Tuesday, October 12, 2004


The lack of flu vaccine is much in the news lately. It’s also coming in e-mails from my chiropractor who thinks that vaccines are evidence of Satanic evil here on earth. He has chosen not to vaccinate his child with smallpox or polio or any of the other vaccines recommended for kids before they go to school with other virus bearing children. I’m really glad that most people do vaccinate their kids because to have a child die of small pox in the 21st century would be really tragic. The show ER did a story along those lines and other than the fact that the parents came off as being really arrogant and pompous it was still very powerful to consider the ramifications of rebelling against the accepted public health recommendations. Especially when it’s parents making a decision for a child who is doesn’t get a say in the matter.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone, but especially very young children and very old adults. Every year when you hear about deaths from the flu it’s usually a baby or an old person who has died. And yet for all of our awareness about the flu and the flu vaccine, I find that most people don’t know the difference between a really bad cold and the flu. I didn’t really know the difference and I never got a flu shot – I thought they were pretty much worthless since they only protected against whatever the 4 or 8 strains of virus they were formulated for were, and there are way more than 4 or 8 strains of virus.

But then I got the flu.

It was different from a cold in that rather than feeling a little tired and having a slight runny nose and a little sore throat that join together over the next few days to become a raging cough and completely clogged sinuses, I was overcome by a profound exhaustion that laid me out flat on my back. And after that it was mere hours before my temperature was hovering around 103 degrees and my head hurt so bad I was sure I had a brain tumor. Except that the brain tumor pain seemed to extend all they way down my spine and into my hips so maybe it was meningitis. In any case I was sure that I was dying.

And then the vomiting started. And when the flu makes you puke it’s unlike any kind of puking you’ve ever done. It’s worse than food poisoning hurling, which is, as I have mentioned before, very violent. When the flu makes you puke it’s only after lying there feeling all the above mentioned pain and then your stomach has started to hurt, a dull ache to go with the throbbing in your head and your bones and it swells into a nausea that makes you moan out loud. And you know how normally when you’re nauseated you get that extra saliva in the mouth warning so that you bolt from the bed and make it to the bathroom just in time? Well, you still get that warning, but there will be no bolting. It’s more like hobbling down the hall clutching the wall for support – and after you don’t make it to the bathroom and the dry heaving begins the cool tile bathroom floor seems like a really good place to rest your fiery cheek.

Until the chills start.

Because your temperature can keep going up, as mine did, to about 104 degrees, sometimes higher and this brings on what feel like convulsions. And because you’re dry heaving you can’t keep any fluids down and your body gets really dehydrated which only magnifies the pain. And when you cry for your mommy because you want to die, you have no tears. You have no extra fluid in your body at all. And if you’re unlucky enough to have come into contact with a particularly virulent and ass kicking strain of the flu, this goes on for FOUR DAYS! After which you have about as much energy as a wrung out rag and then it migrates to your sinuses and chest. And because your immune system is completely exhausted this hangs on for a good month or two.

And after 10 days off work you finally go back but at the end of the day it’s all you can do to get yourself home. You cannot remember what it was like to feel good, to feel well, to have energy, to enjoy life. And after that experience you get that flu shot – just in case. After having that flu I totally understood how people die from it. There were two whole days where I was praying to die so that the pain and misery would end.

And I have never missed a flu shot since because I don’t know that I could survive that again. No matter how bad I feel from a cold, even the really horrible one that turned into walking pneumonia and hung on for 3 months, I still dread the flu more. This year I won’t be getting a flu shot because there needs to be enough for the babies and the old people and those with diminished immune systems.

I will be avoiding people, especially children, and washing my hands like someone with OCD until cold and flu season is over. And although I’m pretty sure that you would know if you get the flu, you can go here for a good description of flu symptoms vs. cold symptoms.

Be well!

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