Individuals affected by neuromuscular disease are at increased risk of serious and possibly life-threatening complications from the flu, so it's important that everyone stays informed and takes steps to protect themselves and their families. Be sure to visit MDA's Flu Season Resource Center to learn more.
In addition to receiving a flu vaccine, there are many other ways to protect yourself and those you love from exposure to influenza, including:
In Sickness and In Health, Except for the Flu
Editor's note: This article by Brice Carroll was published originally in the October-December 2009 issue of Quest magazine.
Both my wife, Sharon, and I took the “in sickness and in health” wedding vow seriously and have been able to keep it very well, even though I’m in a wheelchair and she’s had some back problems.
But when we both got a rough case of the flu at the same time and neither of us could help the other, all bets were off.
She tried to help me as best she could, but couldn’t sit up for more than three seconds at a time. I was valiant as always and overcame extreme illness to help her out as much as she needed, as long as I could do it from under the covers with no actual movement involved. Except for my eyes. I helped her in every way I possibly could with my eyes.
Within 24 hours of the onset, we finally were in the land of the living or at least the land of the not-quite-dying. It took longer to reach the land of the living. And longer still for the land of the speaking. More specifically, the land of the speaking to each other.
At first we didn’t really speak as much as grunt. It’s amazing how much information you can convey in a grunt. It’s all in the inflection, emphasis and guttural involvement. Groaning to communicate didn’t do any good. We were pretty much groaning the whole time.
It wasn’t that we were mad at each other. We just got annoyed when one of us spoke/grunted and the other had to use some of our returning strength to respond.
We finally got around to speaking whole sentences to each other when we learned that our next door neighbors caught the flu from us, and we figured no one else would be speaking to us for a few weeks.
Our friend across the creek, Tom, came by while I was still recovering and gave me a hard time, telling me I’m just not tough enough. He said he’d never get it and even bet me $10 he wouldn’t. I was so concerned for his health that I called him twice a day for three days, and he still hadn’t gotten it. By then I was extremely concerned about his continued good health.
On the morning of the fourth day, I called him and he was sick. But I didn’t gloat or say, “I told you so,” or “you just thought you were tougher than me,” or make the ka-ching sound of a cash register. I laughed long and loud and danced a jig (try that in a wheelchair), but I didn’t gloat. I even told him, “You can give me the $10 when you’re feeling better, probably in two weeks, compared to the measly five days it took me.”
Unfortunately, he got over it in two days, so he still claimed he was tougher than me. But I counter-claimed that I had his $10 and therefore I was smarter than him.
The thing that made the whole flu episode worse was that Sharon and I had gotten our flu shot. Apparently we caught a rare strain of the flu that the shots weren’t designed for. Even so, I promise we’ll never miss our flu shots. Anything that’ll reduce the chances of getting so sick is well worth it. They’re quick, easy and painless. As opposed to the flu which is long, hard and painful.
The ultimate unfairness was that the whole thing started during the Christmas holiday season, a couple of days after Christmas morning. It began with my infant granddaughter, then my brother-in-law’s toddler grandson. Can you spell “projectile vomiting”?
When the children started getting sick, we felt very bad for them, but Sharon and I were unconcerned for ourselves and clueless, thinking we were safe and secure and patting ourselves on the back for our maturity and foresight in getting inoculated.
There’s a saying that “pride goeth before the fall,” and believe me, we wenteth and felleth.
Brice Carroll has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and lives (and suffers) in Hot Springs, Ark.