He stood in the doorway, eating an orange, looking at me with an expression that conveyed both amusement and half-exasperation.
I was sitting in front of my laptop with an ice-cube wrapped in a hanky pressed against my eye….first one then the other.
‘What happened now?’ he asked, smiling.
I knew what he was getting at of course.
‘The backs of my eyeballs hurt.’ It’s good to be specific.
‘Maybe your eyes are getting strained? Wear your glasses woman!’
I was prescribed reading glasses last week, because (a) I couldn’t thread a needle properly, and (b) the book I was reading (‘Snow’ by Orhan Pamuk) had such a teeny weeny print that I could only read it if I kept it two feet away from my eyes and even then it kind of hurt. It was Huz of course, that not only nagged me into it, he even accompanied me to the optic shop to get my eyes checked.
‘Maybe it has something to do with the sneezing fits you’ve been having. Did you take your allergy medicine last night?’
Yes, I did. I’ve been taking allergy medication a doctor prescribed to me last October, when I had such a severe attack of the wheezes that I would wake up in the morning unable to breathe until I took a couple of puffs of my trusty Ventolin. And now it’s October again. And there’s something slightly comforting in the predictability of my situation because I know now what I must do.
I never thought of myself as a sickly child, but the last four years have forced me to wake up and smell the coffee. I fall virulently ill at least once a year, and by virulently I do mean that I need to be rushed to an emergency care unit.
In 2006, it was chicken pox. I got it from Amu. We fussed over her, and pampered her, swabbing her 22 spots with calamine lotion to soothe the itchiness and felt ever so sorry for the poor little thing. Little did I know what I was in for when I fell sick with fever one day and broke out into spots the next. Adult chicken pox turned out to be a thousand times worse than what kids suffer. At the end of the first week, I had been through the worst illness of my life (until then), pain and discomfort so intense it made me think tearfully about all the sins I was being so severely punished for. Helpless, and in quarantine, I couldn’t step out of the house for 4 weeks because (a) I could cause a chicken pox epidemic (b) I could only wear a very thin, very loose nightie, which would cake on me due to the bottles of calamine lotion I poured over myself, and (c) I looked like a witch. It’s true. My vanity took the worst hit of all. And because I was stuck at home with nothing better to do, I actually counted every visible boil on the surface of my body and the number was definitely higher than 800. Well, I couldn’t effectively count the ones hidden in my hair and my mouth and my ears, could I.
One not-so-fine week in 2007, I felt too ill and nauseous to get out of bed, progressing to throwing up everything I swallowed, even a sip of water. Thinking I might have eaten something wrong, I continued to feel terribly sick until it reached a point where I was vomiting every half an hour and had reached the lowest depth of misery and dehydration. Weak, exhausted and still nauseous, I finally allowed Huz to take me to the hospital (stopping to throw up twice on the wayside), where the nurses took one look and immediately hooked me up to a glucose drip. I had to be given intravenous anti-nausea medication too, since I couldn’t possibly swallow anything and keep it down.
Turned out I had Hepatitis-A.
If I had thought I had seen it all in terms of illness, 2008 brought me down with something that I had not only experienced many times before, it was something I never thought would land me in the hospital again. It started with a bit of irritation in the throat in the afternoon, which by evening had reached the stage where it hurts when you swallow. By late night, I knew I was in for strep throat and had started gargling with salt water and taken a few painkillers before going to bed. Except I couldn’t sleep. Within an hour, I had reached a stage where I couldn’t swallow my own spit without a considerable amount of wincing. It made me realise just how often and how involuntarily we swallow, now that I just couldn’t do it. I had to go fetch myself a cup to spit in and keep it on my bedside table. Naturally, sleep was out of the question. By 3 am, I was going crazy with pain and, reduced to tears, I had to wake Huz up in the middle of the night and ask him to take me to the hospital…..again. The doctor on duty in the emergency room checked out my throat and I could barely open my mouth wide enough, so swallowing medicine was out of the question. Did I need a drip? You bet! And I also needed a little notebook and a pen, since I could no longer even speak.
