Forget tea and herbs — if you catch this, see a doctor

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I don’t know what this pestilence is that’s spreading across these parts, but it deserves its own name. Bird flu, SARS and hantavirus are already taken, aren’t very catchy and, frankly, are indicative of either low effort or low aptitude in verbal creativity on the part of the medical/scientific community.

Putah plague, maybe?

Walnut flu?

Whatever the label, it is heinous.


Yes. That will suffice as a working title for now. I’ll work on a name after I recover, whenever that may be. According to those who’ve succumbed to this plague, it takes weeks to recover from the severe sinus and chest congestion, and even longer to kick the horrid, hacking cough.

Months ago, I’d heard people start saying they’d come down with heinousitis and were sick for weeks, and I’d nod sympathetically but secretly felt quite smug because A) I rarely get sick and B) I got my flu shot, just in case Premise A fails. And also, C): I just don’t believe in getting sick. I don’t receive it. It’s like when people come to my door peddling everything from magazine subscriptions to religion. I tell them “no thanks” through the screen and shut the door, and they go away. It’s that simple: It can’t get in if you don’t let it in.

Until it does.

Compared to garden variety solicitors, heinousitis pulled a home invasion. It kicked down the door, turned the place upside down, and pummeled me into a whimpering, coughing, sneezing, aching, feverish heap.

Being of the stubborn nature (a lavish understatement), I fought back with the usual things: no sugar, no dairy, and drank gallons of boiled “teas” of fresh ginger, garlic, oregano and dandelion. I soaked in Epsom salts, and consumed a ton of fresh citrus … I even stayed home from work and rested for a whole day. I can count all the times I’ve done that in my entire working life on one hand and still have fingers left over.

And I just got worse.

After a day of rest, I rallied and put in one day at the office (big mistake), and the heinousitis used that error in judgment to fill every cavity from the top of my head to my diaphragm with thick, choking orange and yellow goo. I was blowing custard, man.

I know. That’s so gross to read.

Shut up. I had to live it.

How about a little empathy, people, even if does make you gag.

And yet … I was still confident I could kick this thing if I rested all weekend. Because, come on — illness is for babies. My viking ancestors didn’t let a little chest cold keep them from fighting bloody battles in the snow. Unless they came down with heinousitis and chose to fall on their own swords as the lesser of two evils. Might as well end the misery here and now.

Resting, in theory, is a great approach. Unless resting is impossible (let alone sleeping), when you’re strangling in epileptic seizures of coughing, day and night, choking, weeping and unable to inhale, and sure the next convulsion is surely going to crack a rib.

“Go to the doctor,” you exclaim in exasperation.

Yeah …

Although I love my doc, I’ll do almost anything to avoid going to see her, because my Inner Cheapacabra can think of 137 better things to do with $40. But, come Sunday, I was finally so sick and exhausted, unable to hold up a book or do anything besides lie on the couch in a custard-spewing, convulsing heap, I finally listened to my pleading husband and went to Urgent Care in Davis. (And what a great resource that is in a pinch, because at that point, going to the emergency room wasn’t off the table.)

Before long, I was chatting with a physician’s assistant and getting a chest X-ray, and sent on my way with two diagnoses (sinusitis and bronchitis), and five — count ’em, five — prescriptions.

By the next day, the antibiotics had knocked back the sinusitis. But the bronchitis merely smirked at my silly little pills and raged on. Unable to get anyone to fill in for me at work, I dragged myself through the crucial tasks and returned to my post on the couch. Crazy, right? But if no one can fill in for me, the work doesn’t happen, and if the work doesn’t happen, there’s nothing to go to press. That has never happened in the Express’ 133-year history, and I’ll be damned if it was going to happen on my watch, because I’d never hear the end of it from my boss.

The next day was press day, and thankfully, I found some backup. I showed up at the office long enough to set up a few things so I didn’t leave co-workers overwhelmed with an undecipherable pile of work, and also long enough for them to beg me to go home (that took about five minutes).

And yes, even I, the Queen of Stubborn, had to agree. I was toast.

I went home via an emergency trip to the on-call UC Davis doc, who tweaked the PA’s advice a little and armed me with yet two more prescriptions. If you’re counting, that is seven prescriptions (including two inhalers), an all-time record for me. The following day, my regular physician, the most wonderful Dr. Karen Mo (an angel with a medical degree — UC Davis should double her salary) called me to explain what each item in my basket ‘o meds was and how it works, and when to take what with what.

I followed her advice to the letter. That, plus a couple more sick days (I have now used up all five fingers), and I began to feel like I’d turned a corner.

I shall live.

However, according to other heinositis victims, although I may feel better, I’ll continue to cough for many weeks to come.

I would cry.

But that would make me cough.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

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