One thing I’ve learned from working in a hardware store — a lot of different people purchase many very different products in the course of a day. The day I started, in July 1994, I set a fire-brick down on my toe. I’ve been exposed to products like powdered lime, and cement mixes for various uses. All of this kind of bagged item is prone to leaking, and the real trick is to get it off the counter before the next customer gets to your register.
Yesterday seemed, to me, to be no different. A customer brought a bag up and tossed it on the counter; I rang it out without really thinking about the dust it was leaving. The substance was vermiculite , of which I’d heard the name, but nothing about any dangers — that’ll teach my complacent butt. The bag the customer brought up was obviously torn somewhere. A lot of dust escaped the bag and ended up on my counter.
At first I just grabbed a paper towel and gathered as much dust as I could. The whole time I was doing this, I was raising little clouds of this dust into the air around me. Somebody spoke up and said that stuff could be dangerous, and to be careful while wiping it up. I got a wet wiper and wiped off the rest of the dust, but by then I’d already had a couple of breaths. I coughed a couple of times, and I could feel a little bit of heaviness settle in the center of my chest. By lunchtime, I was coughing once every 30 minutes or so — not anything drastic, but enough to notice.
I called the manager, and let her know what was going on — she took note of the date and time, and my description of what happened. Before I hung up, she reminded me that I have a bad habit of assuming the very worst when something seems wrong. I didn’t argue. By evening, the cough had increased in frequency and discomfort; my chest felt like it was being squeezed, somehow; and my sinuses were all drippy and plugged up. (I don’t think the sinuses had anything to do with the vermiculite.)
So I got an appointment to see the NP at my doctor’s office. Now, really quickly: this is the poor woman who saw me both times I was hallucinating. The first thing I did was to sit her down, and tell her some techniques that will work better than, “But I don’t SEE anything,” which was the only thing she or my doctor could think of to say. I told her to sit me down, tell me to take a couple of deep breaths, and then we’d look together. I can guarantee that will be much more effective.
So back to today’s situation. I explained what had happened, and she listened to my heart, no problem; and then my chest. She said I had something in there, irritation or inflammation. She scheduled an x-ray right away, which I got over at the hospital. I expect to hear from the N.P. tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve started a short course of prednisone, which we hope will take care of the swelling in my lungs.
At least, this time, I don’t feel quite as desperate as I have, lately, when weird things like this happen. My concern over my health is no less; but at least I’m not seeing giant clear daddy-long-legs coming down webs in groups of four and five. And I am on my way to bed, for a good, long sleep. Hopefully, once again, sleep is the key.