Now there’s something about emergency wards in hospitals, the narrowness of the high bed you’re made to lie on and the fact that you have a needle stuck in your hand, not to mention the pain that you’re going through coupled with the slight nausea that accompanies having an intravenous fluid injected into you……slowly….drip by excruciatingly slow drip. It’s enough to make anyone hyperventilate, and I already have a history of respiratory troubles. How I endured 45 minutes of this torture I can never really explain to anyone. I couldn’t breathe lying on that hard bed with its clinical white bedsheet, my throat hurt terribly and I felt so miserably sick I thought I’d go mad. To make matters worse, another ‘patient’ was brought in, a woman who was actually hyperventilating and had to be given oxygen to calm her down. I had to watch her and hear her, and her condition affected me so much so I couldn’t breathe too properly myself! I didn’t even have Huz’s hand to hold and see me through the urge to just get up, yank out the syringe, run out the door and take huge gasping breaths of air. He had to leave me there and go home to get Amu dressed and breakfasted and dropped off to school. So there I had to stay, quelling all my animal instincts, talking myself out of ‘fight AND flight’, watching the antibiotics drip with quiet desperation.
So it was October 2009 that saw me trudging off to the doctor once again, this time with severe bronchial congestion. If I’m not allergic to the cat, I’m definitely allergic to dust, and if all else fails there’s always October. I don’t know what it is about the change in weather that makes my lungs rebel. All I know is, I was always short of breath and just couldn’t get in enough air. Forget about exercise or any kind of exertion. That would just have me flat. I tried the usual home remedies, a teaspoon of honey and cinnamon in hot water sipped slowly twice a day, no rice or bananas or yogurt or any other phlegmatic foods. And absolutely no cold water. But when none of this seemed to work and I got worse and worse, it was time for allopathic measures. An intensive course of anti-allergy medication every night for two months and TWO inhalers: one to inflate the lungs to expectorate and the other to cure the problem. In two months I was right as rain.
That is not to say I was spared this year. No sir. First it was the tennis elbow, which had me groaning at the most innocuous of chores. Like opening a jam bottle for heavens sake, or even pushing myself off a sofa or a bed using my arm for support.
Then it was a series of UTI’S which were horrible to endure and humiliating to have checked out. Details are best left unspoken. Suffice to say, cranberry juice will NOT cure it! Nor will the vile Citralka! This is the age of antibiotics and the sooner we accept and embrace them the better. There are some serious bacteria and fungi present in and on our bodies and sometimes our immune systems need a little help. Enough said.
Oh, and did I mention the freak stye in my eye? That took a week to subside, yet another blow to my vanity, and a few more permanently lost eyelashes. And pain, don’t forget the pain.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I have managed to exhaust Huz’s supply of sympathy. It does strike me, however, that I get sick far more often than he does. I mean, sure he has a genetic predisposition to having acidity and IBS, and yes it is a long term problem that causes discomfort every day, but he has never been struck down and rendered useless by any ailment, as far as I can recall. I, on the other hand, am debilitated EVERY MONTH (at least for a couple of days) by menstrual cramps, in addition to everything else.
But even I felt sheepish complaining about aching muscles after spending a whole day gardening yesterday. I quietly took my painkillers and tried not to expect concern every time I said ‘ouch’ while standing up or sitting down or doing anything for that matter. And I guess I should be grateful that even though he isn’t the world’s best masseuse by any stretch, he is not averse to giving me a 2-minute foot-rub or a shoulder-rub as the occasion demands. Compromise. Isn’t that what marriage is all about? And if I WAS to be seen quietly pressing ice-cubes to my eyes to alleviate the ache behind my eyeballs (beginnings of migraine?), I really should only expect a roll of his. Sympathy or no sympathy, I’m just vindicated that he has had to eat his words about me being a hypoochondriac; if I say I’m sick, I’m probably sick. And sadly, I’m ALWAYS right. 😛