Let's have a brief word about being sick in a foreign country.
I have been ill for about five weeks now. Five. Weeks. Read: The entirety of my time in this country. When I say 'ill,' I do not mean a debilitating fever, or the pernicious flu. I mean your standard cough/sore throat, the kind that is not severe enough to confine you to bed, but just painful enough to make every activity annoying. Such as singing in a choir in a drafty chapel. Or staying out until all hours of the night pubbing. Or pulling all-nighters for papers.
Okay, so maybe those aren't necessary activities. Nevertheless. This cold of mine has been doing its own study-abroad tour, from my throat to my chest to my….ear?
I haven't had an earache since I was like 4. Of course now is the perfect time, being without my family doctor, pharmacy, or…….mother.
But I decided about a week into my illness to go see the college nurse (for her "open surgery hours"). She's such a nice woman, she remembers my name and has a very soothing voice. She looked at me sympathetically (squinting her eyes in that understanding way medical professionals do), and nodded her head at all the right points. I think I was getting better just sitting there.
"Tell me how you're feeling."
"Um, well, my throat is really sore." For 'sore,' read: on fire.
"You poor thing. Well, here's what you do. Go to the pharmacy – Boswell's, not Boots, they'll take forever – and ask for some dispersible
aspirin [she wrote this all down for me, actually underlining emphatically as replicated]. Take two in water every couple of hours. You should be better in no time."
Oh, swell. Aspirin? Piece of cake.
Except drinking that crap tasted like someone dumped chalk dust in my water. After mixing it with paint thinner.
But that was okay, since my throat wasn't sore anymore. No, no¾the cold had moved camp to my chest. Now, I was coughing up lungs right and left. Repelling people by the sheer force of my phlegmatic hacking. It was a beautiful sight. I felt charming. So I went back to see Yo.
And yes, that is actually the nurse's name. Yo. Yo Davies.
There was, of course, more squinting, but this time it wasn't so sympathetic. More of a "How did you screw up my remedy?" squint.
For this second visit, after a quick listen to my chest ("You're not weezing, and you don't have a fever, my dear."), her prescription included Friar's Balsam. Never heard of it? Well, perhaps you've never heard of inhaling tree sap reduction, either, but now is not the time to be close-minded. And may I mention here that it smells like Harry Potter and shares consistency with molasses. Shooting a quick email to Professor Snape for the origins might not be the worst idea (and here the HP references end). Essentially, Nurse Yo had me dumping a teaspoon of this sticky mess in boiling water twice a day and inhaling the fumes under a towel. This is NHS at its finest.
Did it work?
Let's just say Yo's face the third time I made it to her office wasn't the definition of "thrilled."
But this time she farmed me out to a doctor's office down the street. Who put me on a 7-day antibiotic without so much as looking at my throat, ear, or chest. I was in and out of that office in five minutes.
And was the week-long barrage on my bodily bacteria successful?*
Well, here I am, three weeks later, with an ear ache that feels like someone tried to knit a sweater out of my cochlea and auditory nerves. With my chest slathered with a TUB of the British version of Vick's vapor rub. My room smells absolutely offensive. But that's it. No more nurses or doctors or tree sap! I am loading up on decongestants and Vick's and taking care of this thing for good, because, as I've said to my excellent friend Aidan, I'd rather gash my foot open and dump lemon juice on it right before I run the NYC marathon rather than be sick any longer.
And yes I mean that.
*You are LOVING that alliteration.