The last time I had any kind of throat infection was my first Summer as a supervisor. I'd been working 50+ hours at the new hotel and not getting much sleep on my days off. My sister was visiting with her family for a week. So while the stress of a new job and resultant responsibilities peaked and somewhere over the 100% mark at the height of the tourist season, the stress of dealing with my sister's visit put me over the edge.
Normally visits with my sister are fine. But that was back in the day before I estranged my brother. She is in reconciliation facilitation mode and I knew she'd set up a meet. Plus she has 6 very active kids and had planned my days off for me to cram more in than I did in the week at the hotel. Anticipation made me nuts! Just because everything she wanted to do would be fun didn't mean that it wouldn't cost energy that I needed to have for work.
The week came and sure enough. Sister night included my brother. No apologies for stealing my money, no apologies for letting me be homeless so that he wouldn't be. No apologies for not reimbursing me all that was due. No apologies for anything*. Just "Why can't we get along?" Hmm... I wonder. And then, "Why don't you like me?" The age old doubled edged answer that always leaves me open to condemnation because I don't lie about the answer like everyone wants me to. I answer it honestly, just like when I am asked, "You know what I don't like about you?" when the subject is anything but me. Bed time couldn't arrive soon enough. I wasn't in my own bed, I'd been overwhelmed with meeting eight new people and having to sleep all in the same house only to be told we were all doing the Dune Climb in the morning to the rally cry "We leave at Dawn!" It was already 3 am.
The Dune Climb has never been a thing that I have been able to complete. Not in 5th grade and not now. It was extremely hot even though I brought an umbrella for the rosacae, water for hydration, wore layers of light clothes that were easily deducted and took my time. Half way up I found the one tree on the trail and sat with a newly introduced cousin to color while the others went all the way down Lake Michigan. I came prepared for several contingencies. When they got back we got ice cream, went the the beach and then went back to my sister's rental cabin. Despite protections and taking it easy I was cooked. I went home to sleep. And woke the next day with one of the worst sore throats I have ever had. Went to the Walk In Clinic and boom! Strep!
Work made me take the full recovery time off. I was laid flat for 7 days. This illness was intense but the laying out flat was only for 4. I have a hard time with prolonged activity on day five but I am not out flat. And it wasn't strep. Doctor didn't know what was going on. He said that there were six different bacteria on the swab. My uvula swelled to the point if I laid wrong I would wake up trying to swallow it, choking and hacking and trying to squirt it back out of the wedge between my tonsils so it could continue to block my airway. It was nasty. The whole thing was the consistency of a thick and chunky mucus. And that it wasn't detached and able to be swallowed just kicked in the gag reflex and started the panic-inducing process of vomiting. Thank God THAT didn't happen!. The fever was so intense when it first started in the middle of the night that it woke me up. For 4 hours I laid in bed contemplating going to ER, peeing every hour and studying my throat wondering if waiting for a walk in clinic was smart as I watched the uvula swell.
At 10 am I texted my flatmate that we needed to go to a walk in clinic. My fever was so high I saw double and I couldn't focus. By the time I got to the clinic I was so delirious I could barely function. Some little kid asked his dad if I was a ghost. That Summer tan I got gathering rocks? It was with me until this illness. As I climbed onto the exam bed my lounge pants rode up my leg and it was gone. The color was gone save for the bluing around the veins near the surface.
After we got meds and got home I was able to muddle through the call in process at work. My third day to call in. I only get 4 in 6 months and each day of an illness counts. The next day there was no improvement. I called again. No one told my manager I called in so she panicked 15 minutes after my shift was supposed to start. "You know we have to terminate you if you don't come in." I couldn't talk. I didn't get my voice back until day 4 and that was day 2. Undoubtedly, as my flatmate and I work at the same place, she had been regaled with tales of my painful illness, the eyes rolling into the back of the head, the heat radiation off of me so strongly the cats avoided my skin, the text only communicating in person and the fumble thumbs making written communication difficult. i am sure she told her about sunlight causing me to shrink into my bed like a vampire in his coffin and that the slightest noise caused my to twist and contort with silent screams as my hands covered my ears. The joint pain that caused me to continuously flex and move to try to alleviate the bone crushing agony at my ankles, then my knees, then my hips to calm for five minutes before the waves of pain started again.
Whatever this non-strep non-tonsillitis condition this was my entire body was fighting it. I couldn't eat more that a few spoons of yogurt to make the medicine go down without my stomach doing cartwheels and threatening the dreaded dry heaves with each pill. I couldn't think about termination. I couldn't think. Not clearly. Yet here I am trying to appease the corporate gods by filling out application for leave of absence. I can't get the website to sign me in. Frustration mounting and no one can fucking understand me. Not at work. Not on the corporate line. But I was supposed to still come in and work? The process finally completes after nearly an hour on the phone, of my straining to be heard over the choke hold my throat has on me and I get told two very chilling things: I have 20 days for them to approve the leave I may not have leave approved after their underwriting docs look it over. So I won't know until middle March if I am fired for this or not.
More chilling though is the information that I got on day 3. I'd slept rather fitfully for a few hours to recover from the corporate shuffle then called the doctors office to tell them to expect that packet and that if there was a fee for filling it out I would be in Thursday to pick it up. "We don't do that." Do what? "We don't fill out leave paperwork." What? "At all, period. We don't. See your GP." I don't have one. "I'm sorry about your situation. Good luck." But it's my job on the line. "I guess you'll have to take that up with them."
I've been in panic mode for the last two days though yesterday you would hardly know. Somewhere into day four the clinic called to do a follow up. The very nice guy told me I should have some improvement and that I needed to come in. I told him it would be Thursday before I had money. And that please have the doctor fill out paperwork because it would cost me my job. He was sympathetic, told me he would talk to the doctor and it should be okay if it was that dire. Apparently reception at the desk is as foul and unevenly tempered as cell reception at the beach. I slept in peace until the second follow up. This young lady had zero sympathy and told me to go to the hospital to get billed for a followup and have them fill out paperwork. WHAT?
You see, she called around 3pm. I had no way of getting to hospital on my own as the flatmate was at work. Resigned to a fate I could not control I sucked on my Ricola from Germany and let my mind wander. My care package came for my birthday and there were health and wellness gifts inside. So I just enjoyed what I could in the condition I was in and slept. By the time I woke at 8 the fever broke. By 10 I felt my throat had improved by at least 50%. I had my color back and took a bath. Yep! Tan was still there. Voice was still gone and I was weak as a baby but there was finally improvement. Then panic. How is the hospital going to do a follow up now that I feel better?
Today I am not 100%. I am able to eat semi-solids, the headache was the last thing to leave me. I can mostly swallow and breathe through my nose without worrying that my throat will slam shut. My vision is still a bit out of focus but that may be the panic attack waiting for full blown conflagration. My heart rate is elevated again. And now, at 6 am, I have been up for three hours trying to figure out what to do if that paperwork doesn't happen.
When did doctors stop excusing you from work based on illness? Since when is that a thing? How fucking hard is it to fill out a single piece of paper that says this is what she had, how sever and when we expect her to return to work? I'll go back on Friday and I might get turned away or I might end up working the last 3 weeks of shifts. I don't know. All I know is that I am in full blown dismay and the headache is coming back.
What the Fuck America? What. The. Literal. Fuck!
*The painfully short version of the complicated financial crisis that ensued as a result of our dad dying