The Tough Guy’s View on Colds
I got my flu shot this year, along with my pneumonia shot and a shingles shot – gotta love Medicare! And, so far, I haven’t gotten the flu.
But I did get a cold.
I am fortunate, I think, health-wise. Except for the operations on my knees and their eventual replacement, I’ve been healthy. Oh, I had the boomer litany of childhood diseases: measles, mumps and chicken pox. Heck, I even had German measles before they became politically incorrect. I was an equal opportunity disease host. But I do get colds, and while most of them are “three days and a pile of tissues,” very occasionally one of them takes a turn for the worse.
There was the bronchitis I ended up getting in eighth grade that had my brothers call Dr. English for a house call. It was mid-January and the guys and I had to shovel the courts at the playground at 30th and Tasker streets in South Philadelphia to play basketball – in our short sleeves. I had to be really sick for my family to call a doctor because that meant we would have to pay the doctor. My brothers raised me after my mom died and we had no “health insurance.” There was no ACA, either. Our health insurance was “don’t get sick,” and for the most part, we didn’t. And hey, how about those old docs that made “house calls”?
Then there was the momentary slip on my prom weekend in 1967. I had met a young lady in Wildwood who was from Southwest Philadelphia. Over the course of the evening as we were discussing the situation in Southeast Asia and exchanging pleasantries, she informed me that her throat had been bothering her all week. By Monday, I was at the doctor’s office with swollen glands, an added three days to my Memorial Day vacation spent eating ice cream to cool my throat.
Later, I did not miss many days as a teacher. Until my knee operations I had a record number of sick days banked. But I was actually sent home by an assistant superintendent once who came up to speak with me on my lunch break and found me curled up under my desk, trying to stop the chills from the fever this particular cold had wrought. I missed 3½ days.
Another cold had me acting like a character in one of those old “scared straight” films such as “Reefer Madness” about drug abuse they showed you in high school “back in the day.” I started down the steps in our Downingtown, Pa., home to put the coffee on at 5:30 a.m. and made it to the halfway point between floors when the entire house started spinning. I plopped down on the carpeted landing and remember vaguely trying to call my wife’s name: “Paula.” I spent the next three days in bed.
A couple weeks ago, the back of my neck and throat began to hurt, which is my gauge for an oncoming cold. By Saturday I was having trouble keeping my eyes from popping out of my head. Monday I was on my way to the doctor because I couldn’t breathe through my nose and couldn’t breathe through my mouth because my throat hurt. And, not being Nuke LaLoosh in “Bull Durham,” I couldn’t breathe through my eyelids. Two days later, after starting an antibiotic, I had finally stopped using paper towels as tissues.
I describe these episodes of illness not for your sympathy. As I said, I’ve been very fortunate. No, my stories are always because I believe we of a certain age have shared experiences no matter where we grew up that unify us. Maybe you have had this same thought that plagues me and others who have seen unthinkable, Star-Trek-like advances made during our lives in both technology and medicine, and wonder why it is that this has yet to be addressed by those amazing minds that are on the cutting edge of everything:
How is it possible that your nose can make so much snot?
After moving off LBI, Anthony DiSipio now lives in Little Egg Harbor, but you can still find “boomer memories” in his humorous When I’m 64, available at whenim64jjr.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.