Me, Flu and You!

 

“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.” 
Robert G. Ingersoll

You might have noticed I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth these past few weeks.

There’s a reason for that.

I’ve just come face-to-face with a very nasty strain of influenza.

For most people flu is a mild illness that causes sore throat, runny nose, fever and chills which last several days. But for people like me who are immuno-compromised and for other high-risk categories such as the very young, the elderly and people suffering from chronic illness or underlying health conditions such as asthma and diabetes, influenza can be a very different illness.

If you’ve only recently arrived at my blog you might not know that I suffer from late-stage lyme disease, multi-organ and system compromise, and ongoing heart issues among other things. I’ve been to hell and back with my health and more than once in the past few decades the dark bird of death has sat companionably on my shoulder.

Still, I’m so much better now. These past few months I’ve been the strongest and most vital I have been in years. My improved health is the result of a great team, a regime, ongoing management and many, many hours of my life. Most of that hard work is invisible to the world. Instead what I hear is how great I look these days. Thanks. I’m working on it! 35 years worth of working on it, and counting…

When you don’t live in the world of chronic illness you might not realise that even when we look and feel well we usually have ongoing issues we are managing and our underlying immune systems may be weak. If our immune systems are in fact stronger than they have been it still only takes a few bad nights of limited sleep, of stress or of us overdoing our physical energetic limits for us to end up in a place where it is so much easier for us to succumb to infections. Sometimes we succumb anyway, even when we are healthy, because our immunity is just not as strong as other members of the community.

So that’s where Influenza A H3N2 (also known as Aussie Flu) and I collided a few weeks ago.

I’m hypervigilant when it comes to germs. I never touch my face, especially when we’re out. I wash my hands well, and always before eating. If I’m out I’ll use a hand sanitiser before eating and after using a shopping cart or touching any surfaces. On planes and in confined spaces I’ll wear a bamboo fabric mask impregnated with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial essential oils. I avoid people who are ill, and will avoid crowds and places that might put me at a higher risk of infection. I’ve managed to travel overseas, go to festivals and events and to holiday well several times, all without becoming ill and even as those around me have been sick – which I put down to me being vigilant and also having a great medical team caring for me from week to week.

So how did I get sick this time?

A client came to my home while she was recovering from having been very unwell. She didn’t disclose this to me and as she greeted me she coughed directly into my face. She was less than thirty centimetres away from me and her spittle covered my face and went into my eyes. She laughed, a little embarrassed, and wiped at my face with her hands. ‘Sorry, Love,’ she said, ‘just getting over the flu.’

My heart sank. But I tried to be hopeful that nothing would eventuate.

Less than twenty-four hours later I developed a sore throat. My glands came up in my neck, groin and armpits. Within a few hours I had a raging fever and could barely stand. I cancelled the rest of my week and put myself to bed, hoping that rest and an aggressive regime of herbs and Vitamin C might limit the damage and have me up again in a few days.

None of that helped. Overnight I deteriorated in a way that really scared me. I went from high fevers to chills and back to fevers again, was so weak I couldn’t sit upright, my throat inflamed and swollen so it felt like swallowing razor blades, my entire body ached, and I had a stabbing headache bad enough that I lost vision in my left eye. Eventually I could barely breathe, and my heart went into tachycardia. Add in chest pain and vomiting. Yep, awful!

I stayed like that for days, alternating between sleep and delirium. My doctors and cardiologist checked me out and decided I was better managed at home to avoid the risk of pneumonia and advised me to only come back to the hospital if my heart rate went to a certain level and stayed there over an extended time, or if my chest pain or breathing difficulties became too severe.

The last fortnight has been scary and hard, especially with all of the chest pain and arrhythmias. If I am honest I’ve also struggled psychologically with being so ill again after having felt on top of the world just a few weeks ago.

I’m through the worst of it now. A year ago this infection may have killed me (and yes, every day I give thanks for having such awesome doctors in my life, and my amazing local GP-acupuncturist and team whom I’m convinced are my secret weapon in the return to vitality from Lyme – thanks Dr Adam and Jodi!).

My symptoms are slowly easing, although my heart is still misbehaving. I currently look like I went one too many rounds in the boxing ring with a hefty opponent. And I’m earth-shatteringly exhausted. I have no energy for anything at all.

That’s how I know I’m still unwell. All I want to do is sleep. And that’s how I’ll know when I am better. I’ll be itching to get up and do something!

Meanwhile I have made a promise to Ben, my staff and my doctors that I will respect the flu and keep resting. I will not come back to full-on life too quickly. I will not overdo it and set myself back.

So, that’s where I’ve been. You know it’s never good news when I go quiet…

Think you might have the flu? Stay home and in bed if you can. Rest and keep up your fluid intake. Please, if you’re unwell spare a thought for others whose immune systems might not be as robust as yours. Practice good hand hygiene, cover your mouth when you cough, cover your nose when you sneeze, and don’t leave used tissues lying around. If you know someone who is pregnant, elderly, very young or who has a health issue avoid them while you’re unwell.  Seek medical advice or go to hospital if you spike and sustain a high fever, have trouble breathing or become breathless, if you have chest pain or severe abdominal pain, if you become dizzy or confused or if you have sudden severe vomiting. Not sick? Think about getting the flu vaccination, especially if you are in a high-risk category.

Thanks to everyone who has sent messages and checked up on me. I’m so grateful for your love and support. I promise I’ll be back on deck just as soon as I have my doctors’ blessings and enough energy to share with all of you as well as having enough for myself. Another week or two and I’m sure I’ll be just fine!

Biggest hugs and love, Nicole xx

Cold or Flu? Don’t Soldier On!

“The worst pandemic in modern history was the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people. Today, with how interconnected the world is, it would spread faster.” ~  Bill Gates

“Seasonal flu is now a pandemic that lasts for years and years because you’ve got so many people that it’s jumping back between northern and southern hemispheres and moving itself around the world. By the time it gets back to where it started, it’s changed sufficiently so that people are no longer immune.” ~ Nathan Wolfe

 

I’d love to be telling you that I’m enjoying a fabulous Easter with my husband and friends, dancing in my gumboots at Bluesfest and celebrating all that the Easter Weekend has to offer.

But I can’t. I’m horribly unwell. Think fevers, chills, headache, neck ache, chest pains, congested sinuses, cough and body aches and pains.

My friend who came to stay with us arrived sick. Sick but she was trying to soldier on because she’d made plans with us, and she had festival tickets, and she didn’t want to let anyone down. But my friend felt exhausted and miserably sick. So sick that she ended up staying home all day while we went to Bluesfest without her. So sick that she ended up in emergency that night. She’s back staying with family now, and Ben and I are both home in bed sick!

People, I need you to know something about those of us for whom flu or cold is more than an inconvenience:

Thanks to chronic lyme-disease I’m immune-compromised, which means that I don’t have as much resistance to bugs as other people might.

There are many immuno-compromised people out in the world. Babies and old people. People with chronic illnesses, diabetes, asthma, heart problems, auto-immune diseases and cancer. People who’ve had transplants, or who need one. People recovering from illness or in fragile health. They look like you and I, so you might not be able to pick them out as having weaker immune systems.

For people with weakened immune systems getting a bad cold, virus or flu can seriously endanger our health.

Please, if you have a cold or flu, think before you go out into the world. Look after yourself, and through your consideration, look after those of us for whom any kind of unexpected illness is a big deal.