Every Breath I Take, or Down With Allergies

You'll recall a few posts ago where I deduced an allergy to down (Seriously? Down? Cute little duck feathers?) as the culprit of my strange cough/wheezing. As challenging as it will be (down is the insulating agent of choice in northern Europe), elimination and avoidance should eventually help my lungs settle down, already quite irritated and inflamed from prolonged exposure on this trip.

On Saturday, this effort seemed to pay off, as we took quite a long walking tour around Copenhagen with our friend and local Copenhagen guide Alex. That evening, I had no issues to speak of. Hooray for down avoidance! Sunday started out much the same. We took a late start to the day but wandered a museum, did a little fruitless shopping, had a pint, grabbed some tasty Thai for dinner, and then caught the train back to our temporary home. And all was well. Or so it seemed.

About two hours after we got back to the house, the coughing/wheezing returned with a vengeance. Though I took my inhaler multiple times, I was only getting minimal relief. Within 30 minutes I was in a full-blown asthma attack, with massive coughing and extreme shortness of breath. Evo quickly drew me a bath (hot, humid air works well) while I continued to puff on my inhaler. The combination of the steamy room and massive dose of the rescue inhaler finally went to work, allowing me to at least get almost full breaths. Even so, I continued to cough quite a bit throughout the night, sleeping in small increments.

Come Monday morning (once I finally got up,) Evo played nursemaid and wouldn't let me do anything other than sit and type on my computer. I was tired due to lack of sleep, and the coughing had kinked a muscle in my back. (Great, now both of us has back muscle issues!) My coughing and wheezing had subsided, but neither were gone completely. That night was much the same, and I awoke several times in the middle of the night with long bouts of coughing followed by extended times of wheezing. This was starting to feel like a cold, or bronchitis, or something.

By noon today, Tuesday, I finally broke down and realized something needed to be done -- and soon! My back was getting worse, with sharp pains right around my rib area. I've heard of people breaking a rib from coughing to much. I did not want to be one of those people. Plus, there was a whole city out there waiting to be explored. Oh yeah, and another 330 days of the ShEvo World Tour I wanted to actually be able to enjoy! So we made another appointment to see the doctor. This time I would experience socialized medicine first hand!

The Negative Nancy in me was assuming E's awesome experience was a fluke. Surely, it won't go as well for you, and the first available appointment for me would be days from now. Or they'd say "Sorry, but we've hit our quota on seeing uninsured Americans." Nope! Dr. Neilsen would be able to see me. In less than an hour. That left us just enough time for us to bundle up, walk (slowly) to the train, ride the train, and walk (slowly again) to the doctor's office.

Ms. Negative came out and whispered in my ear the whole time I was describing my symptoms and history to the doctor. When I mentioned I thought I might have bronchitis, he said a blood test was needed to test for infection. Ha! That's a trip to the lab, which takes an appointment and at least a week to get the results back. Nope! He did the finger stick right there, did some chemistry magic, and we had the results in about three minutes. No infection!

When I explained what my current condition was, and listed my current and previous medications, she was back again. This time, he'll refuse to prescribe you medicine, because they're anti-medication in Denmark. Wrong again, Nancy! He did a quick Google search (yep, Google) to figure out the Danish equivalent to my current medicine, filled out a prescription for the inhaler I'd almost emptied in days (they usually last me months) and prescribed a steroid to help reduce my inflammation and suppress the allergic reaction, since down is everywhere here and everywhere I'm likely to be for the remainder of winter.

Don't count your blessings yet, Dearie. Remember when you told the receptionist that you didn't have a civil registration number because you're not a Danish national? This time, it's going to cost you. You and you alone will bear the cost of all this country's healthcare. Watch your HSA account drop to zero with one visit! Oh, shut the hell up, Nancy. Once again, the total cost for the doctor visit -- the same day doctor visit was ... nada!

But she wouldn't shut up. During the three blocks to the pharmacy, during the 30 second wait for a pharmacist, during the helpful advice on what cough suppressant I should take that wasn't contraindicated by the prescriptions, and even as I was paying the $35 charge for what would have cost me over $100 in the U.S., she was telling me how the other shoe was going to drop at any minute. You know what, Nancy? You're a real bitch.

Like Evo said on the podcast episode last weekend, anecdotes don't add up to evidence. But in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we're unabashed fans of socialized medicine. Regardless of what Nancy says.