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Dealing with Sickness

Feb 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick KemperMy two older children are battling a bad cold this week. My son, who is 16, rarely gets sick, which is ironic because we almost lost him to autoimmune hemolytic anemia when he was four months old. I don’t remember ever seeing him as sick as last night, when he came home after his basketball game and described to us the phenomenon of the sinus infection, which apparently he has never experienced. He even agreed to drink some herbal tea, which normally would have been dismissed with a scoff. Nothing like a virus to take the edge off a kid.

My daughter, who is 19, planned on getting up at 5 a.m. yesterday to finish preparing for a speech for one of her college courses. I checked on her about 6:20, and she said she wasn’t going to class. She had pretty much lost her voice, so the speech would have to be rescheduled. She got up later in the morning, went to her afternoon classes, then babysat for my nephew and his wife and got home around 9 p.m.

It’s hard to see your kids sick. They’re growing up, so I don’t mind them dealing with adversity and I won’t go so far as to say I’d gladly take their sickness for them. It’s only a bad cold, after all. But I hate sore throats. I never use the word “hate,” so that will give you an idea of how serious I am about that. A badly-placed sore throat could lead to a World War I believe. Of course, I’m a man, and we have low pain thresholds.

Babysitting my nephew’s kids is close to a World War, so I’m impressed that my daughter took that on in the throes of feeling like crap. My son went to his game, and to practice the night before. Our youngest is 10, and he was feeling kind of cruddy the night before when he had basketball practice as well, but he went happily and I think it is in part because of the example set by his older brother and sister. They don’t stay home from school when they’re sick. They don’t miss practices or work. I always work when I’m sick, because my feeling is: if I’m going to feel like crap, I want to be getting paid to feel like crap.

Of course, now I’m on salary so I’m always paid (or not getting paid, depending on how you look at it) so that’s a little different. When I was a commission driver, I didn’t make any money unless I got to work and worked productively. Getting through a shift when I was sick simplified my approach and, in a way, gave me focus. If I kept my mind on the work, the shift went faster. There is something pure about that feeling that you are going to die from your flu symptoms but you keep going, moment by moment. Then I would go home, take some Nyquil, and sleep.

I have missed three workdays due to illness since I moved out of the house when I was 18. I’ve missed more days of elk hunting due to illness than that, so I seriously make an effort to get to work. I’m also lucky never having been in the hospital for even one night.

There’s something to be said for the idea that coming to work spreads your germs around and infects others. I do believe that. But I also think we are too worried about being exposed to germs. My wife was explaining to my son last night that cold medicine only treats symptoms, and he wanted to know what would get rid of his sinus infection. We told him: lots of sleep, eating right, mild exercise, lots of liquids, no stress. It wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. We also explained that he had an advantage many sick people don’t have — he’s young and he’s healthy. So he should come around soon if he takes it easy. He’s been up late a lot lately, and that probably contributed to his susceptibility when he was exposed to the bug.

I also have a theory that we don’t know how bad we really feel in relation to how good we could feel because we can no longer obtain food that has the nutrients that our body has been used to consuming for 10,000 years, and because we are exposed to so many toxins. Yes, life expectancy was much lower 100 years ago, but partially hydrogenated whatever just can’t be improving our quality of life. Not to mention what pouring chlorine down your gut all day can do. But then again, if we felt too good, who would ever want to go to work?

“Not I,” said the fox.