Getting Sick

I got sick a couple of weeks ago. Nothing very serious, as near as I can tell. Not Covid — the symptoms were wrong plus I tested just in case because if it was that, I wanted the antiviral.

Mostly my joints were aching and I felt off and blah, but then I checked my blood pressure one morning and not only was it up, but my resting pulse was way faster than usual.

That scared me enough to go see a doctor (and thankfully I could get in to see someone on Friday afternoon, not something I would ever count on). I recounted my various symptoms and while she offered to refer me to a specialist if I wanted one, in her opinion it wasn’t anything serious and would resolve on its own.

Now in truth, those are pretty much the words I always want to hear from a doctor, especially as I get older. The last thing in the world I want is for a doctor to think it sounds serious and send me for a bunch of tests that will probably just lead to more tests and maybe they’ll find something that isn’t even what I was worried about when I called the doctor.

I mean, I’m OK with medication if it’s clear what I need. But in truth, when I get scared enough to check with doctor, I am really hoping for “it’s nothing to worry about.”

I walk a thin line between “ignore it and it’ll go away” and “what if I miss something that will kill me if I don’t get treatment now?”

I was talking with a doctor friend over the weekend about my experience and she said that it was a tricky line for a doctor, too. You don’t want to dismiss a patient’s experience, but sometimes it does seem that there really isn’t anything that needs to be done.

Interesting from both points of view. There are, of course, many people whose health issues have been dismissed for years. That is another, important issue, but it isn’t mine. Most of the time I know my body well enough to know what kind of help I need — I’ve become a big fan of physical therapy — and I only get nervous when something new happens.

I wasn’t very sick, but I felt lousy for a week. While I often have 24-hour bugs, this is the first time in years when I’ve been sick for days.

It left me with this reaction: Why don’t more people want to avoid getting sick?

Because that’s the most important thing I’ve learned in the pandemic: we really can put systems in place to keep ourselves from sharing contagious lung secretions, which will mean we get sick a lot less often.

It’s not just masks, though they’re a good and simple intervention. Real sick leave policies that encourage – not just allow – people to stay home when they’re sick would help a lot. Vaccines, of course.

For the long term, improved ventilation systems in buildings – something we already have the technology to do – would make a huge difference. The more air changes in a room, the less the likelihood of breathing air that has been in someone else’s lungs.

A large number of the viruses that spread like crazy turn out to be airborne. Outside, they’re not a major problem. But in a building with lousy ventilation, you get super-spreader events.

And most of us spend most of our time inside.

But instead of pushing for such changes, it feels like people want to convince me that getting sick is no big deal, it happens to us all, just go with it. I mean, I had a doctor (not the one I saw when I was sick, but another one I saw recently for a routine appointment) try to convince me of that.

She was all “well, if you’re vaccinated and don’t have diabetes or heart disease, why worry?”

While I don’t have those things as yet, my system is not so young and perfect that it can afford to increase my risk of getting them.

Also, I really don’t like being sick

Here’s the thing: we can’t avoid a lot of sickness in this world. I mean, we’re not immortal and sooner or later each of us is going to end up with something that takes us out.

Some of us will have immune disorders and other chronic diseases and be sick often. Some will be born with conditions that need ongoing care.

Some as we grow older will have one thing and then another break down.

We will catch the occasional virus, even if we’re being careful. And I’m sure we’ll never get ahead of the viruses with vaccines. They’re just faster than we are.

Post-viral syndromes. Bacterial infections. Cancer. Dementia. So many kinds of illness.

No, there’s no avoiding being sick. But that doesn’t mean we should just give up.

It means we should do all we can to avoid any sicknesses we can avoid. Also we should do everything we can to avoid spreading the contagious ones.

Why is this controversial?


2 thoughts on “Getting Sick

  1. It’s a numbers game, I guess. Especially when you’re healthy, you don’t expect to get sick because you so rarely do, so investing in decent ventilation systems seems like overkill, when you could be spending the money on something flashier. But honest to God, we’d stay healthy longer with a little intelligent investment in our systems.

    1. That’s the trick with all kinds of disaster planning: if nothing bad happens, the planners are blamed for wasting money even if that planning is why nothing bad happened.

      But I recently read a book called Healthy Buildings, which was written before the pandemic, but which argues for improved indoor air quality (among a number of other things) for multiple reasons, not just protection in a pandemic. I suspect convincing businesses that healthy workers will save (or even make) them money might be a more useful argument.

      Me, I just don’t want to get sick anymore than I can help. Seems like a reasonable goal, but apparently others disagree.

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