After a few days with a sore throat that has kept getting worse and worse, I go into the local clinic. Since my doctor is on vacation, I am sent to the “on call” doctor who has no patients of her own but takes on overflow from other doctors.
Doctor: “So, what are you here for?”
Me: “I’ve had a sore throat for three days. I’ve been drinking lots of water, taking cough syrup, and it doesn’t help.”
Doctor: “Well, we’ll check for strep. If it isn’t that, it’s probably just a bug and there’s nothing we can do for you.”
The doctor runs the strep test, and it comes back negative. I am sent home. Two days later and my throat has gotten worse. I have been unable to go to work and have almost no voice at all. I’m living on milkshakes at this point. I go back into the doctor’s office and see the same on-call doctor again.
Doctor: “Well, we can check for strep again, but you probably just need rest and fluids. Have you tried taking tylenol?”
Me: “Nothing is helping. I’ve never had a sore throat this bad. Is there anything else you can do for me? Anything else I can take? Antibiotics or something?”
Doctor (angrily): “That’s why there are so many superbugs you know! People over-prescribing antibiotics!”
After arguing for a few minutes, the doctor just leaves the room. Sick and tired, I go home and hope for the best. But two days later I come back. At this point my throat is visibly swollen from the outside. I cannot hardly stand the pain of swallowing, so I have eaten or drunk very little for the past two days. I can’t sleep and am in general miserable and weak. My husband has to drive me to the doctor.
Doctor: “Look, I don’t know what you think I can do for you. I’ll refer you to an ENT (Ears, nose, throat) doctor. Maybe it’s a sinus problem”
I go to the reception desk and wait in line to schedule the referral appointment when I start feeling extremely weak. The next thing I know, I’m sitting in a wheelchair with two nurses and my husband standing over me One nurse is giving me oxygen, while another is putting together an IV line. After asking me a few questions, I see my own doctor walking past and start pointing at her like an excited child. The nurses go over, talk to her, and then wheel me into an examination room.
Nurse: honey, when did you last eat something?
Nurse: have you been drinking?
Me: I can’t…I can’t swallow.
Nurse: oh dear, we’re going to get you on some fluids to start with…
My doctor comes in, takes a look at me and immediately goes to touch the swollen sides of my neck. I’m not a baby about pain, but I yelp and start tearing up immediately. The doctor looks at the nurse with surprise.
My doctor: “you said she was just examined?”
Nurse: “Yes. [on call doctor] has seen her three times over the past week. She ruled out strep.”
My doctor: “Ok, let’s test for mono now…”
Turns out I had mono, and some of the most severe symptoms my doctor had seen. They put me on steroids to bring the swelling down. Apparently the swelling had gotten so out of hand there was a chance I could have suffocated in my sleep that night. After re-hydrating me, giving me a slew of pills to take and some high dose painkillers, they wheel me out the door to the car with strict orders to stay home and pretty much in bed for at least a week. My doctor told me later that she had “a talk” with the on-call doctor, and ripped her a new one. I still wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t passed out- and if that doctor ever learned there are more than two illnesses!