just a cold

Ashley has come down with a cold.

It’s just a cold, right? Nothing to worry about, right? I mean, we both had our flu shots, and our H1N1 shots.(1) Hell, we even got H2D2 shots!(2)

So it’s just a cold.

Except.

It’s the first cold she’s had since her double-lung transplant two years ago.

Eek.

She sneezes a lot, which she apologizes for almost every time. But I’m actually glad. If her lungs weren’t properly functioning, sneezing would be difficult and painful. So I tell her to sneeze away.

But I worry.

She coughs and it sounds like a normal cough. When she rolls over from her left to her right side I can hear her breathing change as mucus shifts nostrils due to gravity. This happens to all of us and is totally normal in every way.

But I worry anyway.

Her voice sounds strange and works intermittently in the morning. She clears her throat and it sounds normal and gets a little better every day.

But I worry anyway.

While her lungs are no longer cystic(3), her trachea and sinuses are. They still create the viscous mucus that her lungs used to create. Though it’s not much of a danger, mucus from her trachea and sinuses could drain into her lungs and begin closing off the smaller airways.

So I tell her to sneeze away. If she coughs something up, I’ll pull over the car if I have to so she can spit it out. When she clears her throat, I’ll get her a tissue if she needs it.

I want those airways to stay open as long as possible.

As a species, we tend to be disgusted by urine, feces and sputum. But these three things are exactly what we should be looking at if we want to gauge what’s going on with our bodies. I try to look at her sputum when I get the chance. She willingly shows me and it’s one of the most loving moments we’ve shared.

Because we both know that if we hang in there long enough there will be more of this.

We don’t talk about it a lot, but we know that illness and pathology will always be part of our life together for as long as it lasts. When she asks me if I think NyQuil(4) will be safe for her, I have to waver in my response. I don’t know how an antihistamine will interact with everything else that she takes.(5)

But I don’t treat her like she’s sick. Being mindful of her CF and her lung transplant is different than making her mindful. Not that she forgets, but what kind of life is it to live on a tightrope of wellness? She’s absolutely certain that the reason she’s still alive and still well is because she never let people put her in a bubble.

I won’t do it either.

So I’ll worry. I’ll download apps to help me with her meds. I’ll read journal articles – real articles with unpronounceable titles. I’ll learn what I can learn. And I’ll worry some more.

I’ll treat her like the friend she is. I’ll get her a glass of chocolate milk when it’s time to take her meds. I’ll bug her about doing TOBI(6) and she’ll hate me a little for nagging but I’ll do it because I love her and she’ll know I’m doing it because I love her. And I’ll worry some more.

We’ll joke around a lot and hold hands as we watch TV. We’ll wrestle and play-fight and sometimes I’ll lose and sometimes she’ll lose. We’ll talk trash. We’ll stay up late playing video games and she’ll holler at the TV during footballs games. And still I’ll worry.

She’ll make me take a break when I need it. She’ll make sure we’re intimate even when we’re not feeling well. She’ll make sure we never go to bed angry and she’ll make the bed in the morning.

And sometimes she’ll catch a cold.
In time, I’ll understand that it’s just a cold.


  1. The Flu formerly known as the Swine Flu.
  2. Robot Flu
  3. Since cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, and her lungs came from someone else who wasn’t cystic, her lungs are not cystic even though she is. Weird, I know.
  4. NyQuil is a part of the Vicks family of over-the-counter medicines and a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  5. I downloaded an app that lets me look up meds and interactions. Just in case.
  6. Tobi is a brand name of Tobramycin, an aerosol antibiotic used to fight infections.
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One comment on “just a cold

  1. Absolutely LOVE this post. As a CF patient, I can relate in many ways. It’s nice to read something from the significant other of a CF patient. I know my boyfriend probably has many of the same thoughts, feelings, and worries as you do. Just like CF patients need to band together to help cope, so do the people in their lives who deal with everything right along with them. Thank you for sharing this. It sounds like you’re doing a perfect job of taking care of her 🙂 I’ll definitely be coming back!

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