Flu season and I got it, too.


Not sure on what I should do,

My temperature serves as my cue

And another good reason

At this time, it’s the season

To suspect that I’ve gotten the flu.

Synopsis: I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went for adventures working in out-of-the-way locations. After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took a part-time position with a Community Health Center, where I worked for 3 years and left because of a troubled relationship with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.  Now I’m back from a road trip, working a bit with one of the rural docs, and getting ready for another job in Alaska.

Shaking chills didn’t set in till after I left the clinic.

I hadn’t felt well most of the day, with a cough and runny nose and violent sneezes.  But I kept track of my temp, and no matter how badly I felt, it never strayed north of 99.3.

Despite the muscle aches, headache, and loss of appetite, I thoroughly enjoyed the morning.  I got to treat anxiety that bore no relation to alcoholism or other self-defeating behaviors.  People came to me with colds and coughs; I listened to what they said and I listened to what they didn’t say.  I got to treat a case of pneumonia appropriately with antibiotics, and I avoided antibiotics for those who didn’t need them.

Although snowy roads and the consequent crawling traffic got me to the rural clinic 30 minutes late, patient flow proceeded well.  The nurse and I stepped into the bitter cold about 11:00AM to walk the 30 yards to the nursing home.

I napped after my midday sandwich, but I slept longer than my usual 18 minute power nap.  The original schedule listed one patient after lunch, but the update brought one at 1:45 and another at 2:30.

I didn’t feel my best and I didn’t mind that more patients came.  In fact I reveled in my work, though between patients and dictations I kept asking the nurse to check my temperature.

I would have left if I had had a fever.

The final patient tested positive for influenza A.  I prescribed oseltamivir, called in my last dictation as my voice plunged into the subwoofer range, and accepted the nurse’s proffered Tylenol.

I thanked the staff for a great day; I had enjoyed myself immensely, and we agreed we’d done a lot of people a lot of good.  We went over the patients we’d seen, the stubborn headache relieved, the back pain addressed, the surprising results of a urine drug screen.

I slipped my fleece jacket over my white coat and stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine and single digit temperature.

But I shivered violently as I pulled onto the state highway; I had a good hunch I’d contracted influenza despite being on preventative oseltamivir.

Forty minutes later, as soon as I got home, I crawled into bed.  By then my temp had gotten to 100.5; barely a fever but enough to make me feel lousy.

Next morning my doctor confirmed my suspicions, bumped my dose of the anti-viral, added in a second anti-viral, and advised Is hydrate well.

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