After spending all of Saturday laying on the couch, blowing my nose and counting the hours until I could take more cold medicine, I figured that I would wake up refreshed Sunday morning, like in a Nyquil commercial. When I woke up coughing and reaching for more tissues, I thought “This has gone far enough.” Maybe I didn’t have meningitis or the flu, but something serious had to be going on to explain how I was not getting any better after a whole week of drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest.
I decided to call the advice nurse listed on the back of my health insurance card and told the registered nurse on the other end my symptoms. She proceeded to ask me a series of questions — my answers to these would help set the direction of treatment.
The questions started out normal enough and turned gradually more and more startling.
“Do you have a runny nose? Watery eyes?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “and yes.”
“Are you coughing up a thick yellow or green mucous?”
“Could you be having a heart attack?”
On and on until I had to wonder if she perhaps was trying to tell me something, a terrible unpleasant something that had come up on her screen:
Patient has likely contracted a rare but deadly illness caused from neck strain while watching television in the lateral position for too prolonged a period and from consuming lethal amounts of orange juice in combination with Dayquil liquicaps. Sudden heart failure will occur imminently. There is nothing that can be done. Remain calm.
But when she ended by telling me I could take care of this on my own at home, I figured those scary questions were probably just the standard questions advice nurses ask everyone. Like your race or gender or if you’re a veteran.