Beware: There is Illness Here

The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow, like a thread.  ~Chinese Proverb

In case you were wondering, it turns out that pride does go before a fall, and I am a perfect example of it.  We have been in Korea for just about 6 months now, and - with the exception of a couple of mild 24-hour bugs - all of us have been quite healthy.  Other people were getting colds and flu and walking pneumonia (they even sent a memo home from Son#2's school about it) and bronchitis and what have you, but here at Asia Vu, we have plodded along, healthy and resilient as a team of Clydesdales, seemingly immune to whatever Korea seemed to be dishing out to all the other expats. I chalked this up in part to our healthy lifestyle (ha), in part to luck, and in part to the fact that MrLogical and I - having been exposed to all manner of germs in our early years in Asia - had developed a certain amount of immunity to these things.  (That didn't, of course, explain why the boys weren't getting sick, but work with me here.) Other people were taking antibiotics and breaking their ribs with violent coughing, but we seemed to be in a little oasis of good health, regardless of the germy miasma we were swimming in daily. 

I cannot, of course, pin down the source of my malaise, but I am fairly certain I caught it while spending the morning observing classes at a local kindergarten (I doubt there is anything more virulent than a roomful of young children, and I say that as a parent) where I had applied to work as a part-time English teacher (yes, this was a stretch, and yes, my qualifications are for secondary school and University, but I had my reasons for being interested in this particular job.)  In any case, while it seems that I did not get the job, I did get a hellacious cold as a consolation prize.  

 My fall from grace was swift and severe.  On Sunday, I awoke feeling as though I'd run through a field of ragweed during pollen season, and optimistically assumed I was just having a bit of an allergy attack.  By Monday afternoon, I felt like I'd been hit by a train, and did something that is completely antithetical to my stiff-upper-lip New England background:  I took to my bed.  Since then, I have been fit for absolutely nothing except lying in bed, producing industrial quantities of mucus, and coughing violently.  This has been unpleasant and alarming for MrLogical, who has had the pleasure of trying to sleep while I wheeze and bark and sniff and snort, not to mention the fear of infection from my virulent self.  Back home in the US, he would simply have repaired to the guest bedroom, well away from me and my microbes.  However, here in our small Korean apartment with no guest bedroom, that was not an option, so he resorted to creating an ineffectual germ barrier between us with a wall of pillows, which, even in my weakened state, I recognized as fruitless and quite hilarious.

I am now on Day #3 of The Cold From Hell, and things seem to be improving marginally, possibly because I am deluding myself  am absolutely frantic to avoid having to deal with the Byzantine workings of our overseas health insurance, not to mention going outside in the 32F/0C  temperatures, dealing with the subway system while ill and coughing, and interfacing with the Korean healthcare system. (Note:  Nothing against the Korean healthcare system:  I've heard that it's excellent.  However, I find going to the doctor in my own country under the best of circumstances to be a miserable and frustrating activity;  trying to deal with the language and cultural barriers in Korea in my depleted condition just seems like more than I can handle at the moment.)  For the first (and probably only) time in my life, I have actually been resting, drinking tons of fluids, and taking decongestants, antihistamines, and expectorants with clockwork- like regularity.  In short, I am doing everything possible I am aware of to prevent this cold from becoming a bronchial or sinus infection that will require professional medical attention.  

I am mostly being an ideal patient:  that is, I lie in bed, don't bother anyone (well, except MrLogical, and I consider this just and fair recompense for two pregnancies with his melon-headed offspring), and occasionally totter out to the kitchen for a mug of tea or a glass of water.  Sadly, I am not at all attractive, like the Victorians who made an art of looking enormously romantic in befrilled nightgowns while appearing both wan and luminous.  I took to my bed in a t-shirt that says, "I'm the evil twin" and a pair of yoga pants which have seen better days.  Also, due to the fact that my entire head is full of mucus, I can only breathe through my mouth, which gives me the slack-jawed, dull-eyed appearance of an imbecile. The bright red nose (from blowing) and watery eyes complete the look.  Thank God my family loves me anyway.

Now, it hasn't been all bad, mind you.  In fact, there have been a few positives to this illness, such as:

  • No appetite.  Since I cannot smell or taste anything, I have absolutely no interest in food whatsoever, and therefore, have been eating next to nothing.  (This is something worth noting, since there is practically never a time when I am not interested in eating.)  This also has the advantage of preventing me from tasting all of the vile cough and cold preparations that I am dosing myself with.
  • A chance to finish watching Season 4 of 'The Tudors.' - I never watched this back home, since I am not much of a tv-watcher to begin with and we didn't have Showtime (the channel it came on in the US) anyway.  I discovered it a few weeks ago on Netflix and had been doling out to myself an episode per night, which seemed prudent for a middle-aged lady, given that most of the first 2 seasons were basically just what Son #2 described as 'historical sex.'  I was just finishing up Season 3 when I was struck down, and found Season 4 to be the perfect sickbed viewing.  By Season 4, most of Henry's saucy wenching was a thing of the past, so I could doze off during a torture scene in the Tower of London and wake to another lancing of His Majesty's ulcerated wound without feeling that I'd missed the general progress of the narrative.  Besides, I knew how it turned out in the end anyway.  
  • Coddling from Son #1 and his friend, who made me chicken soup from scratch yesterday and served it to me on a tray in bed.  This sort of attention from two college boys gives me renewed hope in mankind, which was not at all dimmed by the fact that -as mentioned above - I had no appetite.
  • The opportunity to interface with technology.  Being sick in the 21st century is ideal.  As I speak, I am cuddled up to my laptop, flanked on one side by my phone and on the other side by my Kindle.  Since we don't have regular cable tv here in Korea, when I tire of reading or dozing,  I amuse myself by watching streaming video on Netflix or Hulu.  This is accomplished by connecting our television to an elderly laptop (which we refer to as 'the mule') which I control from the bed by means of a wireless keyboard.  Today, I am appreciating technology more than I ever have before.

