Where Should You Be Sick?

Getting sick sucks, and I should know. I’ve spent most of my life, especially during my youth, being sick in one form or another. When Type-1 Diabetes is involved, illness proves to be something of a “chicken or the egg” scenario, where it can be difficult to tell if a particular illness has caused the chaos with your Diabetes or if your Diabetes caused you to become ill. In my youth, Diabetes was referred to as one’s pancreas not working, which we now know if not ENTIRELY accurate. But before I get completely off topic, the subject of today’s post is getting sick, not necessarily Diabetes.

I can’t tell you how many times I dealt with the important aspects of my life while sick. Whether it was school, work or karate, the prevailing attitude back then was “suck it up” and you were expected to carry on, unless you were in such a condition that you were hospitalized (which was often the case for me). These days and especially in the past two years, the concept of pushing through while sick is not only less encouraged, it’s frowned upon. Employers are pushing staff to stay home when they’re sick in an effort to prevent spreading illnesses.

Since I’ve had everything from severe dehydration, polyps, influenza, bronchitis and this little thing called Diabetes, I’ve had the opportunity to o deal with some pretty bad scenarios as it relates to all of these environments and I have stories relating to all of them. Of COURSE I have stories…. This is me. Here’s the top ones:

Being Sick During Karate
To say that I was mildly obsessed with my karate training in my youth would be an understatement. For the most part, I not only participated in all three weekly classes, I would also spend the remainder of the week cycling and practicing on my own time. This meant that whenever I wasn’t eating, sleeping or at school, I would be doing karate (and since I would often dream about karate, I’m not sure the sleep aspect can be included in that statement.

I remember this one time when I was doing bunkai with another student. For you non-practitioners, a bunkai is a pre-arranged, practical application of kata techniques. Moving on. It was one of those nights where we dissected and practiced every technique until it was burned into our brains. As such, I had been with the student I was partnered with for almost an hour. During that time, i noticed his voice had a nasal twinge and he kept sniffling, as though he couldn’t keep his snot in. Since this is karate class and one doesn’t carry a purse with them, at one point, he drags the sleeve of his uniform across his nose and face in an effort to dry up the flow of nasal discharge.

I was mildly disgusted, but who am I to judge? If my nose wouldn’t stop leaking, I likely would have done the same. During a particular exchange, I learned the hard way that some of his snot had gotten on his hand, which conveniently made it’s way across my forearm and hand as we executed a couple of techniques. Given the discipline requirements of the class, I continued on but my focus was mainly on the fact I had the contents of a Petri dish on my forearm. once the exercises were over, I bowed out and ran to the washroom where I thoroughly washed my arms and hands with soap and water as hot as I could stand.

Apparently the damage was done, because two days later, I got sick as a dying dog. Runny nose, head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. If I could prove beyond a doubt that he was the cause, I’d have cursed his name (or at least had at him in the sparring ring). But i guess it’s nowhere near as bad as having the runs during karate class. I’d say to say I’m assuming, but that’s happened on occasion, as well.

Being Sick At School
Classrooms are almost a perfect description of a Petri dish, with almost three dozen people crammed into a fitted space where everyone shares the same space, air and germs. Wow, I sound like such a germaphobe. But seriously, how often have you heard parents say that as soon as their children start school, they get sick? And that’s for good reason. Because it’s almost a statistical guarantee that if only one person in a classroom is sick, all of them will be, depending on what they have.

I had one of my many instances in high school where I was dehydrated. I hate to admit it, but this usually happened to me every few months, to the extent I had to spend a night in the hospital on an IV drip to properly rehydrate. Unlike most of my teenage counterparts, I didn’t rebel by drinking on weekends or being brought home by the cops. I displayed my stubbornness by neglecting to drink enough water. Such a rebel, eh? In an y event, this was one of those occasions where my insides were drying up.

By this point in my life, I had gotten used to the feelings and sensations associated with dehydration, so I kind of knew that this was what was happening. I was in biology class the one morning, after waking up feeling like absolute crap. I went to school anyway as most parents can agree, it tends to fuck the entire day when an unexpected illness keeps a kid at home. But once I was in class, my condition started to get the better of me. The teacher was in the middle of an impassioned lecture about one damn thing or another, and she was the type of teacher who not only despised being interrupted for any reason, she made that displeasure obvious by ruling her class with an iron fist.

I tried to relax my abdomen and keep myself calm for as long as I could, but I could feel the bile rising in my throat and I knew that if I continued to ignore the feeling I had, I would end up emptying what little contents I had in my stomach, all over my desk. As such, I started by taking the polite route and raised my hand to ask to be excused. I was answered by a firm, “Hold all your questions until the end, please!” The student seated next to me even asked if I was okay, as I could feel the clammy sweat on my face and could only imagine how pale I must have looked. This pre-dated my use of an insulin pump or even carrying a glucometre with me, so I had no idea if my blood sugars were wreaking havoc, as well.

