Influenza rudely takes up lodging, refuses to leave
BY LARRY COTÉ
Special to the VOICE
I normally enjoy good health, and for my station in life am in reasonably good shape. However, whatever good germ-resistant immunity I may have had was no match for the Influenza A virus that recently hospitalized me for six days of extreme discomfort.
Like many others, I felt reasonably confident that the flu shot I received at my doctor’s office late last year would protect me during this flu season. However, medical professionals have determined that the flu shot variant used this year was mostly ineffective against the H3N2 strain that has been wreaking such havoc across the continent.
The medical community estimates that the flu shot commonly used this year is up to about 30 % effective. So we might expect this flu season to be of more pandemic severity and possibly more deadly than previous epidemics. All the more reason for everyone to be more cautious, avoid crowded places and washing your hands frequently throughout the day. It’s also good reason to get the shot, if you haven’t already. Up to 30% protection is still better than 0% protection.
Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly through droplets generated when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These airborne bits then settle on objects that people touch with their hands and inadvertently put their hands to their mouth or nose. This is why it is absolutely crucial that you wash your hands frequently throughout the day and use a hand sanitizer when a wash basin is not near at hand.
I have no idea from whom or where I picked up my infection. Once exposed, the incubation period before the onset of symptoms is two to four days. During that time I had been at a number of places and in contact with a number of people and so I can not pinpoint an infection time, place, or person. Maybe it was a door knob, the handle on a shopping cart, using the credit card machine, or the gas pump handle. There are so many places that the virus has taken up residence that the list is endless.
My symptoms started with a sore throat which I assumed and treated as the onset of a common cold. Soon thereafter, I began with an almost non-stop coughing spell and noticeable shortness of breath. My wife drove me to the Emergency Clinic at the Welland Hospital, which was chock-full of coughing, wheezing and hacking patients, young and old. I was diagnosed as having the flu and given a prescription for Tylenol and released.
I returned home and took to my bed. Within hours I was trembling, incessantly coughing and gasping for air. My wife called 911 and an ambulance arrived within minutes.
Thankfully, the two attendants were very capable and reassuring. We quickly arrived at Welland Hospital and again joined the long lineup of desperately ill-looking patients awaiting assessment. Interestingly and reassuringly, the ambulance attendants do not leave you until you are off-loaded from ambulance stretcher to hospital stretcher.
I am certain that the medical personnel immediately recognized the symptoms and quickly wired me up to the diagnostic equipment including an oxygen mask. Antiviral and antibiotic solutions were administered intravenously. Numerous blood samples were drawn for testing and analysis.
As part of the diagnostic regime I was x-rayed, CAT scanned, echocardiographed, and given a respiratory test. We are very fortunate to have this level of medical expertise and technology in our local hospital.
Due to the very contagious nature of this virus I was isolated in a room and all who administered to me or came near me were required to wear masks, gowns and gloves.
After a couple of days a doctor visited my bedside and advised that I had been diagnosed with Influenza A and that I had also a serious infection of pneumonia.
She said that due to the severity of my infections that I would be treated very aggressively with antivirals, antibiotics and Tamiflu. And so the parade of intravenous drips became my constant companions day and night.
One of the complications associated with the flu is the body’s inability to hold blood oxygen levels within the normal range. This condition requires the ministration of oxygen through a mask. Basically, the lungs do not efficiently extract this life-sustaining gas from the air one is breathing. Fortunately, as the lungs became less infected and less obstructed this condition will clear.
I can not complete this journal of my experience with H3N2 without commenting on the care I received while in Welland Hospital. The medical staff were absolutely the very best one could imagine. I remain very impressed and equally grateful for their professionalism, compassion and abundant TLC.
The Emergency Clinic was well beyond capacity with some few patients being treated in the corridors. Yet the medical staff were more than up to the challenge of working under such circumstances.
As an end-note to this medical episode I can hardly imagine that anyone would entertain the thought of the closing of this absolutely crucial fixture in our community. In the past, I have been passively concerned and against the inane notion to close the Welland Hospital. However, from this day forward I will loudly proclaim my opposition to such an unwarranted and unwholesome proposition.
Whenever, however, and wherever, lend your support to maintaining the Welland Hospital site. There may come a time when you, or a loved one, will be in need of this life-saving facility.