I get the flu shot every year for a variety of reasons. To protect the ones I love, to ensure I’m not putting my patients at risk of getting the flu virus and, if I’m honest about it, to protect myself. Why? Because the flu sucks, like, really sucks.
I got sick with the flu a few years back and my experience was not pleasant. Like other years, I had intended to get the flu shot. That year however, I was sent on an emergency project abroad for a humanitarian aid organization, and the vaccine was not available at the time of my departure.
Let me paint you a picture. I woke up to the thick, heavy heat of an almost 40 C African morning. I was feeling exhausted and sore, like the type of sore where you feel like you just completed the most demanding workout of your life, but I hadn’t.
That morning, I was to attend a team meeting. I left for work, chalking up my fatigue and soreness to working long days with physically demanding tasks. Maybe I didn’t sleep well during the night? These were the excuses I used to convince myself as my body jostled around the truck on the way to work. They were all lies; I always sleep well; my muscles hadn’t been tired the night before. This was something else.
As I arrived at work, I noticed a headache. I tried to fight it back by drinking water, hoping I’d feel better. It didn’t work. Moments later, I started my team meeting. Out of nowhere, while speaking to everyone, I threw up. No warning, no first gag before the big reveal, it all came out at once. I ran out of the meeting, worried there might be more to come, and there certainly was. I went home for the day.
That evening, fever and chills joined my now-pounding headache. I wondered if something bigger could be going on and got tested for malaria. The results came back negative. Meanwhile, my symptoms continued to develop — my throat was sore, I started coughing, my nose was running and half-stuffed — the kind of situation where the only solution is to stuff a piece of toilet paper up your nostril. Over the next couple of days, some team members also began to develop the same symptoms. Before we knew it, we were all sick. Our project was on hold. We had the flu.
This experience left me wary of the flu. I say with confidence I’ll be getting immunized early and will do it mainly for myself. I never want to feel like that again. And for those around me, I want them to get immunized too. Let’s all work together to protect each other from this virus that can be debilitating to so many.
COVID-19 has already left a significant mark on our healthcare system and community. I wouldn’t want to see another preventable illness like the influenza add extra stain. Let’s all work together to protect each other from this virus that can be debilitating to so many.
– Leah Kennedy, Primary Care and Chronic Disease Management Registered Nurse / Population Health Consultant