Feb 16 2015: Unclean, Unclean

I’m sure when I was doing history at school, we learnt about the plague of 18someting, and there was a story about how some unfortunate soul would wander the streets collecting the dead on a wheel barrow and shouting “Unclean, unclean” as he went. Or maybe it was something to do with leprosy in 17something? I didn’t really listen much in history class I’ll be honest.

Anyway, I kinda wish we had the same attitude to infections nowadays; that warning as someone sick is coming down the road towards you. Or a quarantine room separate from the normal waiting room at the doctors’ surgery for those with a particularly phlegmy cough. Unclean, unclean!

(It’s always the ones with particularly phlegmy coughs that seem incapable of covering their damn mouths when they hack and phlegm away, have you noticed that?)

This week when I had a chat with the receptionist at the surgery, I learnt that they had confirmed 3 cases of Whooping Cough in unvaccinated kids in the last week. (No, this isn’t about to turn into a rant about how you should vaccinate your kids. Although you should do that.) They should go into the Quarantined Waiting Room. Unclean, unclean!

The past couple of weeks I have been fighting off an infection. Given how much it’s knocked me around, you would be forgiven for thinking I’d had a mild case of ebola. The problem is, when I get sick, my immune system responds in a very special way.

It does its thing by going after the infection and doing what it can to fight that off. Unfortunately, it then turns on itself. Well, me. This time it’s gone after joints and muscles so I had swollen and sore joints most of last week. I also had an increase in the muscle spasms I get, and jolting pains through the larger muscle groups. Not only that, it’s exhausted me. All that work my immune system was doing trying to fight off the infection and going after my own cells as well meant that I had to do a lot of sleeping and resting.

That’s why I’m so careful about spending time around sickies. If something as simple as a throat infection can pretty much put me out of action for a week or more, you can imagine what might happen if I got the flu, or pneumonia, or bronchitis.

My old boss developed bacterial bronchitis and I insisted that he stay away from the office and if he did need to come in, that I would go home and work. I refused to be in the same air space as him until he had completed the course of antibiotics. He thought I was being silly until I explained to him that catching something like that would see me in bed for a lot longer than he had been.

It’s not just the issues during the infection or sickness though. It’s recovering afterwards. I know it’ll be weeks before I’ve got back on top of things and I feel “right” again.

I’ve done incredibly well in avoiding most nasty things; this is the first really bad infection I’ve had in 6 years. But it’s been a good reminder to me that something normally innocuous, could be the thing that knocks me for a lot more than 6.

That’s why if you turn up to my house hacking and phlegming away, you might find yourself turned around and sent away. Don’t be bringing your sickie germs into my space! And don’t be offended if I’m shouting after you “Unclean, unclean!”


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