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An Adult Sick Day

As a child, I always looked forward to sick days as though my body chose to let its guard down. The relentless white blood cells chose to take a vacation or could not compete with the overwhelming flood of pathogens. That was fine with me during a childhood that was not always ideal in the jungle of the schoolyard. It was essentially like a paid holiday. As long as there was not vomiting or other unpleasant body functions, I was fine with being taken care of for an entire day especially in elementary school where missing out on two days of academic material did not require a week of catching up as would be the case in high school and college. The best memories I have of sick days are being able to plop myself down in front of the television in the early 1990s watching the lineup of Nick Jr. The process of growing up happened at a glacial pace, and I was still entertained by programming that was geared toward preschoolers such as, “The Elephant Show,” “Maya the Bee,” Eureeka’s Castle” and “Adventures of the Little Koala” that were only on TV when the big kids were at school. At some point perhaps I outgrew this pastime that seems like it was a complete waste of time as a 37-year-old adult. But back then it felt very damn good. These little vacations slightly burdened by physical discomfort were a blessing and refuge from the often-difficult school days if it were a hard year.

Adults can have sick days, but they are not exactly as they used to be in those carefree days of yore and yesteryear! They are a day off only not! They are much more rare due to a stronger adult immune system (from age 19 to 32 I had not experienced one vomiting episode!) and when they finally do may an appearance it is with a vengeance as though to punish us for the countless days of decent health that does not excuse us from adult responsibilities. And unless we have paid servants or an assistant, we cannot shirk certain types of work especially if there are young children involved. On another note, I do not know if other adults feel the same way, but for me illnesses always seem to happen at the absolute worst possible times similar to romance breakups that revolve around cherished holidays or birthdays. My illnesses typically happen on vacations with six adventures on non-school days being partially destroyed by ailments. I remember ruining my decade-plus, anti-vomiting record and losing close to ten pounds of water weight in just under a day when literally brought to my knees by a brutal case of food poisoning while visiting Pleasanton, CA with Alison to be with her family. Alison and her mother and Deborah were taking care of me as I lay shivering in the guest room bed unable to speak or move much. Deb was coaxing me to drink some Coca-Cola warning that if I did not take in some fluids that I would have to go to the hospital to get an IV line. Despite my emetophobia (fear of vomiting), I reluctantly started sipping the beverage. I distinctly remember her trying to make me feel better by saying, “You know, Jesse. This could have happened yesterday!” (The day before I had a lucrative public speaking engagement at St. Mary’s College.) I remember wanting to tell her, “It would have been really nice if it did not happen period!” But she was right. Even illnesses can happen at ideal times or it is better they ruined something less critical than the week before.

Perhaps my ordeal started on Wednesday morning. I started feeling a little light headed for a moment while instructing my Creative Writing class. But I brushed it off and continued through the rest of the day like a true professional while catering to the needs of the individuals I work with who live with intellectual and/or physical challenges. The feeling went away, and I just assumed it was because of having a very light breakfast. Something was also off on Thursday morning. But at work it started to occur this was more than just adjusting to the sudden cold and aftermath of daylight savings time. At the main office of Living Resources, Inc. I started feeling chills and body aches. After quickly driving down the street to meet an alumnus of the College Experience to photograph them for a blog entry at the Special Olympics office, I text messaged my supervisor and announced that I would be calling it a day while using the generous amount of unused sick time at my disposal. For the rest of last Thursday I slept for what seemed like forever with the hope that it would be enough to recover. (The photo was taken last Thursday in my apartment shortly after returning home from the main office, by the way!) I wanted to believe that the illness was just extreme fatigue or perhaps caffeine withdrawal. But it was not nearly enough to recover.

I slept for most of Friday while hemming and hawing over whether to bail out of the College Experience field trip that I was supposed to lead for a Local History class. In the end, I decided to take two Advil Cold & Sinus pills in hopes that would get me through the day. Without meaning to toot my own horn, I made the adult decision and realized I would feel like a jerk forcing someone to cover for me or cause the entire trip to be cancelled. Occasional bouts of diarrhea are never pleasant, but it was not as though I were bed-ridden or haunted by the horrors of vomiting. I sucked it up and pretended nothing was wrong for about two hours of the workday while with the students. The worst that could happen was making a couple of trips to the restroom. (This illness has given me an appreciation for what someone with a chronic condition like Crohn’s Syndrome or Irritable Bowel Syndrome goes through on a regular basis when life is unpredictable and the nearest restroom may not be close enough or unoccupied.) I also drove an individual to his volunteer assignment later that evening. Saturday was also spent leading an Alumni Activities trip into New York City where we walked the Highline, and I became the Man of the Hour by treating the group and two of their friends to a free meal for all of us at a Quality Eats Restaurant using a $500.00 gift certificate that I won at an EPIC Players Cabaret Event last spring. I held up the gift card and cried out, “Who’s the MAN!?” There were indeed trips to the restroom throughout the day, but it was not too bad and was certainly not enough to ruin the day. But the lunch at Quality Eats exacerbated my illnesses and sent me sprinting to the nearest restroom. On Sunday there was still absolutely no improvement and perhaps it was even a little bit worse. Therefore, I made a beeline to Urgent Care as opposed to contending with a “wait-and-see” attitude that has killed incredible people such as Jim Henson. It is always a win-win situation to get it checked out just in case. “When in doubt…get it checked out!” Even though my supervisor trusts me especially because I do not have a reputation for making up cockamamie stories to get out of work, I wanted to be considerate of her by texting a photo of the doctor's note from Urgent Care to explain that I may be at home watching cartoons for the next few days, but there would be a legitimate reason!

Throughout all of Monday I was still chained to a bathroom and actually lost at least six pounds during this ordeal. While thinking about whether to cancel my Tuesday engagement at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I decided that the 3-5 inches of snow schedule predicted to fall in Geneva, NY was the last straw. I had a premonition of myself racing down the highway to reach the nearest rest area before it is too late only to skid into the guardrail or a telephone pole while immediately having another unpleasant accident (if you know what I mean!). In the end, I truly made the right decision especially because the engagement could be rescheduled before the end of the semester. It is not worth it especially when there is a risk of making a tough few days much worse! The test results finally came back on Monday that clinched the decision to not go to the public speaking engagement considering that if I had been foolish enough to make the three hour trip I would not have been able to pick up the medication from CVS Pharmacy that would shave off the anguish. It turns out that all of this is caused by campylobacter bacteria that often comes from eating undercooked food. I am also on anti-nausea medication, which will help with getting my appetite back in addition to a daily probiotic, and an antibiotic regimen for three days.

Today on Tuesday morning some of the Old Jesse is returning, and there is the energy to create my standard emails while being somewhat productive. Next I am going to send out the flurry of birthday messages like I always do and perhaps return to my job at Living Resources, Inc. or at least pound out a succession of emails from home as a compromise because I would prefer to not take a fourth sick day. I looked out the window to see the first light coating of snow for the season, although it does not look too bad.

This has been one of the most unpleasant five days of my entire life, although I just glad a more critical engagement that requires plane travel was not ruined such as the one for the Brevard Achievement Center in Melbourne, Florida a few weeks ago. Yes, it would have been more ideal of this had not happened period, but it could have been worse. MUCH worse! Also in the spirit of the glass being half-full…I woke up this morning only 194 pounds, which has not been the sight for sore eyes on the damn scale for probably two years! I am also appreciative of Professor Mary Kelly for understanding that these things happen by rescheduling the presence of myself and David Lieberman as though this experience never even happened.

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