Roy Exum: The Flu Can Get Worse

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’ve always been a big believer in playing the percentages. If I can find a way to get a legitimate edge, or just a little nudge in this process we call life, I’ll always take “the blessing” rather than “the curse.” Back in November, knowing full and well a flu shot is only effective 65 percent of the time, I happily got inoculated and said a prayer as I did it. So imagine my surprise on Sunday morning – around 4 a.m. – I realized that just like millions of Americans I have a dandy case of the flu.

Because I’ve always tried to never be “just ordinary,”  I’ve got to tell you that in early December a loathsome blood disease called osteomyelitis came back into my life, requiring a couple of surgeries.

Further, a synovial cyst on my spinal cord, which was removed last February, has come back a little larger than it was so I’m the last guy on earth who needs fever and chills, aching joints, and a bad attitude.

Just as I thought it can’t get any worse, a perfect storm of circumstances just inducted me into the Pitiful Hall of Fame and in the event of going through the most unwelcome throes of our nation’s flu epidemic, let me assure you anything under the sun can always get worse. Right now I feel like a modern-day Job and, while I realize no one of earth wants to hear about another man’s misery, take great comfort if you have never been “stove up.”

When my osteomyelitis unexpectedly reared its head in early December, the doctors operated a couple of times to remove the infection but then comes a lengthy course of powerful antibiotics that make you feel miserable. These medicines are real strong, so strong they kill both the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in your body. In order to cope, you eat two different kinds of yogurt every day in an attempt to keep everything “regular.” There is nothing fun about it.

At the same time, my sciatica – this terrible condition where a main nerve from your spine to your leg gets pinched – was getting worse and we have been waiting on MRIs, getting through the holidays and the promise of the New Year to address it. Two weeks ago, for some unexplainable reason, the nerve problem got measurably worse. The only relief comes from Hydrocodone drugs and, as detestable as they may well be, I find I have no choice in fighting the constant pain.

Last week I underwent an epidural injection for relief, which didn’t work as well as we had hoped it would, yet between the narcotics, the antibiotics, and all else going on, maybe it was my new case of flu that tilted my internal scales. All I know is that my insides abruptly quit working. This past weekend I looked for everything I could find to fix my newest siege - Metamucil, Milk of Magnesia, copious Gator-Aid, gallons of yogurt – you name it.

Prayer? Are you kidding me; I was begging like I would for the No. 3 horse in the fifth race. Nothing worked. So when the cramps and pain got bad enough about 3:30 on Monday morning, I went to Erlanger’s Emergency Room and cried, “Uncle.” I’ve had a lot of things happen, both good and bad, but being “stove up” might take the cake.

We went from X-rays, pain medicine, MRIs, and bags of fluid while – all the while – I was sweating and chilling with the flu. It was so bad that when one nurse said they wanted to catheterize me I wondered what had we been waiting on. Finally, towards the end of the afternoon, I felt something pop inside and got to the toilet a half-second before the Aswan Dam broke free.

I want to call it the worst day I ever spent, but I set some national records about six years ago. This came close. The whole experience was awful. I got past any modesty problems years ago and I am now way too smart to let my pride get in the way of asking for help. But this is to verify that if you think your flu is bad, and you are tiring of the chicken soup, things can always get a little worse.

I’m of the thought that the secret to treating the flu is to force down liquids. Don’t dare get dehydrated. Try to stay home rather than share your new curse with those you love, and constantly wash your hands using warm water and soap. If you are taking antibiotics, yogurt is your friend and “good bacteria” has a better chance if you’ll eat one brand in the morning and a different one in the afternoon.

Above all, take any steps you can imagine to keep your insides happy – being clogged up is a whole lot worse than the flu.

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