I called in sick. I have not done that a lot. In fact, this is the first time I did it. Many times, I just grit my teeth and willed myself to work, even if I felt like I was ran over by a truck.
I have this notion that doctors should not get sick. For who will take care of the patients? But am I really be of help or be more of harm if I go to work, while I myself is sick? After much deliberation, and after foregoing the feeling of guilt, I made the call.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no superhuman. In fact, I get sick more often than my wife. She chided that I am built poorly and of cheap quality materials. During my childhood days in Manila, we call our classmates who get sick easily “Made in Taiwan.” We pride ourselves to be “Made in Japan” or “Made in USA” if we’re the only ones left standing. Nothing against products from Taiwan. Accept it or not, we Filipinos sometimes can be racist. I am sure being made in Taiwan nowadays does not have that connotation.
I am trying so hard not to get sick. I exercise regularly, and I try to eat healthy, and I even got my flu shot. But I still got sick. Being a physician, when you’re dealing with ill patients all day, and they are coughing in your face, it’s just a matter of time that you’ll get it too. Plus we are in the middle of the flu epidemic and it is particularly bad this season.
I am in bed for 2 days straight now. I know, that in itself can make my head hurt. I am popping Advil every 4 to 6 hours round the clock, just to get relief from the fever and the body aches, even though I don’t like taking medicine.
I isolated myself in our bedroom, as I asked my wife to sleep in another room, so she’ll not get what I have. This is not the time for ‘sharing.’ I also put on a mask whenever I go out of the room, and ate separately away from the table.
I was having chills and fever when my thoughts wandered into the times in the past, when I was also sick in bed.
I was in our home in Manila, with high fever. I was still so young, that I don’t go to school yet. My body was full of red spots that were very itchy, and I’m trying my best not to expose them. (Bawal daw mahanginan.) I believe I got the measles. My mom would continuously put a wet towel in my head to try to lower my temperature. But despite of that, I was to the point of hallucinating, that my mother said I was seeing things that were not there.
Then there was the time I was in Kindergarten, when I again had a fever, and one side of my face swelled up. I looked like a squirrel that has an acorn in one of its cheek. I had the mumps. My folks painted a bluish gooey something on my face. It is a concoction of clay, blue dye and vinegar, which was a popular folklore remedy for mumps in the Philippines. My classmates in Kindergarten stopped by our house to visit me, and they saw me with my painted blue puffed-up cheeks.
I know, I know, you may be asking, why did I get both the measles and mumps when I was a child. Why was I not vaccinated? Were my parents against vaccination? Not really. I was just born before the era when MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine became available worldwide. It was later offered in our school when I was older, I think I was in Grade 2 or 3. My classmates and I lined up and I received those injections despite my silent protestation as I was scared of needles.
There were several other times that I was sick as a child with colds, and my mother would put Vicks Vaporub in my chest and back. Even in my nose, when my nose was clogged up and could not breathe. She would also put Vicks Vaporub in my feet and then put socks on me, telling me that will help my fever. For many Filipinos, Vicks Vaporub and White Flower ointment were a cure-all treatment for any ailment. To this day, I hate the smell of them.
Now that I have the MD degree after my name, I know that the blue paint on my cheek and the Vicks Vaporub on my feet perhaps caused nothing to help my sickness. But perhaps just the fact that I am loved and my parents were showing they care, the best that they know how, was enough to make me feel better. And that eventually healed me of my illness.
Many times, showing people that we care for them, is enough to relieve them of their malady. I know I have plenty of that in my home as a child, and in my home now. Even when I feel terrible with this illness, I know that I am being attended to, not necessarily by a medical team, but more importantly by people who really cared for me. In fact, I still have the cup of salabat on my night lamp stand that my wife brought me this morning, and I could already smell the sinigang that she is cooking.
I was having chills when I glanced outside the window. Snow is now falling softly. I am not going anywhere. More reason to snuggle under the covers the whole day.
(*These thoughts were concocted 3 weeks ago. I think I got influenza, and I was house-bound for 5 days. Photo taken with an iPhone.)
I’m glad you are feeling better now, Doc!
same thing, buti naka-recover na kayo sir. no matter how hard we try not to SL, minsan need din. 🙂
True. Thank you.
New year resolution ko huwag na magSL tapos 2nd week ng January nagkasakit ako lol.
Yeah, I don’t think we can control those circumstances. Salamat ulit.
I think this is the difference in health care in the US and the Philippines.
In the US, machines monitor and take care of you.
In the Philippines, the hands and touch of nurses (usually very pretty) and the doctors look after you.
You guess where I would want to spend my last days.
By the way, I am of the generation when “Made in Japan” also meant poor quality. “Bilin mo ng Lunes, sira na ng Martes.” we used to say.
That’s interesting, that just means the products of one country can improve in time. Because in my youth, when we assemble a bicycle, we prefer parts made in Japan, rather than Taiwan, as it means better quality. Of course, parts made in Germany or US are good too, but way more expensive.
Loving hands always heal.
P. S. – I have always wondered how doctors deal with an impending death – their own.
I’m not sure. Though I know we’ll all come to that. But here’s my take, if a physician has a serious illness of his own, and he knows its prognosis, it may be hard to be too hopeful and positive. Which I think can be a disadvantage. Thanks for asking.
I have no objections when today’s physicians in our hospital like infectious desease M.D. pulmonologist and hospitalist wears mask when they approach and interviews patients who are sick wether they are coughing or not coughing, some patients will just cough on your face and without proper manners of covering their mouth when they cough. I can understand children doing that but there are many grownups who doesn’t care and seemingly wanted others to have their miseries too.
That’s why when I came back to work, especially in the hospital, I am constantly wearing a mask.