Modern Medicine

In My Previous Life I Used Big Words

Sean has had this chronic cough and wheeze for what seems like forever. We have made multiple trips to the doctor over the past year to see about this cough and we now own a pharmacy of failed and forgotten prescriptions. Singulair anyone? I got a tuckload. Albuterol? Syrup or inhaler, your choice. I’ll even throw in some Benedryl.

Early on in our quest to cure the cough, the pediatrician suggested that it could be asthma. Being the medical expert that I am — what with all the ER I have watched over the past ten years, not to mention every episode of General Hospital back in the Luke and Laura days — I was quick to correct him. I told him no, it could not possibly be asthma because neither I nor my husband nor any of our ancestors dating back to second century BC were ever known to have asthma. We are not asthmatics. So, sorry no — it is definitely NOT asthma.

On our 26th trip to the doctor, he suggested that it might be non-specific allergy induced respiratory irritant just-don’t-say-the-word-asthma syndrome or NSAIRIJDSWA. So I said, fine, what do you got for that? And he prescribed FloVent, which sounds like something you would use to eliminate bathroom odors but is actually a steroidal inhaler. And also used for asthma. Since Sean has been on this steroidal inhaler thing, the cough has gone away. Completely. And the quality of our life has quadrupled. And that gives me warm and fuzzy feelings for the doctor.

So a month after the last doctor’s visit, I got around to making the two-week follow-up appointment, which we went to yesterday. I was happy to report to the good doctor that the inhaler was working, that the NSAIRIJDSWA was gone and that for the first time in about a year, Sean was asymptomatic.

When I said the word “asymptomatic” the doctor stopped writing and looked at me pointedly.

“What kind of work did you do in your previous life? Before you became a mother?” he asked tapping his pen on the desk.

“What?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with that line of questioning.

“Most of the people I see don’t use words like asymptomatic,” he said.

I didn’t think that asymptomatic was such an unusual word. Once, during an art critique in college, I even used the words atypical and asymmetrical in the same sentence — isn’t that a-mazing? I can be real showy like that, just carelessly tossing around multiple syllabic words.

“Well doctor,” I said, “Junior here, he ain’t got no cough no more.”

After he cracked a smile, I told him that I like words. And that I’ve been sick with one thing or another my entire life, so I am more familiar with medical terms than I care to be.

And then he said, “Oh yes, you have IBD, right?”

“Yes,” I said, “But I’m asymptomatic.” (Oh how I crack myself up.)

And then it was my turn to be impressed with him, because even MY doctors don’t remember what my health issues are without looking at my chart.

Score one more warm and fuzzy for the good doctor.

28 thoughts on “In My Previous Life I Used Big Words

  1. In my limited experience of the medical profession out here, it certainly helps if you can present yourself as a ‘professional’ person rather than ‘neurotic mum,’ sadly. When it comes to pediatrician ‘mum’ equates to ‘over protective.’

    One of mine is also on flovent, makes life a lot smoother and stops the attacks.

  2. I feel your pain. We’ve gone around with asthma for years now. I always thought that asthma meant wheezing, but no, apparently coughing fits also can be asthma attacks. Our pediatric pulmonologists blamed “air traffic patterns” in North Texas, pollution, and the insulation in our (former) home (apparently the shreddy newspaper stuff doesn’t sit with small children very well- who knew!). I’m glad you (and Sean) have been spared the nebulizer and sounds like you found a great pediatrician! If he wants y’all to use a peak flow meter, be sure to look for the one that sounds like a whistle (Sean will probably love it as much as our little guys do).

  3. That must be a huge relief – that he’s been feeling so much better. Huge relief to be able to use big words again, too. 😉 My large words, unfortunately, seem to have dissolved into unrecognizable …whatjamacallit.

    O.K., HUGE fan of General Hospital during the Luke & Laura years. Watched it after school.

  4. You go girl.

    I had the same reaction when I found out my 13 year old had type 1 Diabetes. No one in our family has had it so there is no way he could be a diabetic…so much for my diagnosis.

    LOVED the Luke and Laura days!!!! Came home from school everyday and watched it.

  5. Am I the only one who doesn’t even have a clue who or what the Luke and Laura days are…………?

  6. Glad Sean is symptom-free and you found something which works. Sometimes, it takes the right combo of meds to do the trick.

    Our family is asthmalicious. Everyone has it. Got a kiddo on Flovent too. He calls it “the hamburger” because of its shape.

  7. “Well doctor,” I said, “Junior here, he ain’t got no cough no more.”

    LMBO…..those are usually the words used in Texas to describe cessation of symptoms. Except you should have used “Bubba.”

