As You Like It: Sick DaysBy Joan Florek Schottenfeld
People can be divided into two basic groups: those who can handle being sick and those who cannot. In our family Steve is the one who suffers in silence and I’m the total wuss. Well, maybe not total. If I’m not running a fever I’m up and working, but I’m not happy and I let everyone around me know it.
This past week, Steve once again proved to be one of the oh-just-suck-it-up half of the sick world. The Sunday after Thanksgiving he began showing all the symptoms of an affliction that through the years we have affectionately called crashing. Crashing occurs when you’ve pushed yourself beyond your usual limits and become so tired that only sleeping through an entire weekend can cure you.
The first time that I encountered this phenomenon was shortly after we were married. Before kids, our weekends were for reserved for errands and chores, but mostly we just relaxed. On Sundays Steve would wake up early, eat breakfast, go back to sleep for a few hours then join me for the rest of the day.
But this particular Sunday he kept sleeping and sleeping, showing no inclination of arising. I had no idea what to do with myself, so I decided to bake a honey cake from a recipe I had found in that day’s newspaper. As the wonderful aroma wafted through the apartment I kept thinking that it would surely awaken Shatz, who would be eager to gobble it up.
Little did I know the smell was making him sick. Later he explained that whenever he had to stay up late for a long stretch of time he would be fine for a while but eventually the lack of sleep would catch up with him and he would crash. To this day he can’t stand the thought of honey cake.
So last Sunday he thought that he was in crash mode, but then it stretched into Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday, despite all his efforts to pretend as if nothing was wrong. Each morning he was still sleeping when I left in the morning, and each afternoon when I came home he looked worse. But he kept popping Advils and insisting that he would be “fine, just fine!”
On Wednesday I couldn’t take it anymore. I forbade him to go to his tutoring appointment, though he kept insisting that the Advil was keeping him going. It wasn’t until I reminded him that maybe the parents of the kid he was tutoring wouldn’t appreciate him getting their kid sick, when he gave in and made a doctor’s appointment.
His doctor’s initial diagnosis was a tick-borne infection called anaplasma and dosed him with antibiotics. But I couldn’t relax until his tests came back. I stayed true to my paranoia that entire weekend, imagining Shatz with some horrible, incurable disease, even though we could see that the antibiotics were working. Maybe that’s why I’m such a marshmallow when it comes to sickness — I always assume that it’s going to be deadly.
I seem to be surrounded by sickie heroes lately. Last week I wondered why I hadn’t heard from my boss, Mike, for a while when he finally called. He had been suffering from Shingles — that delightful virus that attacks anyone who has had chicken pox, especially those of us over 50. When I had heard that there was a vaccine available I was first in line at my doctor’s office and then bugged Steve mercilessly until he got one too. When I told Mike that there was a vaccine available (talk about shutting the barn after the horse has escaped), he said, “Yeah, I know. I was scheduled to get one this week!”
I felt so sorry for my poor boss until he told me that, despite the shingles, he was going to be in Washington D.C. that weekend. I thought to myself, “Oh no, not another misguided hero!” assuming that it was for business. But when he told me he was going to D.C. for the Patriots game, all my pity flew out the window. Pain or no pain, this guy was going out of state to attend a football game. There’s a limit to pretending you’re not sick.
Why can’t these guys understand that there’s a certain beauty in giving in to sniffles and sneezes? In embracing the fever and simply lying in bed and groaning like a wounded animal while your husband scurries about getting you tea and cold compresses and cough syrup. At least you’re making only one other person miserable and not an entire office. Who hasn’t wanted to club the person in the cubicle next to theirs who coughs and hacks his way through an entire day, spreading their cheery germs to the world? No amount of hand sanitizer in the world is going to prevent you from catching whatever rotten virus it is that they’ve brought in to share with their co-workers.
So everyone, I beg you, embrace your inner child and stay home when you’re contagious. Stop fighting the fact that you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. Let’s face it: You’re not going to get much done in your condition anyway. Get into your jammies, grab a tissue box and the remote, and bid the world farewell for a couple of days. Because believe me, no one loves a sick hero.
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