distressing color in the phlegm
Wednesday, March 25 2020
I woke up in the master guestroom in the first light of morning with a mild hangover from what had evidently been excessive drinking last night. It was my first hangover since February. I still have that wet cough from the flu I'd come down with at the end of February, so, as always, one of the first conscious acts of the day was to cough up the phlegm accumulated over the last however many hours of sleep. The cough was a forceful one, and when I staggered to my feet and spit into the sink of the nearby bathroom, I was distressed to see that it contained enough bright-red oxygenated blood to color the whole loogie. I don't know that I'd ever coughed up blood before, and it felt ominous. Why would occasion of my first time I ever coughing up blood coincide with an economy-destroying pandemic? Otherwise, though, I just felt like I had a mild hangover. Perhaps it was a fluke; I'd been coughing all month, so perhaps I'd finally torn something down there. In any case, the bleeding was only momentary, and subsequent loogies went back to the usual healthy-looking pastel yellow.
Throughout the day, I interwove the feeding of my coronavirus obsession with the much less interesting chore of answering technical questions related to the building of a web application asked by the Ukranian outsourcing team, which hasn't gotten enough love of late due to a pandemic-accelerated municipal tax season in Westchester County. I found that reading grim stories about the pandemic was having a physical effect on my body, causing weird pains to develop in my shoulders and a tickle to form in my respiratory tract. In an effort to do something about that tickle, I'd cough, and the coughs didn't always produce something. One of them even sounded distressingly like a dry smoker's cough, a tell-tale symptom of a coronavirus infection. When one is worried about contracting a disease, one is on constant vigilance for the first appearance of a known symptom. But the body is a thrumming beehive of noisy neural circuits, and once one pays attention for symptoms, one will eventually find them. And once found, attention is directed towards it, amplifying its perceived significance. In a relaxed body with an untroubled mind, such signals would simply be squelched. I, however, was in hypochondria mode, and soon I had enough symptoms that I felt the need to check my temperature. But even that can swing into a range where it causes concern. Most of the time it was 98.6, but at one point I got a reading as high as 99.2.
Late this afternoon, in a desperate attempt to calm down, I went outside. The day was cool and clammy, but that cold air felt refreshingly healthy. I ended up walking nearly all the way to the south end of the Farm Road, where I noticed the Tesla belonging to the guy who owns that farm. Evidently he had made the wise choice of coming up here to hunker down with his wife and kids instead of at his place in New York City.
Later, though, my hypochondria came back in another hangover-fueled wave, causing me to leave my laboratory and sit for a time with Gretchen in the living room. I thought about telling her how bad I was feeling, but something made me not. Perhaps it was all psychosomatic, and there was no need to cause her to freak out.
The thing that finally reset my neurotic condition was taking a nice hot bath. Something about that warm water all over my body overwhelmed the over-amplified notes of distress and made me feel healthy again. While I lay there comfortable in the water, I had another overly-energetic cough, and again I produced some phlegm colored with bright red blood. I decided not to worry about it.
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