This year’s very nasty flu came in two rounds
When I was a junior in high school, I got the flu. It was in the spring, which was unusual in itself (flu was usually a fall and winter ailment), but what was more unusual was that I just didn’t get better. My parents – New Englanders who believed that the only reason you went to the doctor was because a bone was protruding from your skin – were already doing the things recommended for flu. Fluids, aspirin, rest. My mother finally called our family doctor, Jake Spungin, who came over and looked at me and pronounced that I had a new and serious strain of the flu. I was not to go back to school until he said so. I was to stay at home until my fever was completely gone and my temperature had been normal for two days and my throat was no longer sore at all. I was to stay away from the rest of the family as much as possible.
Man, I loved those two weeks. I slept late every day, and spent the day in my pajamas (something not allowed in the Lemen household, even on Christmas Day). I got to drink ginger ale and cranberry juice all the time, and my mother made me poached eggs on toast upon request. I had independent study in English, and spent my days reading “Beowulf” and other epic poems. I spent all day curled up on the loveseat in front of the bay window, relaxing, waiting for my fever to go away.
I remember it as a lovely time.
My mother did not remember it the same way. She was quite worried (I was not a kid prone to illness) and she told me later that Dr. Spungin was as concerned as she had ever seen him. Partially about me, but now I think probably because he was trying to head off a flu epidemic in our small town.
How can you stop a flu from spreading?
If you, like me, have experienced the 2018 version of influenza, that’s not the question you want answered first. The question foremost in your mind is “Will this repellant illness ever go away?” Or, “Can I overdose on flu medication?”
I had a particularly nasty version of the flu in 2001, which morphed into pneumonia. I felt so terrible that I simply wanted to lay down and howl, but howling was out, because my chest hurt too much. My doctor at the time asked me if I really wanted to get better.
“Of course!,” I said indignantly.
He gave me advice that I have never forgotten: He told me to drink as much fluid as I could stand: warm, cold, steaming hot – it didn’t matter.
“I did not say, ‘Drink plenty of fluids.’ I said, ‘As much as you can stand. And then, when you have to get up to go to the bathroom, even though you feel like grim death, use the bathroom and then walk around. Go up the stairs. Walk through your house. Move. If you start coughing, cough. But don’t just lie there like Camille. You need to get things moving.'”
It worked. Surprisingly quickly. (And it’s fortunate that it did, because about six weeks after that, Bill and I were on a plane to China to meet our daughter.) And since that time, I have tried really hard not to get the flu again, because I never want to get pneumonia again.
And I almost made it through flu season unscathed, until two weeks ago. I went to a friend’s husband’s memorial service in Boston and it poured, and my feet got soaked wading through unavoidable puddles. By the time I got home, I had that feeling. Something was starting. I called in sick to work the next day, only to find that my boss had called in sick as well. I went back Tuesday and Wednesday and felt functional. Thursday, I woke up convinced that the Grim Reaper had decided that today was the day he was going to fetch me.
Friday and Saturday I was fine.
The following Sunday, Round 2 began.
I am finally up and about again, although annoyed. I couldn’t use my tickets to the NSK&S Empty Bowls, which is one of my favorite community events. I visualized myself coughing in one of the big soup kettles and becoming the Influenza June of Nashua. I haven’t seen my mother in over a month, because of either my flu, or her place’s quarantine, because of the flu.
Chicken soup, anyone?
June Lemen is a longtime columnist for The Telegraph.