  8. 1. Loved the Luke and Laura days. I never watched soaps until then and haven’t since. But that show hooked me right in.

    2. You would not believe how many more of my students have asthma now than when I started working as an elementary school librarian almost twenty years ago. I don’t know if it’s the environment or kids being diagnosed better or what, but there is quite a difference. I’m glad you found something that helps!

  9. A few years ago, I remember feeling so flattered when my pediatrician’s nurse said, “The doctor holds you in the highest regard.”


    But, really–like you–I’m thinking it’s because I know how to not use double-negatives, and all that there good junk.

  10. Now THAT is cool. The only thing I’ve ever done to impress the pediatrician was to wear a v-neck sweater while holding a wriggling 2 year old. She pulled the sweater down, I immediately grabbed it and hauled it back up to where it needed to be and turned bright red. Looking back now, it could be that he wasn’t very impressed after all…

    We have asthma in our family (all the ‘bad’ stuff comes from my side) and although the two littles haven’t been diagnosed with asthma, they are on breathing meds preventatively during the cold season to help them breathe better when they do get sick. FloVent is one of those meds. Glad Junior is doing better with his non-asthma cough!

  11. My G has the SAME thing, allergy induced respiratory irritation/asthma! One question, is this knowing doctor who appreciates big words also handsome? Because that would be just too good to be true and I’d be right over to get his name and number and street address.

  12. It’s good to know you’ve got a good pediatrician! Mine was sure I was a teacher (nope, never been) because of my geeky and pedantic way of speaking (and writing, apparently).

  13. Glad it’s only NSAIRIJDSWA and that he’s now asymptomatic! 🙂 Too bad the pediatrician isn’t a family doctor instead, otherwise he could be your doctor, too!

    Which reminds me, I need to look for a new doctor at some point…

  14. Want to really blow Dr Feelgood’s socks off? Practice with Sean until HE can go into the Dr’s office and proclaim that he’s asymptomatic. Works on nurses too…

  15. I have been worried that one of my boys would have asthma because I have it and everyone in my family does too. But as little kids, they were asyptomatic. Now Jonathan has an “as needed” inhaler. Surprise, surprise.

  16. I used big words in a previous life, too, but not because I use them now, but because I just can’t remember them. Pregnancy hormones had an opposite effect on me than they did you. They severely clouded my mind, so whenever I try to conjure up a word I’m sure I know and need to use, I come up with a lot of “uhs”. Stupid brain.

  17. In my pre-mommy life, I covered the wonderful world of medicine as a producer for our TV station. Every week, I would read JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine and whatever other medical journals showed up on my desk. I quickly developed a mile-wide, inch-deep medical vernacular. It never fails to impress (or maybe more correctly frighten) doctors when I start to spout medical terms like I’m a drop-out from medical school.

  18. Sometimes I purposely avoid using proper medical terms like that. I always get a sideways glance,and I wonder if they’re thinking I’m one of those Munschausen-by-Proxy moms, or watch too much ER, or frequent internet medical and think I’m practically a doctor… or something.

  19. Before my first child was born I was told I should “interview” pediatricians before I picked one. I got recommendations and made appointments. The first one I went to met with my husband and me for quite a while and then he said, “you are the babie’s mother and will know him/her better than anyone else. If something does not seem right to you, call me, day or night. The baby does not have to have a fever or any symptoms. If something just does not feel right to you, call me. If you get my answering service and I do not call you back in 15 minutes, call me again.”
    I was sold. I didn’t interview any others. I stayed with him until I moved, and only one other dr., in 18 years, did I have a pediatrician who I loved as much as that one. I don’t live near either of them any more, and boy, do I miss them!

  20. As someone who has a chronic illness, I’ve found that having a piece of paper (one for them & one for me) is what really impresses them. I detail my symptoms, medications, etc… I group everything by priority because I know I get a limited amount of time with them and I want to be taken seriously, but not too seriously (like commmitted to a mental hospital 😉

    In regard to Sean (considering AD & your neatnik issues, I’m thinking it’s not an issue anyway)but may I suggest an artificial tree? You can always spray pine sented febreeze or something. 😉

  21. I’m a fairly newly-minted doctor. I would also be a little concerned if a patient used the term “asymptomatic.” Many of my patients do not even have a high school education. As part of graduating from med school we have to take these tests where we interview fake patients (like what Kramer did on Seinfeld). It quickly became apparent that these people had been coached a little too well when they began saying things like, “no, doctor, I don’t have any dyspnea. But my chest pain is alleviated by taking nitroglycerin….”

    I’m glad you’ve found such a good doctor. It’s good to hear the positive stories about dealing with the medical community, since it seems many people just get frustrated. I’m also glad the flovent is working.

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