Wednesday, 15 September 2010

H1N1 – First Hand Account - A Break From Art

Several weeks ago I started feeling very unwell, but there was nothing that I could really place my finger on and say “this hurts so badly”. A few days later my husband began experiencing the same vague symptoms.

We discovered that the H1N1 virus is and has been one of the most insidious viruses we have ever encountered. Both of us have previously suffered Hong Kong Flu and Avian Flu, so in speaking of the H1N1 virus, we have a lot of experience in what is a ‘nothing much’ virus and what is a virus that could really kill.

H1N1 could kill. Easily.

Those very first 7-14 days were days where we both said that H1N1 was a joke, and that if this is all there is to it, then the media and W.H.O really hyped it up. Sure, we felt badly, but just like an ordinary flu-like virus. Alas, that was just the beginning. I had already told friends I had the flu, but have since shut up as it wasn’t going away and I felt like a drama queen. No flu lasts weeks and weeks!! Or does it?

Around day 14 I awoke coughing to the point where I couldn’t get a breath in unless I physically forced myself not to cough simply in order to breathe. It was frightening, not so much in the velocity, but the feeling that my entire respiratory system was being invaded; I would venture to say it was a sensation that the respiratory system is targeted. My husband suffered similar but his never migrated to his chest – what was strange here was that he still experienced the same shortness of breath, but without all the coughing and mucus, although he has a lot of mucus in the laryngeal area.

Around day 21 my coughing was clearly getting out of control, so having suffered pneumonia before I asked my husband to pound my back in order to loosen the never ending supply of mucus. Yes, this sounds gross, but this is reality. It is not an infection, but eventually the mucus is tinged with blood. The chest is painful, it hurts to cough, and the coughing becomes paroxysmal.

During one of these bouts my husband had me lay face down as he pounded my lungs to try and gain me a little more air. What happened instead is that my respiratory system went into bronchial spasms – a complete lock down occurred except for one tiny wheeze of air I could force air in and out of.

I could not speak past parts of words, and managed to partly get out the word of an asthma inhaler we always keep around the house in case of seasonal allergies. My husband administered the drug as best he could, and as best as I could inhale, but it did start to soothe the airways and passages and allow me to breathe a little better. Emergency care was administered and I was recommended to stay on an inhaler throughout the time span of the flu.

The list of symptoms is almost endless, and having read others accounts around the net, I have discovered that this is one influenza that does not have a one size fits all. The one thing it has in common is that the respiratory system is attacked.

It is now around 4 weeks and although both my husband and I are getting better, both still suffer with lingering symptoms, and sometimes flares of older ones. I get little sleep as my cough is trying to do a complete clean out and has a preference for night time. 1 hour awake, 2 hours sleep, and on we go. Breathlessness is still vague for my husband, and more pronounced in me, but even that symptom almost disappears for an hour or so each day. My husband is plagued with a heavy head that comes and goes. We can only tell each other that as we see some glimmers of flu ‘free times’ this gives us hope that we are on the mend. The fatigue is endless.

Symptoms at a glance

Headache, Earache, Fever, Sweating, Coughing, Muscle Aches and Pains, Muscle Spasms, Insomnia, Sleepiness, Fatigue, Wheezing, Chest Rattles [these resemble death rattles], Sinus Pain, Paroxysmal Coughing Bouts, Breathlessness, Respiratory Failure, Bronchial Spasms, Laryngeal Pain, Never Ending Cough, Massive Mucus Production [there has to be a market for this], Night Coughing, Sore Tongue, Irritated Eyes, Sensitive Eyes, Light Headedness, Dizziness, Mild to Moderate Temporary Cognitive Dysfunction.
No doubt there are symptoms I have missed, but the last listed symptom explains why parts of this entire article may not always make sense – I have tried to give a very honest account close to the ordeal and yet distanced sufficiently to tell it with some comprehension.

Please don’t go on thinking H1N1 is a nothing deal. Sure, some people won’t get it as severe, and others will get it worse, but do you really want to take the risk? If I had it all to do over again, I would have had the vaccination. Neither of us had Tamiflu during the flu. This was a conscious decision.

Please – Stay Safe!

-Zeana Romanovna

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