Flu season. It’s the menace we dread every year when the children return to school and the last of the fall colors drop to the ground.
When you have a chronic illness, flu season means that you will get sick. No matter how hard you try, you will pick up something either at the grocery store, work, or a routine doctor’s visit.
Here’s a brief account of how I lost the last eleven days.
Nothing is Simple
It all started with attending a tax training seminar. Sounds harmless, right? If only it had been.
I have Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF), also sometimes called periodic fever syndrome. It’s a rare genetic mutation that causes intense pain and, you guessed it, fevers.
With adequate rest and an appropriate diet, I can generally keep my symptoms under control. When something is thrown off balance, a perfect storm can erupt, and that’s exactly what happened.
The Nastiest Motel
The tax seminar was in another town, which meant a two-night motel stay. I never like to stay at a hotel because of the potential health risks, but this one was beyond terrible.
I do bear some of the blame. Once I saw my room, or rather smelled it, I should have run the other way. Unfortunately, finances are tight, and it was the room my company had paid for.
To say the room was nasty would be a huge understatement. I’m embarrassed to say that I stayed there, not one, but both nights.
As soon as I opened the door I was greeted with the smell of mold and grime. The linoleum floor, which was missing in places, was sticky to walk on.
While it wasn’t hard to find dirt on the walls and floor, the bedding appeared clean, and there was no sign of bugs. I decided I could man-up and face anything for two nights.
There was a Cracker Barrel next door, so I made the short walk and bought a candle that would hopefully mask some of the smell in the room.
My room door exited to the parking lot. There was no weather stripping, so I could clearly see the light from outside all the way around the door. This also meant there was no reduction in noise from outside.
A haunt of unseemly characters, the parking lot was packed starting about 11:00 PM and lasting until near dawn. Needless to say, there was no way to sleep with the noise.
The tax seminar had its own dangers. There were about 130 participants.
There’s always some fear with entering a large group of people because you never know what you’re being exposed to. When your immune system is already compromised, every sneeze and cough sends waves of panic through you.
By Friday morning, the second day of the seminar, I knew I would pay a price for the trip. My throat was sore when I woke up, which meant one of two things. One, my lack of sleep had triggered an FMF attack, or two, I had been exposed to something and was getting sick.
I survived day two and made it home that night where I threw everything I had with me into the washing machine and take one of the longest showers ever. Finally, the grime of the motel was gone.
By Saturday morning, there was no doubt that something bad was coming. Nausea became so severe that I couldn’t finish my breakfast, and by midafternoon, my temperature was above 102.
By Sunday morning, my temp had climbed above 103, where it would stay for the next two days. Other than being extremely weak, I didn’t feel unbearably bad and hoped the worst would soon pass.
Wednesday morning, I woke up to a temperature below 102. Most days, the FMF causes me to run at least a low-grade fever, so I hoped I was out of the woods.
I was able to take a shower and eat a small breakfast. I even spent a few minutes outside in the sun and let my neighbor know that his horse had escaped and was lazily grazing in my front yard.
I had survived the flu.
Except, the battle wasn’t over. While the fever subsided, the bugs were not gone. By Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day, my temp was back above 102, and it took all the strength I had just to walk from bedroom to bathroom.
A terrible cough set in along with a new and crippling pain below my right shoulder blade. Over the next few days, I wasn’t sure I would survive this fight.
I don’t recommend getting sick on a holiday weekend. My doctor’s office was closed, and there’s no way I could afford a trip to the emergency room, so I suffered for four intense days. Even the burn of whisky and honey did little to relieve my suffering.
Monday morning I was able to drag myself to the doctor. The flu had left me with severe bronchitis and pleurisy. The doctor prescribed a powerful antibiotic and steroid to hopefully get my back on my feet.
It’s now Wednesday as I write this story. For the first time in almost two weeks, I can walk to the bathroom and back without having to sit down and rest in between. The cough is still severe, but I feel like it’s finally accomplishing something and hopefully clearing the last of the crud from my system.
Take Care of Yourself
Chronic illness is a daily battle. Learning to live successfully with one means always being alert to any potential dangers.
I know my first mistake was staying in that awful motel. I’m angry with my boss for making me stay there and for all the days (unpaid) of work I’ve missed as a result.
It’s flu season, but we all know the drill. Take the time to disinfect things as you can and wash your hands often. Try to limit touching your face, eyes and nose, especially when out in public. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest and lots of fluids.
After eleven days, I am finally climbing out of the darkness of another illness. I hope that each of you bears this season more successfully.
This story original appeared on Medium.