All I Want for Christmas Is Bronchitis: Scrooge and Healthcare

The following was originally posted on Kevin's blog,

I'm sure that Hell is a waiting room. And I suspect that Kelly and Michael is on the TV there as well.

I'd been hedging my bets, waiting for the really nasty cold from 10 days ago to fade away. Two days off work, leaving me just three days in my sick-bank (after 17 months on the new job) combined with 17 hours of sleep per day and I thought I had it licked.

Home Below the Home

But the cough persisted through day six and brought me to the real answer why Victorian homes had separate bedrooms for the husband and wife. Antibiotics weren't invented yet and the snoring/wheezing/coughing of one spouse would end in either exhaustion for the other -- or murder charges. So I moved down to our guest room (also known as the basement couch) to sequester my nasty hacking and keep only our cat wide awake -- and she's up anyway.

The cough was practicing guerrilla warfare. Every day it seemed a little better, then went back two steps for that small step forward. At dinner on day seven, I was making so much noise that Patrice noticed, "I think you're getting worse."

"It wasn't that way at work today."

Hmm. There must be a reason. What's changed? What's different in the house now that wasn't there before? I did a quick inventory and ran it against my panty-waist allergies of dust, cats, grass-clippings and anything airborne March through November.

  • Two kids? Check. Nothing's changed.
  • One cat? One dog? Check
  • One wife (for now)? Check
  • No bags of grass clippings tucked in a corner? Nope.
  • The Christmas tree?


Oh sure, it looks innocent enough...

Ah hah. We were at the overpriced Christmas tree farm a few weeks ago and picked out a beauty. When I was half-way through cutting through the trunk and my daughter said, "It says 'balsam.'"

"What? It's not a Fraser fir?"


My wife and I cried, "Is it more expensive?"

It wasn't, but perhaps this strange brand was the culprit. Maybe I had an allergy to a Christmas tree. Maybe I was the Grinch.

So off to Walgreen's I went. An Allegra-D later, after certifying that I was not the next Walter White with aspirations of a meth-empire, I had taken my pill and convinced myself that I was out of the balsam woods.

Nope. But denial did buy me two more days.

But last night at 1 A.M. (Day 10) I noticed a noise as I tried to sleep in my dungeon. I thought our radiators were hissing. It certainly wasn't the tea kettle -- our cat wasn't that talented. It took me a moment to realize the source.

My lungs. Great. Bronchitis. Two years ago it was Christmas Eve. At least this time it might be a bit easier to get in to see someone.

They collected my $50 before I even had a chance to slash my first check-box on the clipboard; and there we sat, me, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan.

Please let it be bronchitis. Please don't tell me that it's just a virus and I need to tough it out. I've spent my money, I want to be really sick! After all, for fifty dollars I could buy myself three pairs of uncomfortable shoes.

"Walsh?" they hollered. And in I went. (I was hoping for fifty bucks they'd at least use my first name or "Mr.")

I jumped through the hoops of reciting my last ten days, hoping to speed up the journey to the antibiotic my fifty years with this body has trained me to rightfully expect when I can whistle Jingle Bells through my throat. Sure enough, they agreed.

And as I paid for the drugs at Walgreen's, my sense of relief of not wasting $50 on hypochondria, of finally being released from the dungeon and gratefully losing my old friend, the cough was countered with the sad realization that I would be shopping for Patrice's present at the dollar store.

Perhaps that sleeping bag should stay down there for me.