Monday was a good day. My husband turned 44. I took him to our favorite Indian restaurant for lunch and made him a chocolate cavity-maker cake for his wish that night.
I had a sore throat that got worse as the afternoon wore on, and I thought I should make sure it wasn't strep throat. I drove over to my MD's office, but there were no appointments left that day. Since it was only my throat, I decided to go to work in the morning (as a hem-onc nurse) and get a strep test in occupational health.
In the middle of that night, I began coughing. I felt chills, a really bad headache, and back pain. At 2:00 a.m., I called the charge nurse. I asked her not to give me any neutropenic patients, and she asked if I was sure I wanted to work. "Yes," I emphatically replied. I had convinced myself that I was just that crucial to the team, and I didn't want to let anyone down. Also, these were my scheduled days, and I had all of my nonwork days chock full with other things. I had no room to move things around. Sound familiar to anyone?
As I lay on the couch for the next two hours, I thought about the patients and nurses I could get sick. What if this wasn't strep? The back pain was getting worse, and since I am 19 weeks pregnant, I worried about the baby.
At 4:00 a.m., I called back, apologized profusely, and called out sick. The charge RN said I sounded so bad she didn't recognize my voice. I went to the MD at 9:00 a.m. in tears from the aching. By 1:00 p.m., I had gotten the results of all of the testing: influenza A. But I had the vaccine. I drink kale smoothies. I increase my vitamin C intake this time of year. I have a wedding, out of state, this weekend. You can't be serious.
Today is day three of Tamiflu for me and prophylactic Tamiflu for my husband and son (incidentally, $192 with our insurance). I can now take my head off the pillow for parts of the day. Heaven forbid this happens to you, but just in case, here are some management strategies I have learned in this process. I would love your strategies, too, because I'm clearly not better yet.
- Don't worry about eating. Even the obstetrics nurse said this. Make fluids your priority, and add the calories wherever you can. Juice, ginger tea with honey, ginger ale -- you get the drift.
- Tylenol really does help. And I hear ibuprofen is good, too, if you can take it. A thousand milligrams every six hours has yet to break my fever completely, but it has kept me under 101°F, and it has helped with the body aches.
- Stay away from people you love. I have my husband in the guest room, and I hide from my son in our room when he gets home from daycare, because I don't want to increase the likelihood of getting them sick. And that means the wedding, too. The MD is right; all that I would bring the bride for her wedding is a flu for her honeymoon. And I love my patients and co-workers, too. No returning to work until you are fever free for more than 24 hours with no anti-pyretics.
- Take warm baths, and use warm hot packs. They have done a lot to relieve the pain in my back.
- Get out of wet clothes immediately. The first day, I think I had the rigors for three hours. That night, I changed pajamas four times (no exaggeration). I think it was being wet that made me so cold.
- Let other people do things, even if it isn't your way. You may find a dirty diaper in your laundry basket the next day -- true story -- but everyone will go to bed safely. You can believe that.
For those of you who have struggled with deciding whether to go to work when slightly sick (as I thought I was before I knew I had the flu), what did you decide to do, and why? Did you feel some element of internal struggle? For those of you who have had the flu (or cared for others with it), what are your pearls of wisdom?