I decided to take my life into my own hands by simply cutting in and asking to be excused. The teacher rolled her eyes and began giving me a lecture on the intricacies of paying attention and showing respect. My body chose that moment to cross the point of no return. I felt the heated sensation at the back of my throat that signalled the coming of the apocalypse. I rose from my seat and began staggering to the door. I hate to take pride in what happened next, but the teacher grabbed my arm in an effort to stop me from stepping out of her class, which resulted in my stomach emptying its contents right there on the classroom floor. Right next to her desk.

My retching couldn’t of lasted more than about ten to twenty seconds, but it felt like ten to twenty minutes of my body seizing every muscle it could while a sound much like humpback whales and alligators mating with each other came out of my throat, all while a hot, yellowish fluid splashed all over the classroom floor. Did I make that descriptive enough? There was a brief moment of complete silence and a look of utter shock and aww on the teacher’s face. then everyone in the classroom started screaming “Eeww…” like some sort of morbid choir and everyone started trying to vacate the classroom to escape the smell.

I felt briefly better upon emptying the contents of my stomach, so I managed to stand up straight and started walking out of the class with the intention of making my way to the classroom. The teacher once again tried to stop me, this time to order me to get something to clean up the mess I had made. Since I was a cheeky, sarcastic teenager at the time, my response included a verbal plethora of inappropriate language, somewhat suggesting to the teacher what she could do to herself and where, all while questioning her parents’ use of heavy narcotics while conceiving her. I don’t know what had pissed me off more; the fact she was ignoring a sick student who was trying to alert her to a problem or the fact that she was trying to get the same student to clean up a mess that was a result of her ignorance. I walked out and went home.

Obviously, I got into “some” trouble over this. I went to school back in those days where the students COULD still get in trouble as opposed to parents giving the teachers all the crap. They have an unbelievably difficult job, and I wasn’t an easy student. But even I have my limits, and that limit usually involves my health. Moving on…

Being Sick At Work
I’m not certain how many stories I have about this specific aspect, but there are a lot. The unfortunate phenomenon that seems to take place, especially in non-unionized environments, is that management will frequently expect you to work despite being under the weather. When I started to claw my way up into management, I started being made to administer those same expectations. Imagine this scenario, if you will. You’re working a job for minimum wage. You wake up feeling like absolute shit and you already know that any efforts to go to work will leave you feeling worse. Maybe it’s simply a cold. But either way, you make the conscious decision to phone in to your boss and tell them you won’t be in due to illness.

You’re already dealing with the fact that you’re likely losing a day’s wages, unless you’re lucky enough to have paid sick days. But then they hit you with the bombshell. They tell you that if you’re calling in sick, they’ll require a doctor’s note. You calmly try to explain to them that you’re not going to the hospital, you’re simply feeling under the weather and need some rest. they tell you that if you aren’t sick enough to see a doctor, you aren’t sick enough to miss work and they expect to see you on shift. You begrudgingly get dressed and go to work, sick.

I’d like to say I just made that scenario up. But I’ve actually had that exact conversation at a previous job. I think we can agree that most employees would just suck it up and go in, not wanting to risk the trouble they may get into with their respective bosses. The result is a lot of people going into work sick, which can be disastrous for all parties involved, regardless of what industry you work in. I had just such a disastrous situation that happened some years ago, while running someone else’s business…

I had been having pretty bad stomach pains for a couple of weeks. It was one of those things where the pain was bad, but it wasn’t so severe as to be debilitating, so I kept going in to work. During a particularly busy peak hour of work, I started to get dizzy and swayed on my feet a bit. I leaned on the table that was in front of me, but I suddenly fell sideways sand crashed to the floor. Next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital bed with an IV coming out of my arm. After some tests and description of what I had been feeling, that’s how I discovered I had polyps. Wonderful, eh?

The point behind these stories, besides being insanely entertaining to write (the classroom one is a favourite), is the fact that self-care is not only important; it starts with you. Is training hard in karate important? Absolutely. Is it worth it to try and make it through a class when you’re sick? Definitely not. Is education important? That’s a big 10-4! But how much actual knowledge are you absorbing when you’re sick? Likely not much. And even though money is needed for the basic necessities of life, money will never be worth your overall health.

The important thing to note here, as well, is that is only takes one person whose sick to pass it on to everyone in their environment, whether it’s at home, work or during leisure activities. This is especially important in today’s context, as it relates to the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. Tried coughing in public, recently? It’s highly not recommended. But no matter what environment one is referring to, take care of your health. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health. ☯️

Published by

Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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