Patient Zero?


I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing chicken pox for the first time in my 42 years over the past week and a half. It started with incredible fatigue, body aches and pains (as advertised), then I noticed the first “pox” a few days later – starting on the head and trunk.   By Saturday, one week ago, I had a full outbreak over much of my body.  It didn’t itch so much as hurt after the blisters popped and I was covered with open sores.  I visited a walk-in clinic in Sarasota, Florida, where I had taken the family on vacation during spring school vacation week, where I was officially diagnosed with chickenpox and put on a 5-day course of anti-virals.  For the next three-four days, I ran a fever that ran between 100 and 102, occasionally spiking to 103.

Thursday, I spent in the ER, after suffering the onset of a severe headache that morning, which could have been symptomatic of the onset of encephelitis, a rare but serious possible complication of chickenpox in adults.  After a CT scan which was negative, I was sent home again with a heavy-duty pain reliever prescription.  Over the next day, the headache, caused by nerves becoming affected by the virus, became worse, and all but unbearable without pain-killers.

Today, about 10 days after it all began, I finally feel a lot better.  The headache is subsiding and my pox are all scabbed over, indicating that I’m no longer contagious.  But I’ve still been sleeping 14-16 hours per day.   We’ll see if I can get up tomorrow morning and try to enjoy the last day with the family, as I’ve barely left my bedroom since arriving.

I’ve been thinking about what this experience has meant for Living Prepared™.  Outside of explaining why I haven’t been blogging, I mean. I think that there are a few lessons to take note of:

  • Viral illnesses can be really debilitating, especially for adults.  A few years ago, my wife came down with a bad case of viral pneumonia and was similarly bedridden and wiped out for almost a month.  Suffering for less than two weeks in my case, still I was taken out of the game for a significant amount of time.
  • It is critical that your family be prepared to take over for you if you are taken out in the aftermath of a disaster by illness or disease.  A lot of our preparedness planning assumes we are healthy and able to respond and able to follow our response plans.  A better plan will assume otherwise.
  • Keep up with your immunizations.  As I haven’t been traveling internationally as much in the past few years, I noted before leaving for Sri Lanka that some of my immunizations had or were about to expire.  So check whether you are due for tetanus or meningitis or hepatitis or others and get them updated as needed.  This is something I’ll look at in a future post.

Overall, I felt pretty prepared being ill and away from home.  I had my insurance information with me, means to contact my primary care physician if that had been needed, means of payment for medical care and prescriptions.

As a coda, I have no idea where I was exposed to chickenpox.  It could have been in Sri Lanka or on one of the long plane-rides home or at the Dubai airport where I had a 14-hour layover.  Most adults these days had chickenpox as children, so are immune.  I never did.  Today’s kids are given a vaccine, so they don’t catch it either, and I think it is becoming rarer and perhaps more difficult to treat as it heads towards extinction as a disease.


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