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Flu 1 Inauguration 0

Influenza Virus- Centers for Disease Control

Influenza Virus- Centers for Disease Control

I was just minding my own business. I got home Friday night, looking forward to the weekend and the NFL playoff games Sunday. Little did I realize I was about to be the not-so-innocent bystander in an epic battle between the virulent flu germ of 2013 and my trusty but subtly aging immune system.

Like the volleys into Fort Sumter 150 years ago that continued for 36 straight hours, the flu virus launched its assault on Saturday afternoon. There was this cough that came out of nowhere. Not cool. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since early October- I thought I was done with this lung stuff. Then the beginnings of the fever hit. The trumpets were sounding. My immune system soldiers were desperately rallying against the foreign invader.

The war escalated on Sunday. By the time the 49ers had rebounded to defeat the Falcons a 100 degree fever had tipped into 101 territory. I should have known this flu meant business because my sure-fire recipe for nipping this kind of crap in the bud- two shots of Nyquil- did absolutely nothing the night before. I switched to a new weapon- Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu. You would think a product with “severe” in the name, would mean business. The flu bug laughed. It picked up Mr. Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu by the lapels and threw him out like a beefy bouncer at a night club tossing a drunk into an alley.

By the time the Baltimore Ravens upended Tom Brady and the Patriots, the health picture looked bleak. The thermometer read 101.8. And the invasion had expanded. My girlfriend Millie was now coughing and quickly hitting 100.

It was Sunday night and Monday was Inauguration Day. In 36 years in the journalism business, I have never missed an Inauguration Day. In one form another, I’ve been in Statuary Hall covering them, or writing newscasts about them, or running a newsroom that was covering them. Nothing was going to stop me from missing this one. I would come into the newsroom, and if I still felt bad, I’d go home a little early. This, of course, would be a totally selfish and egotistical move on my part that could easily have spread the flu to many others.

By 4:30am Monday it was case closed. The battle was still raging. The thermometer flashed 101.6. The flu had won. The inaugural streak was over. I would watch it helplessly beneath a mound of blankets.

Turns out that was the high-water mark for Mr. Flu Virus. For me, anyway. Meanwhile, Millie was exactly 24 hours behind. With my war deescalating and hers just heating up, I was now in the role of caretaker. The worst moment came Monday night when she hit 102.2. I quickly googled “fevers of 102.” Not something you want to have for more than a day. But also not an emergency like hitting 104.

Millie pronounced that she was officially in mortal fear. She said, accurately, “Thousands of people die from this every year!” I went into all-business mode. I presented two Advil tablets and an orange juice. “Take this now. You are not going to die. You’re not 88 years old. You’re a healthy woman in her 40s. There is also no mystery what the cause is- you have the flu.”

We added some wet towels to the equation. Within an hour we got her down to the 101’s again and eventually to 100.5. I felt a little like Florence Nightingale.

The fever’s gone and I’m marching back to work in the morning but I have to say, every muscle in my body still aches as if the flu and my antibodies had just spent three days in a no-rules, anything-goes fight with knives and broken bottles.

This story is being replicated in millions of households in 48 states at last count. I have no idea why Hawaii and Tennessee are the only places not reporting a flue epidemic but either one of them is looking like a pretty good place to hang out right about now.

  1. Pam
    January 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Did you get a flu shot?

    • January 22, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      I honestly don’t know. They kept offering me one when I was hospitalized last year but I don’t actually know whether they gave it to me or not. Guess not. Or…I was on the bad side of the 32% of folks who will get the flu anyway, shot or no shot.

  2. Irma Spencer
    January 23, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Hi Robert. I am sorry that you were sick. Did you have a flu shot? Did Millie? We have been OK but then we don’t got into crowds much. However we are flying to Atlanta Thursday and airplanes are full of germs. Hope you both are well now. Irma

    Irma Spencer irmaspence@verizon.net

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