Friday, March 18, 2011

Drink More Hot Water!

Ever since I started this hacking/choking/gasping/coughing extravaganza I’m currently on, everyone, from street vendor to student, and everyone in between has instructed me to drink more hot water. As though I do not drink enough hot water. As though hot water were the cure for everything.

With this simple entreaty – drink more hot water, I am reminded of the comical habit that Army medics had of dispensing cough syrup for every ailment. Allergies? Have cough syrup. Stomach flu? Here’s a nice bottle of cough syrup. Broken leg and concussion? Cough syrup is the only cure for you, Private. Next!

Do any of you former Military remember that drill? It was quite the gag there, for a while. I think GSA (Government Services Administration) had a run on cough syrup during the early ‘80s and everyone who suffered from any ailment got a bottle of cough syrup. That might still be going on today, for all I know.

In China, it seems the cure-all is hot water. For stomach ills, for coughs, for runny noses and for sneezes. For flu and intestinal discomfort, for headaches and toothaches and joint aches and pains in the rear, hot water will soon make them all better. If I had one Yuan for every time someone told me to drink more hot water, funding my retirement would not be a worry.

As Lavender and I were leaving for Hanyang (see previous post), I debated bringing my bottle of Benadryl. Benadryl has been the only medicine that has given me any relief from the symptoms I’ve been suffering from these past few weeks. I had even tried traditional Chinese Herbal medicine, which did not help. I had to take 2 Benadryl to still my coughing when the Maintenance man who was sanding my wall instructed Lavender to get me out of the house before I died from respiratory failure (he thinks I didn’t understand him, but I did).

Strange that I even have Benadryl. It was never a part of my medicine basket when I lived in the States. I do not know what compelled me to buy a 100-count bottle of Benadryl and bring it to China, but here again serendipity shows her gracious hand. I would never have anticipated needing this medication, but now it seems to be the only thing standing between me and lunacy over my runny nose, itchy throat and wheezing lungs. One caplet of this wonder drug and I can at least manage to make it through the day without hurting myself, coughing.

I opted not to take my Benadryl bottle on our outing to Hanyang, but I could not get away from Lavender suggesting I drink more hot water before we left the house. Wordlessly I handed her my constant companion, a 32-ounce bottle, filled with hot water. She was satisfied that I would soon be cured; surely a whole liter of hot water will heal me!

Lavender and I had a nice day out. The sun was warm on our faces and a gentle breeze blew in from the lake. Hanyang is one of the more scenic and quiet areas of Wuhan. For those who enjoy a peaceful environment, Hanyang is the place to be. My young companion and I walked the pier, and I had her pose by the schooner that is docked in the bay. That boat now houses a couple of bars. Every time I have been there, the bars have been closed, probably because it is too early in the day.

After walking the boardwalk and translating all of the sayings graven in the sidewalk from French to English for Lavender (remember, this is where the French expats live), I started straining for breath again. The more we strolled and talked, the worse it got. And, no Benadryl on hand! Fortunately, there is an IGA store close by. I bought some Fisherman’s Friend cough drops and they eased my symptoms somewhat, but we both knew it was time to get me within reaching distance of my medicine.

By the time we returned home the workmen had finished whitewashing my walls and had considerately put my bed back in place before leaving, but everything was just filthy! Paint spatters on the floor, dust everywhere… it was going to take me hours to clean it all! Bless Lavender’s sweet heart, she volunteered to stay and help me get all of the work done. I think she was worried I would pass out from lack of air, even though I took a caplet of Benadryl as soon as I got home.

Yep! I, who hates the pharmaceutical lifestyle, cheerfully popping pills! The alternative is no fun, trust me. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re under ten feet of water: that pressure on your lungs, constantly, as you try and try to draw breath. The associated ills, such as muscle cramps and spasms because your blood is not getting enough oxygen to keep your muscles nourished, or extremities going numb. The pounding heart and the seeing stars… Well, actually, there might be worse things, but this is pretty bad.

Lavender and I had the house clean after 2 hours of heavy-duty work. First removing drop cloths, and then dusting everything, finally sweeping and mopping the floor. She did not leave until she was satisfied I was going to do nothing more strenuous than park myself somewhere and breathe. I couldn’t have managed much more than that, Lavender!

That night I slept the sleep of the righteous. Matter of fact, I do not know how long it has been since I’ve slept that well. Actually, I do: since I was in Yichang, in that lovely hotel room I can still see with my mind’s eye. When I woke up from the first uninterrupted sleep I’ve had since returning to Wuhan, I took inventory: resting heart rate, breathing capability, wheeze factor, stuffy nose.

What a novel sensation! I had no troubles breathing whatsoever! I lay in bed, drawing one deep breath after the other. My lungs, so long restricted, expanded fully and the joy of sucking in air through my nose and expelling a full breath without wheezing through the second half of it brought tears to my eyes. I had to sit up and try breathing, just to see if laying-down breathing was a fluke. Still no racing heart, still no steel bands around my ribs, still no cramps as I flexed my leg and feet muscles.

I knew the mold in my room was creating problems for me – in no way can inhaling mold spores be considered a healthy human activity. I had no idea how pervasive the problem was until I spent a night NOT breathing in alien organisms. I cried from relief at not having to face another day, struggling for breath and blowing my nose. Another listless day, unable to do much more than amble around the house because I would get too winded if I so much as walked The Street. I could not have rejoiced more had it been Christmas Morning, and Santa himself was parked on my bed, ready to grant my every wish.

Unfortunately the relief was short-lived. I am back to taking Benadryl in the morning and at night. But, at least I have Benadryl to take, and with it, I can at least make it through a teaching session or an outing. Can you see that I am a glass-half-full kind of girl?

Parting shot: as Lavender was leaving, she reminded me to drink more hot water. That’s it! I can’t take the hot water advice anymore! I told her, not quite facetiously, that so many people have told me to drink more hot water that I vowed the next person that gave me that advice would find themselves boiled in hot water!

Of course, I would never boil Lavender in hot water. She is far too sweet a person for such treatment. Besides, she would not fit in my kettle.

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