try to prevent it in any way possible.

I guess I can sort of understand why parents may not vaccinate against ‘typical’ childhood diseases such as chicken pox and measles – until a few years ago, I always thought that they were just an itchy and annoying childhood disease. Now I know better, but I can understand that not everyone reads as much as I do (nor is everyone related to three nurses and a medical researcher – which is how I found out that chicken pox is a bit more serious for some people!) But that still doesn’t explain why some parents won’t vaccinate their children against diseases such as whooping cough, polio and diphtheria.

I got whooping cough when I was 10 years old. I’d been vaccinated but a girl in my grade 5 class hadn’t. She caught it and she brought it to school.

Thankfully, my whooping cough was pretty mild. During the day it felt like I had a mild case of the flu. However at night I’d be sleeping peacefully then suddenly lurch awake, unable to breathe. I’d sit up in bed unable to do anything but cough. Tiny, quiet, uncontrollable coughs would expel air from my lungs but I couldn’t inhale. I’d just keep coughing and coughing and coughing and I’d start to panic . My chest would feel like it was on fire, my eyes would burn, my head would throb. Sometimes my vision would cloud over and I would almost pass out.

What felt like minutes later, I would get that huge intake of air (the “whooping” sound) before the coughs started again. Eventually I’d vomit and suddenly the coughs would stop and I’d be able to breathe normally again. I’d be sweaty from the exertion and covered in sick but able to breathe in sweet, clean, cool air.

Air is under-rated. You don’t realise how important it actually is until you’re deprived of it.

The coughing fits would happen once or twice a night and after a week, they went away. That was a mild dose of whooping cough and I was a very healthy and active 10-year-old. Imagine if I hadn’t been vaccinated, or had been an elderly person with emphysema, or a newborn baby. Having had whooping cough, I can see how deadly it can be.

Vaccination, to me, is a no-brainer. I believe vaccination jabs should be given to every person on earth*. We have the tools to stop many horrible diseases and eradicate them completely – why aren’t we all using them?

 

{This post has been partly re-written and edited – the original version was published on Kiki & Tea in 2012.}

* Obviously there are people who, for legitimate medical purposes, can’t be vaccinated. They are the reason herd immunity is vitally important. But that is a topic for another time. 

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Ultrasound Day

My ultrasound was yesterday. It was not fun. Firstly, I had to drink 600ml of water an hour before my appointment.

Mistake #1 – drinking 600ml of water.

Mistake #2 – drinking it an hour before my scheduled appointment.

Whilst 600 millilitres of water may not sound like a lot, when you aren’t allowed to wee it out it can get quite uncomfortable – even painful as the bladder stretches. When I was initially scanned, the sonographer couldn’t see a thing because my bladder was too full and obscured everything. Apparently well-hydrated people (which include me) should only drink 250ml of water. That would’ve been great to know earlier….

My appointment was at 9:30. I was required to drink my water at 8:30. So I did. And then the KEMH ultrasound department ran late. Very, very late. I was scanned at 10:45. I nearly cried in the waiting room – the combination of pain from my bladder, the stress of having to have this done, the screaming babies in the waiting room, watching people who came in after me get scanned before me and the fear that if I had a wee then I would be told there wasn’t enough water in my bladder for a proper scan and I would have to wait another 7 weeks for an appointment was all just too much for my tiny brain to cope with.

I got a bit crabby with Husband whilst we were waiting. (The poor bugger.) And Husband got crabby with the ladies on reception who kept telling him it wasn’t their fault the hospital scheduled too many patients for the number of sonographers they had. (And whilst we were waiting, one sonographer had a visit from her sister and disappeared for an hour, another staff member would pick up files, move then two metres down a corridor and then five minutes later move them back again and two more stood in the hallway and had a loud giggly conversation for 25 minutes.) Normally that sort of thing would be a tad annoying; in the state I was in, I wanted to throw something at them. Or wee on them.

The scan itself went okay – the external ultrasound was more uncomfortable then the internal one because the sonographer had to put pressure on my abdomen during the external. (But then they sent me for a wee before doing the internal one. I think it was the most satisfying wee of my life.)

