Christmas Flu

So, today is my first day back at work after the holidays. My whole department got two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s and I spent most of it lying in my bed thinking I was going to die.

First, I went up to Carthage, TX to spend Christmas with my family. I had had a cough since about October, and it was almost gone when I left Austin. When I got to Carthage, I discovered that my cough decided to pick back up. So, I spent Christmas and a few days after coughing. Not a big deal, but unpleasant.

On the 29th, I headed back down to Austin. It was a great ride. Long, mostly empty, curvy country roads to go nice and fast. Very fun! I noticed something very strange when I got home and started to settle in, though. I was sore all over my body. I couldn’t figure out why that would be. I figured it out later, though. The flu was setting in, and was making me physically weak: as weak as a baby kitten. You see, the soreness was caused by strong winds (when you’re riding a motorcycle at 70 mph, all you’ve got are strong winds) pressing against my body. But at the time I couldn’t figure out what it was and by the next day, with the soreness gone, I forgot.

That day, though, I was starting to feel a bit of malaise. Nothing very specific, just a general feeling of unease. The day after (New Year’s Eve) was much the same. That night, there was a church dance. I was excited for this, although with a greater feeling of unwellness setting in, my excitement was waning. The dance was pretty fun, but I was having trouble keeping up with everything. When I would dance to the fast songs, I would get a headache. Finally, I just decided to sit them out altogether and be a wallflower. I had a reasonably good time talking with my friends, and occasionally dancing to the slow songs. At one point, one of my friends came up to me and asked me if I would give her a blessing, as she was feeling sick. I didn’t mind, and we went into a room off to the side, along with our bishop, so he and I could give her a blessing. She knew I was feeling unwell, and after the blessing, she said to our bishop, “You know, Dan’s been feeling sick, too.” “Well, I can give you a blessing, too,” he says. “No, I’ll be fine. If I’m worse in the morning, I’ll get one from my roommates,” I stubbornly respond.

Well, the evening proceded, we watched the ball drop at midnight, and then they served breakfast right after. By that time, I was feeling very unwell, so as soon as I ate my breakfast, I went home without any socializing. The next morning, I could barely get out of bed. Soreness all over my body yet again (riding home), a cough that no cough drop at my disposal could stop, a pounding headache, and a general feeling that nothing was right in the world. I stumble out of my room to see my roommate Russ lying on the coutch. “Russ, I’m gonna need you to give me a blessing,” I’m barely able to vocalize. Russ was the only one home who could give the blessing, and we wanted another to assist, so we called up some friends who lived down the street. One of them was on his way home, so he stopped by, and they gave me a great blessing that left me feeling like maybe I wouldn’t actually die right at the moment.

My other roommate, Rodd, went out and got me some better drugs than we had in the house, including some cough drops that actually include an anesthetic, which is much more effective than traditional cough drops. At least with this medicine, I wasn’t in complete pain and misery. Despite the drugs, though, I would still occasionally erupt into a coughing fit. If I tried to eat anything, the coughing would usually accompany throwing up. Sometimes, when I hadn’t even eaten anything, I would throw up. I’m not sure what was coming up (I assume stomach acid), but it was disgusting. The fever that had set in meant I was constantly sweating. My entire head was constantly soaked. All that salt on my scalp made it so that I could actually feel where my hair follicles came out my scalp. I fealt like I was some sort of male Gorgon.

That night brought the hallucinations. I’m still not sure what I was hallucinating, but a feeling of uncertainty ran through the entire episode. As I was trying to get to sleep that night, I started to see things. I’m not sure what these things were. I didn’t know where I was, when I was, who I was, or even what I was. I was floating through a sea of ambiguity, with random sounds, images, colors, tastes, and smells. Nothing was familar, but since I didn’t even know if I was human, that wasn’t too surprising. At one point, back in the real world, my hand slipped down my face, forcing me back for a moment. I tried to ground myself and figure out was going on, when I fell back into the trance. This went on for some time longer, until I tried to force myself back. I succeeded, but again, only for a moment. After a while, I tried again, and this time, when I came back, I sat up in my bed, to help ground me in reality. I looked around for a moment, still confused. I was still not sure who, or what I was. Suddenly it came flooding back, and I said it all out loud. “Your name is Daniel Jones. You live in Austin, TX. You’re an actor, and a website designer. You work for the University of Texas …” This went on until I was absolutely sure I knew who I was, and I wasn’t about to slip back into whatever-the-crap-that-was. I got a drink of water, then went to the bathroom. I had another coughing fit, and threw up in the toilet some more. I wondered if this thing was going to kill me, but was sure it wasn’t, because I was promised in a blessing that I would get better. I HAD to believe that. I went back to bed, and this time, fell asleep properly.

The next day brought much the same as the day before. My roommates did their best to take care of me. I just laid on the couch, coughed, slept, and sweated. I would try to eat, and would usually fail. One thing I had noticed the day before was that if I laid flat on my back, I coughed less. I also noticed that if I laid on my back for a while, I would get a pain near the top-right corner of my back. I tried this day to work it out with the massage chair. It helped a bit, but it would just come back when I laid down for a while. I tried lying on my side, but that wasn’t as comfortable, and I discovered that if I did that, I would get a pain in my side. It was from this that I realized that I had become incredibly weak. My body was no longer strong enough to support its own weight. I would just have to deal with the pain, and hope it would end soon, and take Extra-Strength Tylenol™.

The next day brought a little bit of hope. I hadn’t hallucinated the night before. I was no longer getting pains from lying down. On the down-side, I had now watched EVERYTHING on our DVR, so I had to watch live TV. Of course, I had stuff downloaded that I could watch, but that meant I’d have to switch the TV from the DVR, to the computer, and controlling your shows with a keyboard, rather than a remote, is quite a hassle, and I was really not feeling up to it.

The next day was Sunday. I wasn’t well enough yet to go to church, but I had improved a huge amount over the night. I felt like this was actually nearing its end. I was actually going to survive! I probably could’ve actually managed to make it through the three hours of church, but I felt like my coughing would’ve been so distracting to everyone, that I was better staying home.

Apparently, that day, the couple of people who hadn’t already heard I was ill were informed at church. I got so many facebook messages, txts, IM messages and so forth from people enquiring after my health. It was nice to know that so many people were concerned for me.

By the next day, I was actually well enough that I could eat food! That was good, because I had checked my weight on Wii Fit. It said I had lost over 8 pounds while I was sick. Wii Fit told me I was losing weight too fast, and needed to focus more on maintaining my health. That’s a pretty smart game. I was also feeling well enough that day that I could actually leave the house all on my own. I only went to the gas station and the grocery store (to buy more cough drops), but that was a major improvement. That night was our monthly AARP-FHE. It was on the north-ish side of town. I didn’t go there on my own, but I did go. There was a potluck dinner, and I ate a little. Then I managed through all of the lesson, and socializing afterwards. I was definitely feeling good about my improvement.

And that brings us to today. Last night I actually got a full night’s sleep. Today, I brought myself to work, and my coughing is just barely there. By tomorrow, I may not need the cough drops anymore.

And so, that is my adventure with my Christmas flu. I learned two very important things from this. First, I learned that I have an awful lot of friends who really care about me, and are there to take care of me whenever I need it. I guess they know that I would do the same for any of them. Second, I learned that if someone is offering free flu shots (to all UT faculty, staff, and students), I should take it.