I do not get colds, generally. My tummy is weak, but I’ll never call out with strep throat or whatever because I come from hearty stock and we don’t, generally, get ill. (Since sick means dick in Turkish, I’ve phased it out of my vocabulary. Another fun fact- peach means bastard.) But I do get spectacular cases of pneumonia. Just breathtaking. In 2006 I got to hear a nurse in the cardiac unit of one of the best hospitals in the country screaming to the doctor on call that I wasn’t going to make it through the night. That same case, the 100 top pulmonary/respiratory specialists in the country were meeting at Johns Hopkins, and my doctor took my case in to ask for advice and they voted 51-49 that I would die no matter what. (I only regret that when that doctor later told me that story he told it also in front of my mama. Far harder to love an ill person than to be an ill person.) I have it on good authority that I am in textbooks, but I prefer novels, so who can say.
In the past two years I’ve had pneumonia three times. The other times I’ve called out of work have been either tummy trouble or malingering, to be honest.
On the latest whoops! I’ve been walking around with walking pneumonia for three weeks! data, I offer you my kindly advice on how to deal with pneumonia in Turkey.
1. Walk around with a dull ache right between your boobs for three weeks and promise yourself you’ll go to the doctor if it gets worse.
2. When it gets worse, tell your office staff that you need to go to the hospital after your last class, and you’d greatly appreciate it if someone could go with you.
3. They will balk a little and assure you it’s just stress. Hold your ground.
4. Insist on going to a private hospital. I firmly believe that, two years ago when I had double pneumonia, had I gone public I would be dead right now. Agree with yourself to buy that new wardrobe next month, and suck up the cost.
5. Take the office boy who clearly has a puppy dog crush on you to the hospital. Allow him to translate things you have no hope of getting across, like, “chest pain!” (not covered in elementary textbooks. odd.) Also, “I’ve had pneumonia five times in ten years, I need an x-ray.”
6. Submit to the standard electrocardiograph that must be done whenever anyone says chest pain. Have some blood taken. Get an x-ray.
7. Sit for a long time and make awkward Turklish conversation with your translator. Break the news of your age gently to him if you can.
8. Sit some more.
9. The doctor will come in and ask you, even though you think he already knew, if you’ve ever had pneumonia before. Say yes. The spectacularity of your previous pneumonias will be impossible to translate so don’t even try. He will tell your friend that your lungs are messed up, and that the left is different from the right, and they need fifteen more minutes to get results back. You’ll ask your friend what this means and he’ll shrug.
10. The doctor will come back with a prescription for some pain meds that seem unreasonable since you aren’t in a great deal of pain, the pain only comes when you laugh or burp or sneeze or cough or raise your arms, and several prescriptions for antibiotics, and a stern demand that you come back the next day.
11. That last one is ignorable. Especially cause you’re gonna have to shell out 560 big ones before you leave. Do that again? I think not. You’ve been on this bus before. You know how to do it.
12. At this point it will be 7:50 and all pharmacies, except the one in the “area,” and “area” is loosely defined here, close at 8. Go to two pharmacies that don’t have your antibiotics in stock and swift march to a third- ow, that hurts- to pick up your drugs.
13. Go home, flop on couch, write about it.