The scan shows my uterus is misshapen – smaller on one side and larger on the other. There was also an “abnormal shadow” which didn’t sound positive. The pictures will get reviewed by someone higher up the radiography food chain before being passed on to my obstetrician. I’ll have to wait for a letter from my OB before I know if my uterus will cause any problems to a pregnancy or if the “shadow” is anything sinister.

I’m glad it’s over and done with, although I feel very mentally tired and weary. I was incredibly stressed all weekend and was worried about the scan – I’ve not been sleeping well and the tension I’ve been carrying around with me has left me with headaches and muscle aches in my shoulders and neck.

I think I need to learn how to relax….

Possibly Gastro

So as I mentioned in my last post, Husband hasn’t been too well. He almost passed out in the shower last night. He was taking an unusually long time so I walked in and found him sitting on the shower floor dry-retching with boiling hot water pouring over him but he was shivering like he was in Antarctica. So I managed to haul him out, dry him off a bit then put him to bed where he started feeling less light-headed but more cold.

Fighting back some panic (I get scared when other people are sick), I called the local GP to see if they had any available late appointments. They said they’d call back. So I called Health Direct who were wonderful. They calmed me down and asked a bunch of questions and told me how to control Husband’s temperature (39.8) and how to help him feel a bit more comfortable. As soon as I hung up from them, the GP called with a 7:10 appointment time. It was already 7 o’clock so we were able to go straight over.

The GP diagnosed viral gastroenteritis and told us how to treat the symptoms and gave Husband some anti-nausea tablets. If he’s not better by Thursday then he has to go have blood and wee tests done.

I hope (desperately) it is just gastro! Husband doesn’t get sick much (apart from the odd cold) so when he does, I worry. A lot. It’s probably because of the cancer he had years ago – if anything isn’t completely normal with Husband, I freak the fuck out (although I always hide it – no point freaking Husband out as well.)

Getting through a cancer diagnosis, operation and treatment were a nightmare and it’s always been my fear that it’ll come back in some way, shape or form. The local GP clinic originally misdiagnosed Husband so the cancer wasn’t found as soon as it should’ve been (I had to march him into my own GP in Perth to get the correct diagnosis) so I don’t trust them. They aren’t thorough and can’t be bothered to diagnose anything more complicated than flu/gastro/virus.

I haven’t slept much these past few days – I’m still very hurt after what Husband said to me on Sunday and as I said, I’m also very scared for Husband and his health. I’m exhausted and drained and want everything back to normal as soon as possible.

Here’s hoping that by the weekend Husband is back to normal and my fears that cancer is back are unfounded!

Baby Update – August

As many of my Twitter friends will already be aware, I received my initial pre-conception appointment letter from King Edward Memorial Hospital this week. The appointment is scheduled for April 2013. (If you need to know why I need a pre-conception appointment, read this post.)

Needless to say that I was a little bit heartbroken. Husband was too. We’d made the decision that we wanted to have children earlier this year, so the pre-conception appointment will be 16 months after that decision. That is a bloody long wait before we can even begin to start trying to fall pregnant.

When I announced my disappointment on Twitter, a few unhelpful people told me it was my own stupid fault for not having private health insurance. Thing is, I do have private health insurance, it just doesn’t cover obstetrics or maternity as I was happy to give birth in a public hospital with a midwife in attendance. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d have pregnancy problems before I even got pregnant and that insurance covering obstetrics would’ve meant a shorter waiting period in exchange for a wad of cash.

So yeah, stupid me for not thinking that I’d have any problems going through the public health system. (Also stupid was the person who DM’ed me and said that a naturapath specialising in fertility could actually fix my uterus and make it change shape. That person received a big fat “block user”.)

However, I received an overwhelming amount of support from many tweeps – I can’t thank you guys enough – it made a very difficult situation easier to cope with. Some of these people have suggested I chat to my GP and talk about seeing an obstetrician or fertility specialist and paying my own way rather than going through the public health system.

I’m clinging to this little beacon of light and hope right now – I’m praying (despite not being a religious person in any way, shape or form!) that my GP will be able to help and point me in the right direction, even if it does leave us out of pocket. So I’ll be making an appointment with my GP in the coming weeks.

