Yes, it’s true: I’m sick again. And yes, it’s my throat… AGAIN.
Honestly, it started back in August. I was experiencing swollen, painful glands throughout my jaw and neck. I went back to Severance Hospital at Yonsei University, which is where I had been going all along and is where I had the tonsillectomy. The doctor that I’ve been seeing is very kind and had given me a glimmer of hope when I met her for the first time and she listened to everything I had to say. Also, her English is excellent and I felt we could communicate very well with each other. From August until now, she’s been telling me that my problem is a chronic sinus infection, for which she has prescribed various medications and remedies (e.g. using a Netty-pot to clear out my system). Her latest prescription was a strong allergy pill. It’s been gradually getting worse.
After a fantastic Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I woke up Monday morning with a painful lump in my throat. I knew that it was a culmination of whatever current infection I’m experiencing, plus the fact that it’s been getting worse for almost 3 months now. So, I made the executive decision to no longer go to Severance Hospital, and I immediately went online to make an appointment at the international clinic in Itaewon that all the expats rave about. Luckily, I had agreed to exchange shifts with a co-worker and will be working this coming Saturday in place of her, and she worked for me on Wednesday. Since I knew I would be off Wednesday, I scheduled my appointment for then first thing in the morning.
Monday, I called in sick for the afternoon and ended up sleeping from lunch time until Glenn came home after work (5 full hours). I decided to try and stay the whole day Tuesday, since I now have a whole new set of sick days and don’t want to use them yet, but that was a bad idea. In the morning, I was teaching a cooking class by myself and towards the end of it, right before we left for lunch, I suddenly felt a searing pain in the back of my throat and knew that the lump had burst. During lunch, back at our apartment, I had Glenn look into my mouth and sure enough, there was blood dripping down the back of my throat. By then it was too late to call in sick for a half day, but I luckily had just 2 classes in the afternoon since I had taught all morning. I somehow made it through my first class, then had 2 hours off and came home to sleep during that time. I set my alarm and woke up for my last class, but I was in severe pain and my co-worker, Sarah, very kindly said that she would teach my class for me (it was a double class and I would have been the only teacher; not an ideal situation when there’s an open wound in one’s throat). I went home and resumed sleeping.
Wednesday, I got up early and took the bus down to Seoul. The doctor at this clinic looks Korean, but speaks English fluently and has an accent I couldn’t place; it seemed somewhat North American, with a hint of British pronunciation. Either way, I told him the whole story: My first sore throat last November, a more severe one in December, pneumonia in January, an abscess in February, another abscess in April (all complications from chronic tonsillitis), the tonsillectomy in May, an infection in July, and the current one I’ve had since August. He also looked in my throat and ears, and listened to me breathe through the stethoscope. To him, it looked like just an infection that has gotten so bad that a vein has burst in my throat, and thinks everything I’ve been experiencing stems from a problem with my immune system since I can’t seem to stay healthy. He explained that he was going to order some blood tests, swab for strep throat, and take a sinus X-ray since Severance Hospital feels I have chronic sinusitis. I appreciated the fact that he told me WHAT I would be tested for instead of shooing me off from room to room with no explanation of what was going on or what I was being tested for. I also thought that I would have to wait a few days for the results of the tests, but as I was getting ready to leave, the nurse told me to wait 10 minutes and I would know the results. I waited for 5 minutes and was called back in to see the doctor again.
It isn’t strep. And guess what? It isn’t a sinus infection either. In fact, the X-ray showed clear sinus cavities and the doctor thinks the medicine I’ve been prescribed by Severance Hospital has been making my condition worse because it’s dried out my throat and sinuses (and clearly isn’t related to an allergy). Apparently, my white blood cell count is relatively low, which indeed indicates a problem with immune system, perhaps a deficiency in my diet (even though I do my best to eat healthy). He’s going to run a few more tests to find out what I’m lacking in my diet/lifestyle and will email me the rest of the results either today (Thursday) or tomorrow.
A problem with my immune system…. Now, doesn’t that make more sense than anything I was told at Severance Hospital? Right!?!
It’s a glimmer of hope that we’ll finally get to the bottom of why I’ve been sick for a whole year now. As always, I’ll keep everyone posted. Thank you for reading and a special thanks to those who have sent me messages.
Oh, and after I left the clinic (the entire visit took less than an hour), I stopped off at Holly’s Coffee because I was hungry. I ate and then passed out in the chair for 2 hours, without even meaning to. I guess I need to sleep this thing off, which is why I’m taking a sick day today even though it saddens me to have to use my sick days all over again.
Here is the progression of my throat’s condition from Tuesday to Wednesday: