Recollections Of Illness

All this talk of staying at home and people being ill because of Covid-19 has made me think of those times in my life when I have been ill enough to have to take a lot of time off work or school. It is often tempting to take a sick day when you are not that ill, or to extend that to four or five days when you are enjoying being at home. But when you are genuinely ill, all that time trapped in the house unwillingly can feel like being imprisoned whilst being tortured at the same time.

The most recent episode of that was during the Swine Flu outbreak in London, when I was unlucky enough to catch it very quickly. What I thought was a heavy cold rapidly turned into the worst flu I had ever experienced. In no time at all, that became full-on Swine Flu, and I know that I have never been so close to dying in my life as during that time. Raging with fever, in and out of consciousness, and delirious at times. I confess I really expected to die. And Julie thought I would die too. Then they started to distribute a tablet that cured it, and once I had been given that I started to feel much better within twenty-four hours.

I had three weeks or more off sick from work, but that was one of the occasions where I was unable to enjoy a moment of it.

Many years earlier, I had my second and more severe bout of Shingles. This time the spots and inflammation spread aound my entire torso, from just under my shoulders, to the edge of my hips. The itching is incredible, and the condition is also painful. Scratching makes it worse of course, but not scratching at all can make you almost crazily suicidal. My doctor gave me tablets and creams to apply, though they had little effect at first. I couldn’t stand to have any clothing touching the affected area, and no bedding over me when trying to sleep at night. So I dozed sitting up on the sofa instead, even resorting to wearing gloves to minimise the damage done by scratching.

Because it was potentially infectious too, I was unable to go to work. Not that I could have fucntioned wearing my EMT uniform, and trying to do that job between scratching fits.

Almost a month at home being unable to concentrate on anything because of the itching. Unable to go out because I could not tolerate even the lightest thinnest clothing, it all soon drove me to distraction. Every day felt like a week, every week like a month. When it finally subsided, and I went back to work, it felt as if I was going on holiday.

So when you are bored to tears of being in lockdown, and if you don’t have to go to work so miss that social interaction, just be grateful that you are not ill as well.

73 thoughts on “Recollections Of Illness

  1. Well said, Pete! You are so right, and this is a great reminder to those who complain about being home. You are the first person I know who had the Swine Flu. How awful! Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading the comments I realise how lucky I am, so far nothing has put me out of action in my adult life for more than a day or two. I do remember having German Measles when I was a kid and living of the sofa in a darkened room for a week or more, but thats it. Of course now I have typed this I will get something or a large piano will fall from a high window and crush me, but it was good whilst it lasted:)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I was teaching, I had to be dreadfully sick to stay home. First, there was no guarantee we could find a substitute. Subs were woefully underpaid. With many jobs, you make one phone call, and that is all. In education, to go in early, write a lesson plan, and get everything ready for the day. An average day would take two hours of preparation. That’s an awful lot to ask when someone is throwing or running a high fever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You had dedication to your job and your students, Pete. When I was an EMT, if one of us went sick, their partner had to go across London to work at another Ambulance Station where someone else was also single-crewed. We all hated that, so did our best not to let each other down.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if now that kids are inoculated against chicken pox if they will not get shingles. As I understand it, shingles are the reactivated chicken pox virus showing up in a different form. Amazingly enough when I had the shingles shot a few years ago it gave me the chicken pox! I had already had the chicken pox as a kid, so I was dumbfounded. Turns out it is a rare complication of the shingles vaccine.(the first kind, not the new one.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was told it was the same virus group as Chickenpox, and could recativate as Shingles when people are run down or under stress. I had chickenpox as a child, so I suppose I was a prime candidate. I have never had a Shingles vaccination though, nor been offered one.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One time, a very long time ago, I decided the day was too nice, and I felt too good to waste it on going in to work. given, I was only scheduled to be in a staff meeting, I called in and told the Secretary, “Rosemary, I feel too good to come in today. so, I won’t be at the meeting this afternoon.” she replied, “I hope you feel better tomorrow.” Sometimes you can tell the truth and it isn’t heard because it is too unexpected. Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So true, Pete! One or better do not want to remember real illness. We are boring, thats enough.;-) Here we got an addition of another week of lockdown. Hope the will remember there are doors to be used going outdoors. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had the Bangkok flu in 1980. I was 14 at the time and it almost killed me. I’ve never been so sick in my life. It hit me like a ton of bricks. In the time that it took me to walk from my cabin (I was perfectly fine when I left it) to the church bus–a journey of about 50 yards–I was so sick that I could barely hold my head up. It was devastating. I was out of school for two weeks. Brutal.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had three outbreaks of shingles in the last few months, despite having had a shot before I got my Green Card [a shot was required then], but luckily none of the outbreaks was painful. I had the rashes and a slight itching, but that was all. The medication made them go away, but only to recur later. In a way, I was lucky that I had the second outbreak: as it was close to my left eye, I went to see my doctor immediately, and – in passing – also mentioned that I had some (slight) pain on the right side of my body. The pain was so minimal that I would never have gone to a doctor just for that. Well, the doctor ordered an ultrasound – and, luckily again – of all my abdomen and not only the left side, and we found that I had a tumor in my right kidney – which, by now, has been removed. So I really consider myself lucky I got the second bout of shingles. Those, under my left eye, have not gone away completely yet. There’s still some scabbing that doesn’t want to go away and once in a while there’s some very slight itching for a day or so.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I really was lucky with the discovery of the tumor. It was till quite small and didn’t even require “normal” surgery. They used a method called Radio Frequency Ablation: they go in with a needle/probe and “burn”. It was an outpatient procedure with a few hours in the hospital only. The immediate picture showed good results. My next check-up will be in June. Then we’ll have to really see. But the prognosis is not bad: it was recent [less than one year old], still fairly small, and no metastases nor were he lymph nodes affected.
        As to the shingles: I’ll certainly see my doctor again soon [if the scabs persist] as I know they can affect the eye.
        Take care, my friend,
        Pit

