Tag Archives: influenza

Be nice, give blood

NEEDLES ARE NEEDLES
I’ve got a co-worker, Catherine, who won’t get a flu shot, so I was especially intrigued this afternoon when I saw her making a donation at the Red Cross/Tribune blood drive. Fascinating, I thought, because I assumed that perhaps she was fearful of needles. But no. Miss Martin is simply opposed to getting a flu shot; she’s sure that her young’ish immune system will ward off influenza and its many incarnations. However, I tried to convince her that we get the flu shot for the people we love, not for ourselves. While she might not get sick because of her (hypothetically) superior immune system, she can still carry the “bug” to, oh, an immune-compromised grandmother or a small child.

The guilt trip didn’t work. So instead I told her that the size of the needle they used to drain a pint of our blood was waaaaaay bigger than the needle that injects influenza vaccine. That made her face get a funny yet queezy look.

YEAH, ONE MORE THING
I was in the pre-jab position on the blood drive bed (it’s more of a chaise lounge) as the above-mentioned co-worker slipped off her bed and headed for the delightful blood drive snacks. As Catherine passed, I asked her to sing “Soft Kitty.” She didn’t, but I think she understood the reference.

When my pint-sized donation was finished, the blood tech who got the life-giving liquid flowing from my arm with one stick –kudos to Olivia for that — asked if I needed anything. I replied, “Will you sing ‘Soft Kitty?'” She didn’t.

So here’s “Soft Kitty” for everyone.

REVIEW
One more thing to think about. We have the technology to produce vaccine to ward off influenza. (Although not 100 percent “guaranteed” to keep you from getting the flu, it does an amazing job of averting potential pandemic outbreaks.) By some estimates, influenza has killed more people throughout human history than any other disease. It was the ninth leading cause of death in the United States in 2010.

By contrast, science and medicine cannot produce a synthetic product to replace blood. The only place where blood is “manufactured” is in our bodies.

Be nice, give blood.

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Filed under A reporter's life, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

And along comes pneumonia …

THIS was going to be the week that I resumed regular blogging. The week I was going to master active voice and conquer passive voice. (Except that sentence). The week my weekly cycling total would eclipse 50 miles. The week that long-delayed, long-term projects at the Columbia Daily Tribune would get new life and bring smiles to the faces of my editors.

I had big plans.

Then along came pneumonia. It’s (at least) the ninth time this respiratory malady has flattened me in the last 20 years.

I know, I know. There seems to be a problem here. Two years ago, my fine physician, Dr. Carin Reust (University Physicians, Smiley Lane Clinic), fashioned a plan to figure out why I’m so susceptible to pneumonia. Whereas most people get a bad cold or maybe influenza and then, after suffering with the first ailment for a while they contract the secondary infection of pneumonia, I get a scratchy throat, a cough, maybe a sneeze and BAM! — pneumonia. Skip all the in-between incubation time.

It’s like a cruel board game I’ve thought about creating. It’s called “You’re Sick!” Roll the dice, move your marker (a DNA-helix of the influenza virus, a vial that represents live smallpox from the CDC in Atlanta, things like that), and you land on a square that says “Select A Symptom.” You pick a card, and yours would say, “Scratchy throat.” In your next move, you drink a gallon of orange juice and that symptom disappears. Trouble is, you now have a “severe lower gastrointestinal disturbance.” Now, I pick a card that says “Scratchy Throat,” and on my next move, I land smack dab on the “Pneumonia” square.

It’s true. I almost always go from zero to 60 like that — from picture of health to pneumonia. I rarely get a common cold or a common anything. I had viral meningitis in 1989 and pleurisy in 1992. And somewhere along the way, according to chest x-rays taken in 2010 during a period of good health, I developed scar tissue in my right lung. Just a smidgen, but probably a tell-tale sign that I had undiagnosed, untreated pneumonia or some other brachialcardialigistic ailment, probably during childhood or my teen years. (I just made up that brachialcaria-word, by the way).

In late 2009 my side business of painting, minor carpentry, window cleaning and deep cleaning  (stuff that no one else wants to clean) was so booked that I actually took off work from the Trib the last week of ’09 to finish two jobs. The last part of the last job was spraying “popcorn” texture onto a ceiling on which I’d inflicted dry-wall repair.

I didn’t wear a mask. Within two weeks I was down with pneumonia and that was the end of Jodie The Handyman. Solvents, cleaners, paint and similar chemicals sort of freeze up my lungs now. The allergic/respiratory reaction doesn’t cause pneumonia, but it basically sets me up for the illness. Or something like that.

I have a few ideas where this scar tissue came from:

– All that airplane model glue that I huffed as a kid. (Okay, I made that up). But these are real …

– Spring 1984, as I siphoned gas from the car to transfer into the garden tiller, I got a mouthful. Some of it made it down my gullet. I probably aspirated just enough not to kill me. I remember that incident by this name: The. Longest. Night. Of. My. Life. Remind me to tell you more about it later.

– July 1978, when I nearly drowned in the Gasconade River. Some of that nasty water made it down my windpipe. My lungs burned for days.

– 1981, Rolla, Mo., Godfather’s pizza. My high school debate partner, Jack Smith, did a sort of Heimlich maneuver on me as I choked on lava-hot double-cheese pizza. Pretty sure a melted bit of that delicious cuisine wound up in a lung.

– 1982, March. After walking back to North Ellis Hall, my dorm at Central Missouri State University, from Country Kitchen, where several of us had a Bible study and where I learned that I couldn’t possibly be a Christian because I’d never spoken in tongues, I went to bed around 2 a.m. Just after falling asleep, I woke up panicked, unable to breathe. No air in, no air out. I raced to the bathroom, splashed water onto my face and stared in the mirror as my eyes bulged and the room spun. Somehow I managed a gasp. (That happened again a month later, but never again since, unless you count sleep apnea, which I also have).

Anyway, I reported to my Pentecostal friends what had happened and that immediately upon regaining full respiratory function, I spoke in tongues. “Sorry,” said my buddy Chris. “Did you pray for interpretation?” No, I hadn’t. Chris said he’d pray for my soul.

There you have it. More of my medical history than you probably wanted to know. And all of this to explain that I’ve missed work all week and, by doctor’s orders, I won’t be back until Monday. Meanwhile, Nurse Kelly is providing exceptional care and, so far, I think I’ve been a pretty good patient.

So far.

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