Thursday, October 29, 2009
Nasty virus sweeps Emmerich household
I jinxed myself when I conjectured that I must be immune to the swine flu. The nasty virus has now made a clean sweep of the Emmerich household. I was the last of its victims.
I may have been the last to fall, but this fact didn’t prevent me from taking the wimpiest flu victim award at 1447 Rebel Dr.
I hate being sick. Lord take me quick, because whatever goodwill I have built up in my life would quickly dissipate if I ever got a real disease.
Within 12 hours of boasting of my immunity, I awoke to a 103.7 temperature, according to my ear thermometer.
Over the last few weeks, I had been through this drill with each family member. When the pig flu finally strikes, it strikes with a vengeance. You’ll know it when it happens.
Apparently, there is a garden variety rhinovirus circulating around the Northside simultaneous to the swine flu. That creates a lot of confusion about who has what. When the real deal hits, it’s like a freight train.
I haven’t missed a day of work because of illness in 22 years, when I last got the flu. Ever since then, I got a flu shot religiously every year. The shots worked like a charm until the new swine flu strain arrived two weeks before I could get my hands on a vaccine.
Some words of advice: If you haven’t had the swine flu, get the vaccine. It’s the biggest cost-benefit ratio of anything in the world. Thirty minutes of hassle will save you 72 hours of excruciating misery.
As I lay in my bed with a soaring fever, I was acutely aware of the assault on my body, especially the lungs. Hour by hour, it was harder to breathe. I propped my body up and prayed. I tried to visualize my white blood cells mounting a huge counterattack. I was rooting my body on to win the war.
We have no cure for viral infections, although Tamiflu might have helped me. In the end, it’s you versus tiny strands of replicating RNA. It’s a humbling realization. Our lives mean so much to us, but we are as fragile as leaves in the wind.
Within a day, it was clear my body had won the battle of the lungs. The virus then retreated to my head and neck. It felt like any minute my head would just explode. I began to worry about meningitis. I vaguely recalled a doctor telling me once about doing a spinal tap and hearing the pressure spew out like a punctured tire. That’s what it felt like.
The good news is that in most cases, the worst is over in a few days and that was true with me. When the headache went away, I felt like I had won the lottery. The mere absence of pain was joyful.
My oldest son John got the swine flu the same night I did. With Ginny working, I was left to cater to him and me. John went through 10 boxes of tissues in one day. We would just look at each other with misery in our eyes.
Fortunately, the swine flu virus is quite fragile and dies instantly when exposed to air. It can survive for hours if contained in a droplet of mucous. Keep washing your hands and don’t let a flu victim cough in your face.
John and I are still coughing, but I think it’s just because our bodies are still in a state of red alert, soaking our membranes with white-blood-cell-containing mucous in case the virus should try to make a last stand. I am still not full strength after seven days.
As I lay dying, a realization occurred to me. You better say your goodbyes before you get sick. Once you are in the throes of battle, there is nothing you can think about other than the fight itself.
There is no time for reflection or goodbyes.
Wet dreary weather in October, swine flu, worst economy in 70 years. Let’s hope this is the bottom!
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