THE JOY OF SWINE FLU
So, I’ve had the pleasure of being stuck at home for the last week, apparently suffering from a highly contagious pandemic flu virus that originated from a pig. For hypochondriacs everywhere, I’ve kept detailed notes. So what’s it like to have Swine Flu?
Well, it’s actually quite difficult to quantify because it appears to be such a complex disease that seems to effect those it touches in different ways and very few people who get it (or not) are ever given a proven diagnosis because the health system wants to keep us all at arms length. Also, while it affects a small proportion of sufferers to the extent they need hospitalization, part of swine flu’s success seems to be that in many it is so mild that they continue their lives normally, spreading the disease through the community around then.
Here’s what happened to me, more or less on a day by day basis:
Wednesday morning on the way to work
I suddenly realised I had a bit of a bad head. Nothing to worry about I thought, and I went throughout my day at the office just feeling a bit worse than usual.
Like all “at risk” people, I’ve been living a bit like Howard Hughes since swine flu was nice enough to go pandemic on us and this has meant very regular hand washing and on Wednesday more so than usual.
I felt crap and treated this in the usual manner: A bottle of red (big mistake I suspect). I went to bed and slept well.
I woke up feeling crap with a bit of a sore throat, had a lemsip and a cup of tea in bed. Later in the morning, I was sweating buckets into the bed sheets. Clearly I had a temperature.
Throughout Thursday, I generally felt weak and achy. I ran hot and cold, sometimes being too warm in a t-shirt, sometimes needing a fleece to keep warm.
It was Thursday that I first went through the NHS Pandemic Flu Line’s online test for swine flu. This indicated that they would “not provide Tamiflu” at this time.
It’s worth noting that Thursday was the only day I spent a lot more time on the bed than usual.
I felt a bit better on Friday. I was still running hot and cold but the head generally felt better and I still had a bit of a sore throat and a bit of a runny nose (normally, if I have cold or flu, I expect to be the snot monster).
Saturday, I one again woke up felling better than the day before. Things were looking up and I was seriously considering a walk out. Until that is I looked in in the mirror and thought “Hello freakin’ Gorgeous”. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a vain man and have never had a particular brilliant complexion but what I saw was pretty horrific. My face was covered in red blotches; clearly I had a nasty rash.
So, having had no real joy from the National Panemic helpline in my last dealings with them, I called the NHS helpline. This turned out to be a three stage process:
- Speak to a totally unqualified person who was nice enough to be very professional about it
- Speak to a nurse
- Speak to nurse plus supervisor
In the end, nurse plus supervisor decided I should go back to the Pandemic helpline and fill in the form again. Half an hour later, this was done and I had a Tamiflu reference number.
My dad was dispatched to a clinic in Sale on a mission to get Tamiflu. He had to take ID for himself and me plus the Tamiflu reference number. His description of the Tamiflu distribution centre they’d set up at the clinic underlines the state of national hysteria (not to mention the war footing) over this disease: “Women running around in high visiblity clothing with one person to check the ID, another to provide the Tamiflu and one to show you out of the back door” (yes, he couldn’t go out the way he came in and ended up getting a bit lost).
My dad duly arrived home with Tamiflu and lots of printed information on the condition.
Late Saturday afternoon, I took my first Tamiflu and thankfully it passed without ill effect. On Saturday I decided just to take one tablet as it was quite late. Sunday onwards, I would take two tablets per day.
Incidentally, Saturday also saw the onset of diorreah and loss of appetite that would last through to Monday.
I wrote an email to my employer to let them know my trip to Fiji on Wednesday was off (bummer).
Sunday was more of the same. More temperature control issues and more loss of appetite. My face still looked awful. Throat was a little better. On Sunday, I decided on complete abstinence from Alcohol for a few days.
Once again showing signs of recovery. Appetite was back with a vengeance on Monday and even an accident with Chilies that turned the Chili Con Carne into Chili Con Carnage could not stop me eating.
I monitored and replied to a couple of emails. My trip to Fiji has been put back by well over a week (my manager has been doing his research).
Again, gradual signs of recovery in evidence and though I still looked awful, my face felt a little less lumpy when I washed it.
Face felt considerably less lumpy and I looked quite a bit better around the forehead. I would go as far as saying I was almost asymptomatic on Wednesday.
This morning I took the very last Tamiflu pill and I’m glad to see the end of these. Again, I’d say I was almost asymptomatic and hoped to go for a walk on Friday.
I risked a shave (very carefully) and found my face much improved. In the morning, I did a little work on my laptop. I went out for a walk in the afternoon and while out I got a call from my GP Practice to tell me to pop in at 4:50 to get a sick note.
I met the Doctor and ended up having a very circular conversation a bit like this:
10 Print “We can’t give you a sick note because we’ve not seen you.”
20 Print “Of course you’ve not seen me, I’ve had a highly contagious pandemic disease. You didn’t want to see me. No one wanted to see me.”
30 goto 10
We went around this a few times and in the end, we agreed the empty Tamiflu box with my name on it and the name of the distribution centre was good enough to sign me off from Saturday to Thursday”
So did I have Swine Flu?
They seem to prescribe Tamiflu on the flimsiest of diagnosis and for all I know, I could have had Chicken Pox (though this seems unlikely as, to the best of my knowledge I haven’t been in contact with anyone who’s had this condition). The British government has been on a virtual war footing on Pandemic Swine Flu and part of this strategy seems to be keeping clinicians at arms length from anyone who might have the condition (unless the victim happens to be dying from the condition).
Swine Flu Gotchas
Ok, a coupld of issues I observed with the National Swine Flu response:
First, had the automated system diagnosed me more quickly, my recovery time might have been better.
They say if you have any concerns or if your symptoms get worse, call your Doctor. If you happen to be registered with the most overloaded, badly organised, cash strapped GP practice in the country forget it. Do remember to keep as much proof as you can regarding the fact you’ve had the condition in the event you need a sick note.