Marc Pruitt column: They said my tonsils are beautiful

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2022

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This is my public thank you to the emergency room staff at Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center.
It has been a minute since I’ve visited an emergency room for myself. Well, a minute is nearly 30 years in my case.
So, believe me, If I’m going to an emergency room for care, something bad was going on.
And as benign as a sore throat may sound, this was no ordinary sore throat. Heck, it wasn’t event strep throat. Three tests in three days were all negative. Yet, it still felt like I was trying to swallow barbed wire with lava.
My throat burned. My throat was swollen. And as soon as liquid touched my mouth, there was a stinging sensation that felt like I inhaled a hornet’s nest and it stretched from ear to ear.
I found no comfort. I hadn’t eaten anything since a few potato chips at my friend Matt’s house on Tuesday for our weekly trivia night. And as soon as I got home, swallowing became quite a burden.
I couldn’t eat or drink anything — even water — on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Sleep was rare. If it got an hour, I would wake up choking on my own saliva because I couldn’t even swallow that without immense pain. I ended up getting spit cups to repel it from my mouth that way. Not ideal.
Even when I tried taking over the counter remedies — Advil, Aleve, Tylenol — to try and quash some pain, it was all I could do to swallow them without either gagging or immediately rejecting them because of my inability to get anything down.
I was riding the struggle bus, and I don’t mean the new food truck that was at the Clemmons Farmer’s Market last Saturday for the first time. I wish that had been the case, however, because their products looked refreshingly fantastic. Who doesn’t love lemonade in the summertime? I’m not sure my throat would have survived it, however.
Fortunately, I had an appointment already scheduled with my primary care physician last Thursday. Unfortunately, he was sick, but I saw the nurse and the PA. I was sure they were going to find strep. Because what I was going through felt exactly like I remember strep feeling like the last time I had it a few years ago. I had been up since about 12:30 Thursday morning (Wednesday night???), which was ideal for my viewing of the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews, which began at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. I was lucky enough to play at St. Andrews in 1999 and it is a really special place. It always adds an extra layer of excitement for me when the championship gets played there. It didn’t really help alleviate my pain.
First strep test on Thursday: negative. First COVID test: negative. They told me it was a viral thing and couldn’t prescribe any antibiotics since it wasn’t bacterial. They told me to keep trying to do what I had been trying to do, which wasn’t working out too well. If things didn’t get better in 24 hours, come back or head to urgent care.
I woke up Thursday night (Friday morning ???) again, around 12:30. Not intentionally. But ready for second round coverage starting at 1:30!!
And I was so miserable I decided to schedule an appointment at an urgent care facility at 8 a.m. — right when it opened. I know that strep can still develop for a few days.
Second strep test: negative. Second COVID test: negative. Great. I really was hoping for strep. I needed some relief. And I needed it soon. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t drinking anything — normally I can chug water and/or Gatorade at least to keep me hydrated. Not the case this time.
Friday night (or Saturday morning ???) I woke up a little after 1 a.m. Yay me! Got to watch a great NFL Network piece on one of my favorite football players, John Riggins. And it ended right before third-round coverage of the Open Championship started at 5 a.m.
And when my wife woke up, she could tell I was about at the end of my rope. We scheduled another trip to an urgent care facility for 1:56 p.m. Surely, another test would reveal strep and surely, I would get some much-needed antibiotic treatment for some immediate relief.
Third strep test: negative. Third COVID test: negative.
They told me to take more Advil and brought me a cup with five pills in there they wanted me to swallow. And a Coke. Probably the worst thing for me to try and swallow anything down with. Knowing it wasn’t going to happen, I told her there was no way I could drink that in my current state. I asked for a cup of water. I tried to get one pill down and that didn’t go so well.
We discussed options. She mentioned visiting the ER so they could give me fluids and maybe other things that could help. My wife and I talked it over and agreed it was the best course of action at that point. She was worried I was getting dehydrated. And I hadn’t been taking my medication for another medical condition since Thursday because of my inability to swallow anything.
We headed for the ER at the Clemmons Medical Center. We got checked in and assessed quickly. The nice young woman was very sympathetic to my condition and seemed excited that I shared a birthday with her 4-year-old son. I cannot remember her name, but she later accelerated my movement into the treatment area because she said she was worried.
I also went back for blood work, which I had just had during my visit with my primary care physician.
My room was complete VIP. Well, it was actually a smaller waiting room with a private bathroom and plenty of space. My wife and I joked about it. Nurse Jody came in an started an IV. He was funny and engaging and appreciated my sarcasm. The lady who took my blood said she needed to take more because they were also going to check for mono, which I had already had many, many moons ago. Ironically, got it from my wife, who I told the blood collector that they might also need to test my wife. Nurse Scott came in and gave me morphine for my pain as well as a steroid to help reduce the swelling in my throat. I could sense an almost immediate relief. He was also funny. And he also appreciated my sarcasm. The doctor also wanted me to get a CAT scan to be sure there wasn’t anything else going on in my throat. Everything was pleasant. They wheeled me to my room. Nurse Scott returned to hook me up to an EKG to monitor all my vitals. I put in some AirPods and listened to some tunes until it was my turn for the doctor. We waited about 45 minutes before Dr. Hunt entered to tell me that everything looked great, and my tonsils were beautiful. She informed us that there was just a nasty virus going around and this was a result of that.
Her official diagnosis: Viral Pharyngitis. They were going to run an IV with fluids and give me some more morphine. Dr. Hunt also prescribed a painkiller liquid mix of hydrocodone and Tylenol.

Nate the nurse didn’t seem to get my “Ted Lasso” reference when I called him Nate the Great. But he started my second morphine drip, second fluid drip, and got me ready to leave.

When we got home Saturday night, a seven-hour medical day (including the stop at urgent care) had ended. I immediately noticed that I could swallow without pain. I quickly corralled a cup and filled it with ice water. I sipped it slowly until I knew it was not going to cause discomfort. And when it didn’t, my sips became gulps.
I was the first time I could drink like that since Tuesday.
I went through three cups of water Saturday night before I went to bed. And a bottle of orange Gatorade.
Neither had ever tasted as glorious as they did Saturday night.
I was also able to eat a little slice of pepperoni pizza — very, very small bites — on Sunday. That’s the first food I’ve had in my mouth since Tuesday.
Thank you to the staff in the ER at Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center for your diligence and care.

Marc Pruitt is editor of the Clemmons Courier.