Surviving the flu

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2004

I had been closely following news reports about the flu, and in mid-December was fortunate to track down and have administered what was likely one of the last flu vaccines in Suffolk, if not Virginia.

I’d never taken the threat of flu seriously before, it being only the second time in my 42 years that I’ve had the shot. But this year’s strain seemed particularly insidious.

I had watched my wife suffer for a week. Reporter Barbara Allen and her husband Joseph were stricken on Christmas Eve and we didn’t see or hear from her for a week.

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Throughout it all, though, I remained healthy and robust and each day congratulated myself on being so smart – that is until Tuesday.

I started feeling weird that morning. By 8 p.m. I had been knocked off my feet and I had a raging fever of 102. That night was awful. I sweated through my clothes and bedding.

The next morning I would awaken with what felt like the worst hangover imaginable. Several glasses of cranberry juice and about a thousand milligrams of Motrin would get me feeling close to normal by about noon. That was the routine for the next three days.

It would be Saturday before I could leave the sofa for a trip any longer than about a minute. Unable to hold my head and arms up long enough to read the newspaper, television was my only diversion and it wasn’t much of one.

Daytime TV fare leaves something to be desired. Not being a soap opera, talk show or European soccer fan, that left only the24-hour cable news channels. And they didn’t seem to have any interest in anything happening outside the confines of Iowa.

For three straight days I watched Howard Dean flipping pancakes, heard polls that had Dean and Dick Gephardt at 23 percent, John Kerry at 19 percent and John Edwards at 17 percent, Gephardt speaking to a crowd of old people, Kerry mimicking smoking a joint while singing &uot;Puff the Magic Dragon; a poll six hours later that had Kerry at 22 percent, Dean and Gephardt at 19 and Edwards at 17; Dennis Kucinich trying to find somebody who will listen, Carol Mosely Braun quitting the race and supporting Dean; another poll that had Kerry at 24 percent, Dean at 21, Gephardt at 19 and Edwards at 18; John Kerry flipping pancakes; it was endless and excruciating.

It would take Michael Jackson’s arraignment on Friday to get the news channels out of Iowa. But with my temperature still at 102, I was sure the end was near after about an hour of that nonsense. I don’t know whether it was the fever or the medication, but I began hallucinating at one point during the broadcast. I could swear I saw him dancing on the roof of his SUV limo outside the arraignment. That stuff can play crazy tricks on your mind.

I rallied that evening and managed to celebrate my 17th wedding anniversary watching &uot;Don Juan DeMarco&uot; on DVD with my wife.

Mercifully, I awakened Saturday reasonably dry and at least not shivering. By the time this gets into people’s hands I plan to be well on my way to recovery.

The flu is still out there my friends, looking for a place to land. And much to my surprise, I learned that a flu shot does not protect you from it, but merely increases your chances of surviving it. My time on the sofa opened my eyes somewhat to what’s going on in the world via TV news, and you know something? After seeing so much of that stuff, not surviving it no longer seems like such a scary thing.

Andy Prusok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail: