I thought I had a cold.
That's how it started out, anyway. I was sore all over and could hardly breathe, and I was coughing a lot, but I decided to go to work anyway. I made it through a couple days, but instead of getting better, I was getting worse. But it was almost the end of the week, right? It was Thursday!
By a few hours into the work day, I asked my friend, who I had carpooled to work with, to take me home during the lunch break because I was feeling so awful.
The whole not being able to breathe thing was a key factor. It's hard to do, you know, ANYTHING AT ALL when you can't put oxygen in your lungs.
So I curled up into a ball and let my friend drive me home, and then I curled up under a blanket and called the doctor to make an appointment. All the while, I was coughing, but I still didn't think anything of it.
It was only a couple hours between coming home and going to the doctor, but it might as well have been days for how long it felt. My throat was on fire, and not because it was sore or anything but because I was coughing so hard that it hurt my every muscle. My chest felt like someone had hit me with a car, and when I coughed, I was acutely aware of my ribs. And how suddenly fragile they felt.
I went to the doctor and sat in a room for ten minutes while he finished up with his previous patients. He came in and told me that he had been able to hear me coughing from the next room and he knew exactly what the problem was. I had whooping cough.
I was surprised. I was up to date on all my vaccinations, wasn't I? So this shouldn't have been a problem, right?
Haha. Ha. Yeah.
Turns out, I lived in an area with a very low vaccination rate, and while I had been up to date when I was a kid, recent research shows the whooping cough vaccine in particular should really be updated every decade or so. So, no, I wasn't safe, and the people around me weren't safe, and turns out there were lots of other people getting sick, too.
Unfortunately, I'd been putting off the doctor visit because I couldn't afford to take a day off of work. I was paid hourly, and I was trying to put my husband through school. Which meant my case of whooping cough was well into its progression by the time I finally showed my face in that office, so they couldn't do much besides help keep me from coughing up a lung (which, by the way, was a real possibility).
I came back with some medicines to help clear up the infection itself, but in the meantime, I had nothing to protect me from the coughing fits.
But I, being pig-headed as I am, decided that I wasn't going to let this stop me from doing things. I dressed up in my warmest, most comfortable hoodie and settled down in front of the sink to wash some dishes to put in the dishwasher.
That's when the wave of coughing hit. I doubled over, gasping for air, but I couldn't stop coughing. I felt my knees hit the floor, and I saw the corners of my vision turn black, and I still couldn't stop. It's not something that you can control, the coughing, and I don't really remember much of the rest of that coughing fit other than clinging on to what little breath I could gasp in when the spasms stopped.
Next thing I knew, I was slumped over on the kitchen floor staring at a pool of my own saliva and phlegm that I had coughed up, well aware that I was lucky to still be conscious.
This continued for days. And even for days after that, I was still coughing, still sore. It took days after that before I could even really take a full breath without feeling like my chest was fighting me. And over a year later, I still get nervous every time I cough, and my chest still hurts with the memory if I have a coughing fit that lasts more than five coughs.
Mind you, I was 21 when this happened. I was a 21-year-old, full-grown woman with a healthy set of lungs and a husband who had the sense to keep me away from things that I could crash into if I ever fell over from coughing. I can't even IMAGINE what this disease would have done to me if I had been younger, or if I had health problems or lung problems like asthma. Can you imagine if I had been a baby? I nearly blacked out with a fully developed set of lungs; a coughing attack like that could have KILLED me if I was younger.
So please, tell me more about how vaccines are part of a larger conspiracy to kill people. That's very interesting. You just stay the heck away from me, though, and I'll stay here in my corner not getting sick again, thanks.