Last week marked a first in my life. I’m the person who hardly ever gets sick. From the time I was in third grade through my senior year of high school, I missed one day of school. One. In ten years. I also heal quickly…or at least can get back to doing what I would otherwise be doing quickly. I broke my thumb playing flag football in college. That same night — after setting the bone myself((Admittedly, I thought it was just a dislocation at the time, and thought nothing of fixing that.)) — I wrote a seven page paper with relatively minimal pain. I don’t like things keeping me from going on about my day.
Last Monday night, I felt like I’d gotten hit by a train. While I’d had a pretty consistent headache throughout the day, by night time something felt different — and definitely worse. My headache had subsided a bit by bedtime, though I felt slightly warmer than I usually do((Considering I’m constantly complaining about how it’s hot, this wasn’t exactly shocking to either me or my wife.)). After trying to sleep for an hour or so, I went and took my temperature.
103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Well damn. That’s not good. I drank a large glass of water, put a cool rag on my head for about 40 minutes, took an Advil for the fever, then went back to bed. I’m not the type that gets sick with fever, though after a particularly strong headache I’ll run a little warm((By a little, I mean my temperature will go up to 98.8, which is nearly a full degree higher than what I normally run.)). I was concerned but not alarmed.
Tuesday came with the fever still around 102. I called off work, consumed a figurative ton of water, grape juice, and Sprite, ate chicken soup, and rested. It’s rare that I would call off work, but this was my normal routine when doing so. Usually, by mid to late afternoon, I’d be feeling better, my fever would be gone (or almost gone), and then I’d go back into work the next day. And true to form, by mid afternoon, my fever was just under 100. Within a few hours, I figured I’d be feeling serviceable, with the following morning coming with me able to go back to work. I laid down on the couch with my iPad, a giant glass of water, and got ready to do a fantasy football draft.
By midway through the fourth round (about 35 minutes after we started), I felt like I was on fire. I ran a cold tub of water and sat down in it, taking my temperature roughly every ten minutes thereafter. In the span of a half hour, my fever climbed nearly two degrees, peaking at 103.8 Fahrenheit. A trip to Minute Clinic was overdue.
I’d like to take a moment to point out that going to the doctor in any capacity is an accomplishment for me. Neither side of my family had health insurance growing up. Since it wasn’t a mandatory deduction from your paycheck, my dad never opted to take it. Nor did my stepmom during the time when she was part of my dad’s life. My mom hasn’t worked since she was 19 and my stepdad once told me that he viewed insurance as a government scam((No idea if he still holds this point of view, but he sure told 12-year-old me said sentence.)). As such, medical doctor, dentist, and eye doctor visits were emergency only. When I had to get my MMR booster shot at age 12, I recall my family complaining about taking me to the doctor. My mom didn’t want to take me because she believed vaccines caused my brother’s ADD (seriously…) and my dad didn’t want to take me because shots cost too much money.
While I finally got health insurance with my first job post-college, that doesn’t mean I took advantage of using it. Doctors visits of any kind still cost money, even with insurance. If I wasn’t dying, why should I go? A cough isn’t dying. A fever isn’t dying. A broken thumb isn’t dying.((To be fair, I didn’t know my thumb was broken until after the fact.)) There was no reason to go. Why would I spend a $40 co-pay for a doctor visit when I had $400 per month in student loans due while trying to live on a job paying $7.75/hour? And people wonder why millennials take offense to being called lazy. But I digress.
For all the good CVS Minute Clinic and other similar programs run by US pharmacies do, there is one minor annoyance I have with them. They’re not exactly open the most convenient hours((This applies to most actual doctor’s offices for that matter.)). You either have to already be off work because you’re sick or use up time off that you may otherwise need in order to see a doctor. While Minute Clinic’s hours state they’re open 9am-8pm, there’s fine print that says they’ll stop accepting new patients whenever there are too many for their CNPs to see within the clinic’s operating hours. Since my fever spike happened around 630pm, by the time I got to either of the two Minute Clinics closest to me, both had closed for the night, despite their operating hours still going on for at least another 45 minutes (75 in the case of the first one) after I arrived.
I slept like hell that night. While the fever came down from its near-104 levels, it hovered around 102 for most of the night. Doom was impending, but not because of needing to visit the doctor…at least not directly because of that.
May 4th, 2006 was my senior skip day. I remember it for two reasons. First, a group of us were had decided to take our skip day a week before everyone else and go meet up at Steak and Shake for breakfast before having a Mario Kart tournament in my best friend’s basement. My then-girlfriend was the only one who didn’t get to be at Steak and Shake by 6am, since she had to take her sister to school. She then got in a wreck leaving the school parking lot, meaning she couldn’t come to our Mario Kart tournament((Which is likely for the best, as I fully believe she would have won an unfair proportion of the races.)).
The second reason I remember my senior skip day is because it was the only day of school I missed between third grade((I use third grade as my arbitrary start point because I was home schooled until 3/4 of the way through second grade. The horror-filled experience that was home school is better saved for another post, as I could write 1,500 words on that alone.)) and my senior year. In addition to not getting sick, my family wasn’t exactly keen to letting me come home from school when I didn’t feel good. My vice-principal made sure to call me out on it at senior awards night, though considering he was the head of National Honor Society and I was our NHS treasurer, we gave each other a hard time regularly.
Between a thirty minute visit at the Minute Clinic and a three and a half hour visit((Technically only about 20 minutes of that time was actually spent with a nurse, doctor, or x-ray technician. The rest of the time was spent sitting in a patient room playing Fire Emblem: Awakening.)) to Urgent Care, I finally found out that I had pneumonia. A container of oversized antibiotics later and I was right back where I started: laying on my couch trying to take a nap. And yet, I felt terribly annoyed.
By missing work on Wednesday, it marked the first time in my entire life I had ever missed consecutive days of work or school due to illness. I had pneumonia and yet all I could do was to feel bad that I wasn’t at work. I talked to a handful of people from work throughout the day and most of them spent their time telling me how they hoped I’d feel better soon and how they’d likely be seeing me next week. While I appreciated the sentiment, I didn’t need anyone to tell me to get better. I knew I was going to get better. That’s what antibiotics allow you to do. But it meant I got suggestion after suggestion of how to handle pneumonia to get better. It meant being told to lay, drink lots of fluids, and to rest. It meant being told to not do anything until I felt 100%.
I wasn’t having that. I was getting back healthy at my own pace. And I did. I was back at work by Thursday with no fever and no risk of being contagious. That’s how I work. I wasn’t having it any other way even if I was sick.