Right now, I am feeling optimistic about my chances for recovery without professional intervention.  My voice has already improved from basso profondo  to  basso cantante, and I hope to be at baritone by tomorrow.  The coughing has slowed down to about once every other minute as opposed to every 30 seconds.  And I can breathe (sporadically) through one of my nostrils.  These things, to me, signify progress.  Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.  

In the meantime, it's probably best if you keep your distance.  


Karen said…
Feel better, Carolyne! I'm sorry that you have had suckh a headlong fall from grace. However...I found myself feeling a bit jealous of you, in bed, with your electronics and time to enjoy them while dozing and eating homeade chicken soup. I had to keep reminding myself that you had to feel like utter crap to achieve this enviable state. From one who is currently overwhelmed by work/IEP's/college financial aid forms/bad tax implications discovered when filling out said forms/Christmas baking and shopping/middle school woes including mild PANDAS exacerbations and bullies/high school woes including failed subjects and the need to constantly turn screws on said high school student and...well, you get the gist of it...deathly ill in bed sounds pretty good. Except then I get to worry about all those things and not be able to do anything about them. And be deathly ill. On second thought...I'll take my life for now. Sure hope you are better soon!

MsCaroline said…
Thanks, Karen: You're actually right: it's just more upsetting because I can't take any sort of action, and I feel guilty for not getting up, even though doing so results in a lot of awful coughing. I really do sympathize with how you feel, though. It just seems like everything falls due at the same time, doesn't it? I often feel just about this overwhelmed in May when all the end-of the year reports are due. Sending lots of hugs, and don't forget to try and schedule a little down time for yourself...
Trish said…
I shouldn't laugh at your condition but I have this vision of you in your T shirt with your slack-jawed expression.
I can understand why you don't like visiting the doctor. That's why I married one so I could guarantee a home visit!
MsCaroline said…
Trish - go ahead and laugh. It's actually pretty funny, in a disgusting sort of way. Son#2 already informed me that I look 'hideous' when I'm eating, since I have to keep opening my mouth to breathe. I'm just glad I can provide some entertainment. You're so lucky to have a husband who can provide house calls - MrLogical can only repair machines, not people.
Barbara said…
Sorry you're feeling so low and I hope you feel better soon! I'm glad you got your Kindle in time to help you through this. And I am laughing because you still had enough energy to call your kids melon-headed offspring.
MsCaroline said…
Barbara - thanks, I am starting to come out of the hole, I think. And yes, the new Kindle arrived just in time. Thank goodness for the new web app for - have been listening to audiobooks which seems to be more comfortable than actually using my eyes. Oh, and the offspring were both born with big heads, so 'melon-headed' seems quite appropriate. I've also used 'jug-headed' on occasion...; )
Wilma said…
I hope you feel better soon. The crud is going through our house too. John and Sean had it really bad. I started to get it but didn't. My guys are just getting over it and now Rich and Ray downstairs have it. Ray asked his mother why she and I didn't have it and she told him because we're the mothers so we can't get sick. Sadly that rule didn't hold for you. :(
MsCaroline said…
Wilma - yes, it really does seem that I have to be at death's door before I get any down time. Besides, even if you do take to your bed, there's just chaos waiting for you when you get up. Today was my first day doing anything in the kitchen (besides making tea) since I got sick, and I've practically given myself a relapse trying to get things clean and back in order. Hoping the worst is over and now just crossing my fingers that this cough doesn't linger for much longer or turn into bronchitis.
Get well soon Ms Caroline! How sweet that your boys made you chicken soup! I hope you feel better very soon - we did talk about not going outdoors until Mercury is no longer in retrograde! but at least you have all the modern comforts in the form of laptop, phone, kindle (a new one?) in bed with you! Know what u mean about avoiding going to the doctor - a new clinic opened near us a while ago so I tried it (to avoid driving the half hour to our usual place, which has great Western docs)...and so I saw someone called Dr Jabber, from Egypt maybe, or Iraq... Oh I didn't like him at all and he is forever renamed in my mind Dr Jabber the Hutt, Starwars-style. Wishing you a speedy recovery, love Circles
Karen said…
Oh, I forgot about the mess awaiting you when you get well!!! Now I really don't envy you. All is well again here. Had parent/teacher conferences tonight (I was the much more fun!), finished the shopping for my boy last night (just Katie to go!), and have reconciled myself to further and deeper poverty next year. Tomorrow is Friday!!! Hope you are feeling better, Carolyne.
MsCaroline said…
Circles...laughing so hard I started coughing about 'Jabber the Hut'...please write a post about him soon! Yes, new Kindle, DH kindly ordered me one as soon as we established that the old one was never coming to light. It got here just in time, too, although I would have gladly foregone a new Kindle in exchange for good health and the old one...
MsCaroline said…
Karen - yes, being on the teacher side of the desk is usually preferable, isn't it? I think I gave myself a relapse trying to clean up the kitchen yesterday after 3 days out of commission - it was a disaster. I think resigning yourself to poverty is always preferable to stressing about it, and you feel so much better when you're resigned as opposed to stressed, right? Here's to a low-stress 2012 for both of us!

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