I’m not one to make waves on Facebook. I don’t post anything political and you’ll never hear me trash talk during football season. I’ll do just about anything to steer clear of online debates except when it comes to the flu vaccine. I jump on my soapbox and I share all the news stories, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stats, and selfies of me getting my annual shot. Why? Because I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s hard to find the facts. But here’s something I can tell you with complete certainty: The flu is no joke. It can and does kill people—so far this season it has killed more than 60 children and even more adults—and until I was almost one of them, I didn’t really understand just how serious it could be.
I was 27 and relatively healthy. My flu symptoms were mild at first. I felt run down, achy, and had a little cough; I stupidly decided I would try to power through. (Sorry, co-workers. It is inconsiderate moves like this that help spread this highly contagious virus.)
At home that night, my symptoms got worse. I did NOT want to admit that I was getting sick, but with a pounding headache, a churning stomach, congestion, and a low-grade fever, it was hard to shrug it off. Thinking I could beat my illness with a hefty dose of over-the-counter cold medication and a solid night’s sleep, I headed to bed and planned to feel much better by morning. I was so, SO wrong. My flu progressed over the next several days to a point where I was having difficulty breathing. I was coughing so hard I couldn’t keep anything down and I was exhausted but too sick to even sleep. I felt worse than I ever could have imagined and the possibility that I was dying passed through my head. I felt that terrible. So terrible, in fact, that when I was finally able to get myself to the hospital, I was admitted and kept there for five days under the constant care of nurses and doctors. I was severely dehydrated and my potassium levels were dangerously low—so low that it was affecting my heart rate. My body was shutting down.