Since I got the news last week, I’ve felt very blue and very confused. Part of me is scared that even if I pay extra to see an obstetrician sooner, they won’t be able to fit me in or will refuse to see me. I also worry that I’ll get my hopes up about this appointment in April but will be told that I can’t have children. It may sound selfish and stupid, but a big part of me wants to start trying to get pregnant now, without a doctors input, and just live with whatever happy or sad consequences arise.

I just want a baby already.

Not A Good Start

I received a text message an hour ago. It said: “Reminder: appointment at KEMH X:00pm, July XX 2012.”

Umm, okay. I had wanted an appointment, but apparently I was supposed to be sent a letter and some paperwork. And Husband happens to be away the day of my summons so I rang the number at the end of the text message to see if I could change the appointment.

I rang. I was on hold for a little while. Then a lady answered. We went through my name, date of birth, next of kin, etc. I told her that I’d only received a text message, not any letter or paperwork and that I needed to move the appointment.

Then she said this, “And you’re booked in for pre-op on X date, right?”

WHAT?! NO!!!!

I told the lady that I was NOT booked in for an operation, thus needed no pre-op appointment! This confused her.

“Well why do you have an appointment with us then?”

“Because I want to have a baby and I need to talk to an obstetrician about a few things before I attempt to conceive.”

“So you’re doing IVF?”

“No, I’m not. I need to talk to an obstetrician about my wonky uterus (don’t worry, I used the technical term) as my GP thinks I can conceive, but thinks there’s a chance I may have some problems with growing and delivering a baby.”

“So you’re not under-going fertility procedures.”

“No.”

“Well you’re lucky to get an appointment. There’s no more available appointments this year.”

“Right. I guess I’ll keep my appointment. So where do I go when I get to King Edward?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just ask at the front desk. It should be on the letter you received.”

“I didn’t receive a letter, remember? Just a text message.”

“Present at the front desk. They’ll tell you where to go.”

Okay then! I thanked her for her time and hung up.

So, I have an appointment with King Edward, which is great. But I have to go alone, and I have no idea where I’m going once I show up to the front desk! I’m quietly hoping that the obstetrician I’m seeing doesn’t have rooms at another location that I’m supposed to go to.

I’m already nervous about the possibility of having a baby (a topic for another post I think!) and nervous about the possibility that the obstetrician may tell me that I can’t have a baby, and this administration hiccup has only made me more anxious. I hope to god the doctors are better than the admin staff!

Operation: baby-making is off to a rather shaky (and nerve-wracking) start.

UPDATE 11/7/12

I got a rather unwelcome phone call today. KEMH called and said that whatever my letter said, ignore it. I told the lady that I didn’t have a letter and she said, “Nevermind then, it’s just that the letter stated in incorrect appointment time.” I told her that I’d received a text message yesterday which told me when my appointment was and she then said that the text message was wrong and that I’ll receive a letter soon with my actual appointment time on it. Then I said, “But when I rang yesterday wanting to change my appointment time, I was told there were no appointments until well into next year.” “Yes, that’s right,” she said.

Fuck! FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!!!!! Why is it so fucking difficult to get an appointment? I know the public health system is over-worked and under-paid and all, but I just want some guy (or girl, I don’t mind which!) with a relevant qualification to check out my uterus and let me know whether or not I’ll be able to have a baby. Is that too much to ask?

*cue a tantrum where I do a really good impression of a toddler, complete with stamping feet*

Okay, I know I need to calm down. I know this is a first world problem. I’m just frustrated that I can’t start trying to make babies with Husband. It’s taken us a long time just to get to the position where babies are (finally!) on the agenda and we’re both eager to have one already. So for KEMH to delay things further is extremely unwelcome.

Part of me is tempted to say, “Fuck KEMH, I’ll have a baby without their input!” but my lovely GP insisted that I see a specialist before trying to conceive f(my safety is his priority, for some reason), so I know I can’t just jump on Husband and demand he impregnates me tonight.

But I really, really, REALLY need to know if I can have a baby and carry it to term safely! Or if I’m just getting my hopes up….