I know healthy people who say things like, “I don’t believe in taking medicine” or “I don’t like putting anything in my body besides aspirin.”
(These are frequently the same people who, when asked if they’ve ever been a hospital patient, are wont to say “Well, not since I was born,” causing me to shake my head in wonder. Who knew such people existed? And that I would one day marry one?)
My unspoken reaction is always “Good for you.” I realize how incredibly flippant that sounds, but I don’t mean it flippantly at all. It’s refreshing to be reminded that there are people out there—people in my life, even—who are healthy, who do not have any conditions that require regular medication.
I mean, who wouldn’t want aspirin to the only occasional remedy you need to live your life and get done what you need to do?
I will admit I am a bit blasé sometimes about taking medicine. I never skip a dose or anything like that, it’s just not something I think about. It’s something I just do, part of my daily routine for literally as long as I can remember. On a given day, I take no less than eight medicines (good times) and no more than fourteen (less good times). I have cut out four medicines altogether in the past few years, which pleases me.
I have tested and charted and experimented to make sure I am not taking any medications that I could do without, because just like my healthy counterparts, I really don’t like putting anything unnecessary in my body, either. I don’t like the never-ending co-pays, the refills, the side effects like a racing heart, dizziness, feeling jittery, brittle bones, enlarged organs, endocrine damage, etc.
But I dislike respiratory distress, respiratory failure and other phenomena even more.
Antibiotics are a regular part of my medical arsenal. And I do mean regular. In fact, they are indispensable. Remember that New Year’s Eve day infection? It got worse and worse, to the point where I was dizzy from not getting enough air, my peak flows barely registered, and all the nebs and chest PT in the world couldn’t cut through the infected mucus lodged in my chest. I basically didn’t leave my house for eight days.
The only reason I am even functioning at half capacity right now? I brought into rotation an antibiotic I hadn’t used in awhile. (Between the nature of what I grow and the fact I’ve been on them so long, there are only a few out there I can rely on). Even with them, I teetered on the edge of the hospital for a couple days, and without these antibiotics, I have no doubt I would be in the hospital right now.
Antibiotics are a hot-button issue. The big things I hear from my students and people I know in the trenches? They are over-prescribed, they are given to demanding patients or parents whose children have colds and viruses when they don’t need them, they are given to people who don’t complete the proper course of treatment once they start feeling better. In an age of multiple drug resistant bacteria, “super bugs” and emerging infectious disease, this is problematic, to say the least.
Believe me, I am just as worried about the misuse of antibiotics. Does that sound weird coming from someone who basically lives on them? I’m even more cognizant of it precisely because of how much I have to rely on them.
And yet because it is so normal for people like me to take them, I rarely stop and think about what I am putting into my body when I take one. It’s another part of the routine. But I should give them the respect for the formidable force they are. After all, look at this partial list of “less common” side effects for my current antibiotic:
“…Abdominal pain, abnormal dreams, abnormal or double vision, aggressiveness, agitation, anemia, angina, anxiety, asthma, back pain, blood abnormalities, blood clots, changeable emotions, chest pain, circulatory failure, colitis, coma, confusion, depression, difficulty in or obstructed breathing, difficulty concentrating, disorientation, dizziness, emotional or mental problems, exaggerated sense of well-being, fainting, fungal infection, gangrene or other infections, gas, genital infection and itching, hallucination, heart attack, heart failure, heartbeat irregularities, high or low blood pressure, high or low blood sugar, hives, impaired thinking, indigestion, intestinal bleeding, intestinal inflammation or blockage, irregular heartbeat, itching, kidney disorders, lack of muscle coordination, liver disorders, lung problems or inflammation, muscle pain weakness, pancreatitis, paralysis, pneumonia, rapid or slow heartbeat, rash, seizures, swelling of face or extremities, swollen tongue, tendon inflammation, tumor, vaginal inflammation, vertigo, vomiting, yellowing of eyes and skin…”
Yikes. A healthy fear is now officially instilled.
Along with a huge dose of gratitude that they still continue to do what I need them to do.