We belong to Kaiser Permanente, the big California-based HMO that’s an outgrowth, I believe, of the private health-care system set up to take care of Kaiser shipyard workers during World War II. It’s got a wildly mixed reputation, though our experience has been better than OK. I called the advice line last night because of what I’ll term persistent gastrointestinal distress. Once they could tell I wasn’t hemorrhaging or making the call while balled up in the fetal position on the floor, they said they’d have my personal doctor call back today.
At 6:58 a.m., the doctor called. He’s a young guy and so confident and so seemingly happy to be doing what he’s doing that you can’t help but like him. Even at 6:58 a.m. He went over my symptoms and said just in case I had picked up an E. coli infection, he wanted me to take an antibiotic called Cipro for the next five days. I’ve heard of Cipro (ciprofloxacin); t’s strong stuff, and among other things is used to combat anthrax.
I went to the Kaiser pharmacy, picked up the stuff, and brought it home. Then I started to read the cautions. It can cause sun sensitivity, and you need to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. It can make you drowsy, especially if you have a beer while you’re on it. It can jack you up if you’re drinking caffeine or on theophylline (an ingredient in some asthma drugs and a component of some strains of green tea). Pretty average stuff, though more potential effects than I would have expected for an antiobiotic.
Then I read the Kaiser “Patient Information Leaflet” on Ciprofloxacin (sip-row-FLOX-ah-sin, the leaflet instructs). Under side effects, it lists the usual portmanteau of symptoms (including many of the things you might be taking Cipro for in the first place). It runs through “serious” but “unlikely” effects — just one, the sun sensitivity. Then it continues:
“Tell your doctor immediately if any of these highly unlikely but very serious side effects occur: seizures, mental/mood changes (including rare thoughts of suicide), numbness/tingling of the hands/feet, hearing loss, easy bruising or bleeding, persistent sore throat or fever, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, stomach pain, yellowing eyes and skin, dark urine, unusual change in the amount of urine, unusual fatigue.”
Also, Cipro can cause tendon damage. All of that was enough, honestly, to make me ask myself how bad I really felt. Did I want to have to deal with the effects of a very heavy-duty drug when I wasn’t incapacitated? I sort of dithered until Kate came home. I talked to her about it, and her take was, “Listen to what the doctor said.” So — I took the first of the 10 tablets prescribed.
No seizures or suicidal thoughts. Yet. I’ll keep you posted.