It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
See, I’d gotten a flu shot last fall, in late October. I wanted to do my civic duty, be a good citizen. As the CBH health correspondent, I was constantly talking with folks who’d either gotten their flu shots or were telling others to get immunized. I would have been something of a hypocrite if I’d written a story a two on the “coming flu season” without getting poked myself.
Besides, for a few years now, influenza always left me vulnerable to bronchitis, leaving me coughing for weeks, and I wanted to avoid that if I could.
So, I did what everyone told me to do. What everyone I was reporting on was telling you to do. My wife Jennifer and I went to Rite Aid and got our flu shots in between wandering the aisles looking for soap and toothpaste.
Oh, I wish.
Since Christmas, I’ve gotten the flu — twice. And not the polite, genteel, running nose, aching, coughing and sneezing, “I don’t feel good,” out of work for a couple of days kind, but the big, hairy, drooling kind of influenza with long claws and sharp teeth and fetid breath that growls “you didn’t really need that week of pay did you?”
Do I know for a fact it was flu? No. As I recall, from all my interviews and health district meetings, that requires some kind of proper medical test, and I was in no condition to amble on over to the Grant County Health District see if anyone could identify the microbes busy having their way with me. It could have been fish pox or scrapie or the rare Antarctic encephalitis or something even stranger, for all I know.
My mother called this stuff “the crud that’s going around” (that being a scientific term), and around it has gone, visiting me twice. Because apparently once wasn’t good enough. Whether there’s a test to identify the “crud that’s going around” or not I don’t know.
At some point, I’ll ask.
Both bouts were roughly the same, the first coming just after Christmas. What began as a cough last Friday quickly became a jackhammer in my head, and by Sunday I was in a great deal of pain and unable to sleep. Then came the fever and delirium, and for a day or two I was not entirely sure which way was up and had 80s music I hadn’t heard for 30 years running in my head. (Juluka, a synth-pop band from South Africa, if you must know.) And while it took a few days to finally feel human again, I still haven’t had a proper night’s sleep since this hit me.
I hadn’t really appreciated until now that influenza kills people. That had always struck me as a strange thing, given the flu is mostly an inconvenience to us, a thing we treat with over-the-counter medicine and a day or two in bed, something barely distinguishable from a really bad cold.
Or, “the crud that’s going around.”
Whether I will ever get a flu shot again, I don’t know. The cosmos has laughed at me twice so far, and I’m praying fervently this doesn’t pay me a third visit. Maybe, at some point, they’ll develop an immunization for the crud. That shot I definitely will get.