She’s behind you, she’s got swine flu..
Everyone secretly wants it, the new pandemic flu virus. So is swine flu all it’s cracked up to be? Sinead Nolan, victim and journalist, reports…
8.00am I awoke – not to an alarm, but instead to an insistent pain in my throat. I would willingly go back to sleep, but I am due to travel back to Ireland today from Nottingham. I have been living there for the past year and today I move home. My bags are ridiculous. My suitcase, The Beast With One Wheel, containing all my worldly belongings, needs carrying down the three precarious flights of stairs. As well as this I have a two ton rucksack, a handbag and a cardigan to carry. I don’t feel I have the energy for this, but as am blissfully unaware at this stage that a virus has already begun to take my body hostage. I am like a fly moving innocently toward a carefully spun web, as the spider watches.
1.00pm I miss my connection. I call my mother in Ireland. “I’ve missed my boat! And think I might have swine flu.” I say all at once, as horrified onlookers edge away from me in their seats. I decide to stay with friends in Chester, spreading my illness around just like an abundant love drug. I get off the train and drag The Beast With One Wheel to the free bus which takes you into the town of Chester. I wrestle with some cobblestones and another bus. My throat is so painful now I can barely swallow – it feels like someone’s shoved a mozzarella ball down there, covered in razorblades. Fun times.
8.30am the next morning. I am in a taxi. The driver is a scouser. “Ay Dublin, alright, they love us over there innit.” I catch sight of my face in the rearview mirror. I am as pale as a sheet. ‘I’m not feeling too good.” I say to the driver. “Ya alright?” he says. “I may have swine flu,” I hear myself whisper. I feel strangely detached like I am watching the scene from outside the taxi. “Aye don’t give us the swine,” he replies, sympathetically.
9.00 am I arrive at the train station. I dump my bags on the platform. Suddenly I have the urge to throw up. “Excuse me,” I say to a man sitting down on the seat. “Could you watch these for me please?” I say as calmly as possible. He nods. I turn and run to the bathroom like a mad woman. Uh-oh. This is not good.
10.00am I am back on the train. I give my housemate Ana a call. I am not alone. Apparently my other housemates have all the symptoms too. We decide we must have caught it on the town on Friday night. “And diarrhoea,” she adds to the list, sounding disgusted. “Oh funny, I haven’t got that yet,” I say. “Maybe not everyone gets that.” I am about to find out this is an early leap of faith. Again I am getting suspicious looks from the people sitting near me on the train. “Yep, it must be the swine,” I say, which gets raised eyebrows. “Oh hang on Ana, I’ve got to go,” I jump up and dash to the toilet.
11.00am I call NHS direct. If you want information on swine flu, please press one. If you want to speak to an advisor please hold the line. I hold – for ages. Eventually a woman comes on. She wants to know where I am. I tell her I’m on a train. “Where?” she asks. I don’t know. “So are you in England or Wales?” – “Wales,” I guess. “Ok, so what are your symptoms?” she says. I tell her all of them. Then she asks me lots of questions. I know some of them are trick questions, because she asks me if I have clusters of purple spots. I don’t have that, but I do have the achy body, cough, swollen glands, stomach issues and general body weakness. At the end, like the sorting hat in Harry Potter, I wait in anticipation to find out what I’ve won. Swine flu, apparently. “You’ll need to go home and stay there. Take paracetamol and drink plenty of water,” she advises. Deal with it, basically. To be fair, I could have figured that out myself.
4.00pm I take myself to bed when I get home, with a Lemsip. My family think it’s a huge joke, and display no signs of sympathy whatsoever. Nottingham is currently a ‘hot-spot’ for it I explain. They think I am making it up, I can tell. Among accusations of drama queen, I drift off to sleep, waking up occasionally, in a pool of my own sweat.
3.00am I am in tears and shaking on the end of my bed while my mother hugs me. I cannot breathe very well. She rubs my back. “Don’t!” I cry “My skin hurts!” she looks at me worriedly – finally. “Lie down and get some sleep,” she advises me leaving the door ajar. I feel horrible.
10.00am next morning I wake up and call the doctor. I cannot believe how weak I feel, I have no motivation to do anything, and all I can think of is the flu. “I have swine flu,” I moan all the time. By now I am sick of my own voice. I am sick of hearing the word swine flu come out of my own mouth. It sounds so whiny – swiiine fluuuu. But I can’t help it.
11.00am The doctor calls back, he wants me to sneak in when no one is around. Surely this is the biggest drama that’s hit my village in years. I feel like a covert leper. My friends won’t even see me, and I haven’t seen them in months. My best friend won’t come around because she is really scared she might get it and then infect her granny. “Sinead, I don’t want to finish her off,” she said with real fear in her voice.
12.15 I am in the doctor. He takes my temperature. “It’s gone down,” he said. It’s typical of my temperature to show me up like this. I feel have to get across how bad the last two days has been. The doctor takes a swab from my mouth and nose, and concludes it ‘probably’ is swine flu but we won’t know for two weeks. I then get charged 55 Euro for the non-diagnosis, and given a prescription for Tamiflu for 40 Euro. I’ll get by on the Lemsip, I growl at the poor unsuspecting pharmacist. Surely a pandemic medicine should be free! I take these angry thoughts back to my sick bed, where I remain for the rest of the day. Swine flu brought out the pig-headedness in me today. Tomorrow who knows what thrills are in store!