        Liked by 1 person

  9. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
    it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
    it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
    it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
    it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

    It was my life. — Pete Johnson

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I wasn’t sure if you could get shingles more than once. I had it on my hip too, right on the waistline where my trousers would rub. Agony. Thankfully it only lasted 2 weeks and I didn’t infect anyone else. It’s bizarre it came completely out of nowhere. I have such a low pain threshold which doesn’t make me a good patient around the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had it twice, about two years apart, in my thirties. My GP told me it is related to the Herpes Zoster virus, and can attack the body when you are physically run down, or under extreme stress. I was working shifts as an EMT, so both applied to me.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  11. Yes, yes and yes again to your final paragraph. Shingles I’ve heard is awful … poor you, it sounds like you’ve had a right old time of it in the past. But yes, I’m with you, we’re jolly lucky we’re not ill. (Well actually I’ve got some sort of chest infection thing that I’ve had for two and half weeks now but that’s besides the point! I must tell you that I eventually rang the doctor last week who said, “As long as you’re still breathing then you’re fine!” Right!). I remember when I was 19 being in a nasty car crash and had to spend a month in hospital unable to move … funny how you just accept it and cope. Excellent post sir and may I wish you good health! Katie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Katie. By coincidence, I spent time in hospital after a car crash. I had (quite badly) injured my left hand, that was all, and could have gone home the next morning. But they let me stay in as my wife was in another ward with a fractured skull, and we were 125 miles away from home.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my goodness… a fractured skull. Heavens. That must have been awful for you both and I hope you recovered quickly. Kind that they let you stay in, otherwise that would have made the situation even worse.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It took a long time for her to recover, and she eventually discharged herself on the third week to get home and rest there. But the injury was on the temporal skull bone on the right side, (she had been driving) and it affected her personality by injuring the brain. Just over a year later, she declared she no longer wanted to be married, and was going to work in India for a year. (She was a university teacher)
          So we split up after 8 years together, and mainly because of a car accident. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh my goodness Pete, I’m so terribly sorry. Jesus. This is so very sad. I hope that you recovered from this physically and emotionally … to say it must have been hard sounds so trite, but words fail me. I’m sending you a massive 🤗 hug instead. Katie xo

            Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been fortunate in my life to escape major illnesses. I have had a few scares, but ‘knock on wood’ I am counting my blessings. I am staying in with this Covid-19 out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, the Swine flu sounds terrible! Our son in law is self-isolating with us and he came down with shingles the first week of the isolation. Luckily for him (and us) it wasn’t as terrible of a case as yours and the medication helped a lot and he is fine now. So yes, we need to count our blessings as things can always get worse. Stay safe and healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margie. You have to be careful with Shingles. My first experience of it was aroung my neck and shoulders, and the medicines controlled it. The second time was almost three years later, and it was more extensive, and unbearable. I later met a patient when I was an EMT who had been blinded by contracting Shingles on his face and in his eyes. It is so much more dangerous than people imagine.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  14. I remember as a teacher how horrible the swine flu infected my school at the time. I recall about a third of the student body was out for the duration. It was a nasty winter flu that stretched into March. I am glad your knowledge of the Swine Flu is in the recollection stage! Ouch! I’m glad you survived it. Yes, I think many of us are bored and inconvenienced, but you are spot on that it could be so much worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy. It was only after I recovered that Julie told me she was sure I would die, and was preparing herself for the worst. I can vaguely remember the incredibly high fever, but not much else about it.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Like

  15. I’ve never had shingles (thus far) but have known many who have and they say it’s no picnic to be sure… and certainly your recollection proves that.
    Reminds me of the movie… Star Trek: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales the chicks love out of all the Trek movies). They had to go back to 20th Century Earth to tend to the plot things and during a run through a hospital Dr. McCoy comes across an old woman on a rolling bed…
    McCoy:
    What’s wrong with you?

    Elderly patient:
    I’m waiting for dialysis.

    McCoy:
    Dialysis? What is this, the Dark Ages?
    (and hands her a pill)

    Moments later, she’s being wheeled around the hospital, shouting, “Doctor gave me a pill, and I grew a new kidney!”

    If only……………………………….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t remember, so looked it up. I was given Tamiflu.
      ‘Antiviral agents used for treatment and prevention of swine flu are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Swine flu is resistant to amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine)’.
      It was made available at a government emergency centre set up near Kings Cross Station. My wife walked there from the flat in Camden to collect it with the prescription (or maybe a letter) from my GP.
      I only have a vague memory of it, as I was so ill, and more or less bedridden for days on end.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. wouldn’t it be nice if there was a tablet that could cure all illnesses as quickly as the one you used for the swine flu. I did not know you were an EMT; I am guessing you did not get the recognition that such workers are getting today (and rightfully so), but please know that I am grateful for the work that you did for all those years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that, Jim. It is mentioned on my ‘About’ page, and I have a whole category of ‘Ambulance Stories’ on the right hand menu. I did 22 years as an EMT, followed by 12 years working for the Police in London.
      We got very little recognition, except during the long and acrimonious Ambulance Strike, when the public were completely supportive. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I was fortunate….I was healthy and well…until 2005 when I broke my leg so bad it took 2 operations to fix….then after that the loss of toes….those were not illness but time in hospital….chuq

    Liked by 2 people

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