Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Oh Gosh, McCosh
The trials of ailing student
By Kate Swearengen '04
Dear Mimi and Poppa,
Don't get sick on this
campus, that's all I have to say. Three weeks ago my throat was
killing me, and the soreness wouldn't go away, no matter how many
tablespoons of Robitussin I took. I went to McCosh to see if I could
get a strep test, but the nurse said that nothing was wrong with
me. I went back a couple of days later and pleaded for a second
opinion, offering to forfeit one of my 10 free visits to the McCosh
shrinks for a strep test. Well, I didn't get a strep test, but when
the nurse took my vitals, my resting pulse rate was 129. I tried
to explain to her that 129 was a perfectly normal resting pulse
rate, considering that I was emptying a 12-pack of Diet Coke every
two days and taking No-Doz when I wasn't nursing a cup of coffee.
She wouldn't listen, though, and so I ended up meeting with a doctor,
who diagnosed me with bronchitis, prescribed an antibiotic, and
sent me in for an EKG.
An EKG can be compared
to a successful night on the Street, in that the procedure is conducted
while one is shirtless and on one's back. The similarities end there,
however, since an EKG also involves being slathered with electrode
jelly and zapped by an electrical current. My EKG results revealed
an elongated QT ratio, which meant that I had official license to
miss a week's worth of crew practice. It also meant that I had to
meet with a cardiologist.
"Your appointment with
the cardiologist is Friday," the doctor at McCosh told me. " And
I don't want you to consume any soda until after you talk to him.
Do you think you can go three days without caffeine?"
"No," I told her. "I'm
already getting a migraine. Can I at least have half a can?"
"Three sips," she said.
"And under no circumstances are you to go to crew practice. A long
QT interval can be serious -- the first symptom is often sudden
death. I assume you've read about all those college basketball players
who fall over dead in the middle of practice."
"Don't feel bad," the
nurse chimed in. "Lots of people have heart conditions. Look at
"Dick Cheney?!" I said.
"Dick Cheney weighs four hundred pounds."
"But he's an incredible
man," the nurse told me. "He's had quadruple heart bypass surgery,
and he's going to be one of the most active vice presidents in history."
I wanted to tell the
nurse that it was unfortunate that Cheney's activity did not extend
to the exercise bike or treadmill, but I restrained myself.
On Friday I went to a
local cardiologist, who told me that he couldn't wait until men's
lacrosse season started. He asked me if I had dated any of the lacrosse
players (I hadn't) or if I had classes with any of the lacrosse
players (I doubted it). Then he told me that I would have to get
another EKG, but that, instead of lying down, this test would be
administered while I was running on a treadmill. Within the first
two minutes of the test, I had sweated off most of the electrodes,
and so for the rest of the test I had to run with the doctor and
his two assistants clinging to my chest.
to these results, you have an elongated QT interval," the doctor
told me. "But it's probably nothing to worry about. You know those
doctors at McCosh -- every time an athlete sneezes, they get worried
that he's going to drop dead and sue. You're cleared to return to
So I went back to practice,
and a week later I heard from my doctor at home, who told me that
the elongated QT interval had been caused by the antibiotic that
the doctor at McCosh had prescribed for my bronchitis. Enraged at
the faulty diagnosis, I complained to my friends at dinner.
"That's nothing," Liz
told me. "When Allison got sick and went to McCosh, they told her
that she had contracted malaria. It turned out to be the flu."
So, Mimi and Poppa, if
I ever get sick again, I'm going to make like the Shah of Iran and
flee the region for medical treatment elsewhere. Hope you all are
You can reach Kate at